Every administrator or user will use file compression to save disk space and to move data easily. Nowadays, this utility is the bread and butter of system administrators to send data via the Internet, reducing the overall file size, saving time and internet bandwidth. 

For Linux users, there are effective tools that can reduce file sizes from 40 to 80 percent. In this article, we will give you a brief overview of compression methods and a list of the best compression software for Linux. Read on to learn more.

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What Is Data Compression?

Data compression is the process of storing data in a format that uses less space than the original representation would use. Compressing data can be very useful particularly in the field of communications as it enables devices to transmit or store data in fewer bits. 

Besides reducing transmission bandwidth, compression increases the amount of information that can be stored on a hard disk drive or another storage device. It can be as simple as removing all redundant characters. The tool works by inserting a single repeat character on the place to indicate a string of repeated characters. 

This data compression can reduce a file a 50% of its original size. When transmitting data over the internet, the compression should include all the data content of the transmission unit, including header data. Compressing optimizes backup storage performance since the files take up much less storage space 

Compression Methods

There are two basic methods to compress a file, lossy or lossless compression. Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses as well as specific use cases. 

Lossy compression
It is a popular data encoding method, which reduces the file size by discarding redundant data. This has the result that when the file is decompressed again, there will be lost data. The most common uses for lossy compression are video, audio, and images. Usually, the loss of data is not noticeable, therefore it is used for DVDs, and most multimedia available on the internet. 

However, if you need to keep the decompressed data identical to the original lossy compression, it is not a good fit. For these use cases, you need to use lossless compression. Algorithms used in lossy compression include Transform coding, Discrete Cosine Transform, Discrete Wavelet Transform, and Fractal Compression.

Features of Lossy Compression

  • Eliminates not noticeable data.
  • The file cannot be restored to its original form
  • The data’s quality is compromised
  • It is used in images, audio, and video. 

Lossless compression
This type of compression is used when you need to keep quality when compressing. Lossless compression restores the data in its original form, after decompression. 

Features of lossless compression

  • It does not eliminate not noticeable data
  • Can restore a file to its original form
  • Lossless compression does not compromise the data quality
  • Reduces the size of data much less than lossy compression
  • The algorithms used in lossless compression include Run-length encoding, Lempel-Ziv-Welch, Huffman coding, and arithmetic encoding.
  • It is used in Text, audio, and images. 
  • Has less data-holding capacity than lossy compression techniques. 

Moreover, to compress a file manually, you need to write a number of lines of code to configure the compression, even when using the majority of compression software. However, the most recent trend is to shorten the amount of code necessary to compress one or more files, while offering other advantages, such as working with all major operating systems, like Linux, Windows or iOS. 

Best Compression Software for Linux

Popular compression tools for Linux all mostly lossless, using a single core when compressing and decompressing files. However, these days most machines have multi-core processors. Therefore, modern compression tools use all the cores present on your system when compressing files. 

Compression tools include gzip, bzip2, and xz, despite using a single core to compress and decompressing files. The difference is that the multi-core compression tools offer speed advantages as a result of using all the cores in your system. Examples of this include pbzip2, lbzip2, plzip, and lrzip. 

pigz A functional replacement for gzip
PBZIP2 A replacement for the  bzip2 block-sorting file compressor
PXZ A Multicore compressor runs  LZMA compression on multiple processors
lbzip2 Unlike PBZIP2, this utility is suited for serial and parallel processing. 
plzip Multithread lossless data compressor. It is based on lzib. 
lrzip This compressor is especially suited to compress large files. 
pixz This indexing XZ compression tool, is compatible with XZ. LZMA and LZMA2. 

Other compression tools that are command-based are:

Tar file compression
This involves a tape archive, this tool is the most popular among Linux administrators. It is used to store in multiple file formats such as gzip, bzip2 or lzip.

Gzip file compression
This utility popularity stems from its fast file compression. The tool keeps the original file name, adding the compressed file.gz extension and time stamp. It usually comes as a built-in package for all distributions, but can be installed easily. 

lzma file compression
It is a compression tool like zip or tar, but it is faster than gzip. It comes as a built-in for all Linux distributions. 

Xz file compression
It is the successor of Izma. However, it can only compress single files, in a single command. Linux versions previous to 2009, may not support it. 

It is used to get a virtual disc image of an optical drive. This image can be used later to burn a new disc. 

Wrap Up

While the success of the compression utility may depend on the size of the file and the processing speed of the system, you can leverage from the tips we presented in this article to make the most of the tools and utilities you have in Linux. Moreover, if you are writing line after line of code to configure the compression software, there are a number of compression management tools that can simplify the task in a jiffy. Using the tools and tips presented above would be a good start. 

Best compression software for Linux


Author Bio

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Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/giladdavidmaayan/

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