In contrast to the enigmatic icon of the Debug Server, the MakeArchive
Tracker add-on is fairly self-explanatory. It is a small applet which
allows you to create a tar archive via a quick menu selection from the
contextual menu you access by right-clicking on an item in the Tracker.
To use the MakeArchive add-on, right-click on a file (or folder, it
works on them, too, and it will intelligently preserve the folder's
directory structure in the archive) you wish to put into an archive. From
the Tracker's contextual menu, choose MakeArchive from the Add-Ons submenu
(it's at the very bottom of the menu).
The Tracker will launch the MakeArchive applet, which will copy your
file or folder into a new tar archive (the original item is not affected in
any way). The archive will be called "archive.tar". If you already have a
file named "archive.tar" in that directory, MakeArchive will append a
number to the end of the filename, e.g. "archive.tar.2", to make it
Now that you know how to use MakeArchive, you should know two more
things: the difference between archiving and compression, and what tar does
with BeOS attributes.
Previous experience on another operating system might lead you to
believe that an archive and a compressed file are the same thing, when, in
fact, they are not. When you create an archive using tar (either via the
command line or using an application like MakeArchive), what you are doing
is copying one or more files into another file. This is just a way to group
files together; there isn't any space-saving going on. Tar (and thus,
MakeArchive) is an excellent example of an archiving application in its
A file compression utility actually uses a mathematical algorithm to
shrink the file, allowing you to store it more efficiently. Gzip, a command
line tool included with the BeOS, is a perfect example of a compression
program in the strictest sense of the word, because it will only work on
one file at a time. It doesn't archive and compress, like many of
the popular utilities on other platforms (e.g. PKZip on Windows or StuffIt
on the Macintosh).
Because gzip doesn't archive files first, you will frequently find files
that have been tarred first, to group them into a single file, and then
compressed by gzip, to save space. Files that have undergone this process
are frequently appended with the ".tar.gz" or ".tgz" file extension.
Another weakness of tar (and thus, MakeArchive) is that it doesn't
preserve BeOS attributes. "Big Deal!" you say, "When I double-click the
application extracted from the *.tar.gz file, the BeOS will automagically
fix that!" You're right about applications and most other files being
automatically fixed by the BeOS but, unfortunately, this will not happen if
your archive contains something where the data is stored primarily in BeOS
attributes, like People files or BeMail e-mail. When creating the archive
tar has thrown the attribute data away, and since there is no way of
rebuilding it from the file, it is gone for good.
"For the love of [insert deity of choice]!" you now cry, "How am I
supposed to archive my 'Little Black Book' of People files?!?"
Glad you asked! There's a simple remedy for your "whole lotta' lovin'"
quagmire, provided by our extremely productive third-party developers! The
command line tool zip, which handles both archiving and compression, is
BeOS attribute-savvy and will provide you with an attribute-safe
To make zip a little more palatable, you can download ZipMe, a Tracker
add-on that is to zip what MakeArchive is to tar (except you install ZipMe
So, that's the story of MakeArchive. It's not pretty, and it's not
perfect, but if attributes cause no concern for you in your quest to
archive your BeOS data, then MakeArchive is a perfect -- and built-in --
solution for you.