I'm looking for an alternative way to the bare tar command to tar/list/untar files on a Linux host over SSH, for using on some shared hosting accounts. Naturally no one has X-Windows or Midnight Commander available.

It could be;

  • a server side cli application / frontend which is likely already installed or can be used with no modification on the system
  • a client side, Windows based SSH file manager with archiving capability (use tar remotely)
  • a similar file manager which can use scripts and pass selected file names to configured scripts by a context menu or something, so I could expand it with tar scripts.

And the limitations are;

  • CLI over SSH, no X-Windows
  • no administrative rights
  • MC is not installed
  • Windows client (for any SSH client based solution)

My Linux knowledge is a little dusty now, so I may be missing a useful, well-known alternative =)
(I currently use tar, but an interface could make it better and faster to use. Also some hosts have web based file managers with the archiving capability)

  • "CLI over SSH, no X-Windows." Is port forwarding allowed? Do you mean there is no X server is installed? The X client libraries are often installed even on a server. – Mark Wagner Dec 7 '10 at 18:06
  • @embobo hmm good point, actually I'm not sure about it. I can check if I find how to. So did you mention that to suggest running an X session? I'll check it out but that would surprise me if they allow that kind of a resource on a shared web hosting account. =) – SuperDuck Dec 7 '10 at 22:09
  • Actually I got nothing after that. I was just clarifying the terminology. – Mark Wagner Dec 7 '10 at 23:09

Can you describe the problem you're having with just using tar? Having used the tediousness which is MC in the past, I'm having trouble imagining a curses-based interface that would really be easier.

Instead, I'd suggest setting up bash completion -- either roll your own for tar, or just use this excellent package, and then learn to use and love the [tab] key.

It may also save you some trouble to know that recent versions of GNU tar don't require z or j when listing or uncompressing .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 files, so you can just always use tar tf and tar xf.

  • Thanks for your suggestions mattdm. Bash completion already works and I love the [tab] key since my first days with linux; it's one of the most useful things. I don't have a problem with using tar; it's just about usual benefits of a UI, like the point of using a file manager. Fast and easy to launch, to select files, a better progress status, see and set options etc.. But the most important one in this case is ease of use. (The GUI is the main reason for me to choose Winrar over command line rar.) – SuperDuck Dec 7 '10 at 17:40
  • A mouse-enabled GUI file manager can make some tasks more natural -- drag files from here to there, and etc. But a text-based full-screen UI seems like the worst of both worlds. – mattdm Dec 7 '10 at 17:53
  • Yeah I see your point; there are tons of trash interfaces, but I think it depends on the design. It can still be preferable, like 'Midnight Commander', 'MS Dos Edit' and BIOS setup utilities (even with no mouse). I wouldn't prefer CLI commands over my BIOS setup. Well in the other hand, it would be great to have a SSH file manager like 'securefx' which could handle file operations like archiving; that's what I'd prefer, and am really after =) – SuperDuck Dec 7 '10 at 18:49
  • Oh man. A nice command-line interface to BIOS settings would be awesome. Imagine being about to script all that rather than having to poke around for where they put the PXE boot options on this implementation.... – mattdm Dec 7 '10 at 18:58
  • Haha! Yeah, but that's a different story; standards.. Think about each version had it's own command set and values that you need to learn to setup, rather than learning a standard command set and using it on every BIOS; that would nullify the benefit. So the benefit would not be ease of use, but having a standard set of commands to learn. A command interface on a BIOS which some systems already have is a good extra option for stuff like network management, but I still prefer having a simple UI to set the PC clock in a few seconds rather than searching for the right command in the manual. – SuperDuck Dec 7 '10 at 21:41

Install Cygwin on your PC. Then you just need to know your BASH scripting for whatever you need.

  • Thank you for your response. I have Cygwin, however I can't see how it can be used as a tar frontend, especially considering we have no X support. – SuperDuck Dec 7 '10 at 17:24

Another answer: you could mount your remote filesystem using SSHFS for Dokan, and then use whatever native Windows tools you like. Or use the commercial ExpanDrive, or some other equivalent product -- exploring what exactly to use is probably a whole separate question for https://superuser.com/.

  • Thanks mattdm, that seems to be a good idea. However it needs the data to be downloaded and uploaded through the local machine, which would beat the reason I use SSH. – SuperDuck Dec 7 '10 at 18:55
  • It's true. So I'm really back to my other answer. :) – mattdm Dec 7 '10 at 18:57

Bingo! It's an application I saw first and overlooked a billion times!


First I thought this one was just for UL/DL operations, due to screenshots.. Oh yeah! =)


If you happen to have a local copy of Windows 10 running.
Install a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on your Windows 10 computer with the Linux distro of your choice and then run a ssh "tar" | tar pipe

ssh user@example.com "cd /path/to/resource && tar czf - resource1 resource2" | tar xzvf -

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