Linux Archive Managers Compared: Ark vs. File Roller

Danny Stieben 15-08-2013

Whenever you download any large files or collection of files, they will more than likely be contained in archive files. These archive files can be in various different formats, including .zip, .tar, and .bz2. The default archive managers for Linux, File Roller and Ark, are great programs that can read and edit these kinds of files, but are they identical?


Archive managers may seem pretty simple at first glance, but they could potentially offer a lot more than you think. I compared these two based on their interface, ease of use, functionality, and the amount of supported archive types.


Ark is the default archive manager for the KDE desktop environment Enjoy A Clean, Improved Desktop With KDE 4.7 [Linux] One of Linux's most popular desktop environments, KDE, released their latest series (version 4.7) at the end of July. This version improves on work done in previous releases by adding new features while improving performance... Read More . It should already be included with any KDE system; if not, it should be available in your respective package manager when searching for “ark”. You can also open it by searching in the application launcher (start menu) by typing in “ark”.

Ark supports any imaginable archive file type as long as the command line utility for that type is installed. For example, .tar files are supported whenever the tar utility is installed (which can be confirmed by checking to see if the package is installed and if the tar utility can be used). Other archive types have different utilities because they contain different formats, different compression algorithms (if any), and other attributes.


The interface is pretty straightforward — files are presented in a tree view where you can click on arrows next to folders to collapse the view within that folder, the archive’s name is on the right side of the window, and a few controls are located along the top. These controls allow you to create a new archive (with a supported format), open an archive, add a file or folder to the already-open archive, delete a file from the archive, extract all or part of the open archive, and preview a file within the archive (such as pictures and videos).


here are no other control buttons, nor any sort of additional functionality or settings to tinker around with. For a KDE application, it’s fairly slimmed down. However, using Ark is very easy and requires virtually no learning curve besides the basic concept of archive files.

File Roller

File Roller, the default archive manager for Gnome-based desktop environments Gnome-Based Desktop Environments Explained: MATE vs. Gnome Shell vs. Unity vs. Cinnamon Ever since Gnome went ahead with their Gnome Shell idea, the Linux community has been at a frenzy to find a new desktop environment that is right for them. A majority of users used Gnome... Read More , is very similar but offers a few unique differences. It should also already be installed if you’re using a Gnome-based desktop environment, otherwise you’ll need to research in which package File Roller, sometimes also known simply as Archive Manager, is found in.

According to its website, File Roller supports its own set of file types and doesn’t depend on separate utilities to provide functionality. The list is lengthy and includes:

  • 7-Zip Compressed File (.7z)
  • WinAce Compressed File (.ace)
  • ALZip Compressed File (.alz)
  • AIX Small Indexed Archive (.ar)
  • ARJ Compressed Archive (.arj)
  • Cabinet File (.cab)
  • UNIX CPIO Archive (.cpio)
  • Debian Linux Package (.deb) read-only
  • ISO-9660 CD Disc Image (.iso)
  • Java Archive (.jar)
  • Java Enterprise archive (.ear)
  • Java Web Archive (.war)
  • LHA Archive (.lzh, .lha)
  • WinRAR Compressed Archive (.rar)
  • RAR Archived Comic Book (.cbr)
  • RPM Linux Package (.rpm) read-only
  • Stuffit Archives (.bin, .sit)
  • Tar Archives:
    • uncompressed (.tar)
    • compressed with:
      • gzip (.tar.gz , .tgz)
      • bzip ( , .tbz)
      • bzip2 (.tar.bz2 , .tbz2)
      • compress (.tar.Z , .taz)
      • lzip (.tar.lz , .tlz)
      • lzop (.tar.lzo , .tzo)
      • 7zip (.tar.7z)
      • xz (.tar.xz)
  • ZIP Archive (.zip)
  • ZIP Archived Comic Book (.cbz)
  • ZOO Compressed Archive File (.zoo)
  • Single files compressed with gzip, bzip, bzip2, compress, lzip, lzop, rzip, xz

The interface is also very simple but the layout is very different. There are control buttons for a new archive, opening an archive, adding files to an already-open archive, and extracting all or part of an open archive.



Underneath this are a few navigational buttons so you can maintain your bearings while navigating within the archive. This is necessary in the “View as a Folder” view as File Roller shows a simple listing of files, and doesn’t include the tree structure that Ark uses. Switching the view provides a tree structure as well and removes the navigational toolbar.


Unlike Ark, File Roller also allows you to test the integrity of the archive (not a common practice but it’s useful anyways) and allows you to encrypt the archive by adding a package either during creation of the archive or any time afterwards. This encryption functionality is pretty important Not Just For Paranoids: 4 Reasons To Encrypt Your Digital Life Encryption isn’t only for paranoid conspiracy theorists, nor is it just for tech geeks. Encryption is something every computer user can benefit from. Tech websites write about how you can encrypt your digital life, but... Read More with all of the security threats lately, and Ark doesn’t deliver on this front whatsoever.


So which archive manager is the winner? I’d have to give it to File Roller, because it offers multiple views of the archive’s contents, supports a defined list of file types without relying on other utilities, and offers integrity tests and encryption via password functionality. Don’t get me wrong, Ark is a good archive manager. But it is somewhat boring and lacks those extra features File Roller includes.

Do you use a graphical archive manager, or do you use the terminal only? What’s your most important feature in archive management? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: jovike

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  1. Anonymous
    June 7, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Better not use encryption with zip programs. It could be easy to decrypt:

    Info-ZIP uses [a weak and old encryption system](, [not the safer AES encryption]( [Broken Link Removed] ) known from WinZIP. Info-ZIP is the [command line program used for ZIP with file-roller]( on Ubuntu/Linux.

    [7Zip is better than Info-ZIP]( in regard to encryption. But [maybe 7Zip AES is also unsafe](

  2. Richard
    February 9, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    The last time I checked, ARK had another minor defect. It couldn't handle drag and drop into a subfolder.

    I hate saying it, but this is one place where Gnome offers more functionality than KDE :-/

  3. Chris
    January 8, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    It is not correct that file roller has built-in support for all the archive types. Your source was either misinterpreted or incorrect. Having built a number of linux systems from scratch and I assure you file roller cannot handle any archive without having the underlying utility for that archive installed--which underlying utilities are the exact same that are used by Ark. File Roller, just like Ark, is a simple front-end; because of this, while the graphical views may be different, the underlying performance for both should be identical.

  4. Rik
    December 19, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Does Ark open large archives faster than File Roller? File Roller takes forever to show the initial top level list when opening large archives.

  5. Ryan
    September 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Do you know what kind of algorithm that used in Ark Archiving? If yes, it'll really help me.
    My friend said that Ark use LZW Algorithm but I'm not that sure cause I can't find any evidence
    Thanks :)

  6. Ahmed N
    August 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Ark is the best. But its better in kde

    • Danny Stieben
      August 31, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      Of course. Any application may be useful on any desktop environment, but it's usually most effective on the desktop environment is was made for.