Automatic decompression of archives

With extraction support in Nautilus, the next feature that I’ve implemented as part of my project is automatic decompression. While the name is a bit fancy, this feature is just about extracting archives instead of opening them in an archive manager. From the UI perspective, this only means a little change in the context menu:


Notice that only the “Open With <default_application>” menu item gets replaced. Archives can still be opened in other applications

Now why would you want to do this? The reason behind is to reduce working with files in a compressed format. Instead of opening the archive in a different application to take out some files, you can extract it all from the start and then interact with the files straight away from the file manager. Once the files are on your system, you can do anything that you could have done from an archive manager and more. For example, if you only wanted to extract a few files, you can just remove the rest.

One could argue that extracting an archive could take way longer than just opening it in an archive manager. While this can be true for very large compressed files, most of the times the process takes only a few seconds – about the same time it takes to open a different application. Moreover, if you just want to open a file inside the archive manager, the manager will first extract it to your disk anyway.

This might be a minor change in terms of code and added functionality, but it is quite important when it comes to how we interact with compressed files. For users that are not fond of it, we decided on adding a preference for disabling automatic decompression.


That’s pretty much it for extraction in Nautilus. Right now I’m polishing compression, so I’ll see you in my next post where I talk about it! As always, feedback, suggestions and ideas are much appreciated 🙂

Extraction support in Nautilus

The first feature added to Nautilus as part of my project is support for extracting compressed files. They can be extracted to the current directory or to any other location. The actions are available in the context menu:

extract_context_menuNow you might be wondering, why add these to Nautilus if they look exactly the same as file-roller’s extension? Well, handling extraction internally comes with a few changes:

  • improved progress feedback, integrated into the system used by the rest of the operations
  • fine-grained control over the operation, including conflict situations which are now handled using Nautilus’ dialogs
  • and probably, the most important change, extracting files in a way that avoids cluttering the user’s workspace. No matter what the archive’s contents are, they will always be placed in a single file or top-level folder – I’ll elaborate on that in a moment.




As I mentioned in my first post, the goal of this project is to simplify working with archives, and creating just one top-level item as a result of an extraction really reduces complexity. It is done in a pretty simple way:

  • if the archive has a root element and they have the same base names (like which contains image.png or a folder named image/), the root element is extracted as it is
  • if the root element has a different name or the archive has multiple elements, they are extracted in a folder having the same name as the archive, without its extension

As a result, the output will always have the name of the source archive, making it easy to find after an extraction. Also, the maximum number of conflicts an extraction can have is just one, the output itself. Hurray, no more need to go through a thousand dialogs!

If you have any suggestion or idea on how to improve this operation, feel free to drop a comment with it! Feedback is also much appreciated 🙂 See you in the next one!