Making Ark’s extraction interface more efficient

Hello planet, my first post here. Be nice to me. I will start directly with the thing I’ve been hacking a bit on the last few days. Ark has always been one of those apps that does what it’s supposed to do, it extract files, but it doesn’t really make any attempt to be efficient or smart at it. For example, extracting a file required you to press the extract files button, next click another button to open the folder selector, choose the folder, return to the previous dialog and then press OK once more as seen here:

To reduce the number of clicks required for this operation, I hacked a bit around and discovered it was actually trivial to just set the extraction dialog to inherit from the KDE default folder selection dialog and add my own widgets, and got the result shown below. I also added a list view where the recent folders used can be displayed.

Finally there is the quick-extract functionality. You’ll see the extract button has gotten a dropdown button menu where your recently used folders will appear for quick extraction.

It’s obviously too late to get changes like these into 4.1, but I expect to get these changes commited and ready in good time before 4.2. Comments?


49 Responses to “Making Ark’s extraction interface more efficient”

  1. Arend van Beelen jr. Says:

    Great! Ark is actually one of those small utilities I kinda disliked a bit, mostly due to its quirky interface. But changes like these will make it a lot more intuitive and I think you should consider it a goal to make Ark work so seemless people hardly know it’s there 😉 Keep it up!

    (One tiny nitpick, the dropdown under Extract does not seem to contain the main Extract action besides the Quick extract locations, maybe that might be considered confusing…)

  2. Harald Says:

    @Arend: Thanks! The dropdown only comes down if you press the arrow on the right hand side. Pressing the big button does what it has always done in a new window. But we’ll see later if people maybe want the extract action in the menu as well….

  3. boom1992 Says:

    Hey, pretty cool there’s again someone working on Ark… 🙂 IMO it has been one of those apps, who were not completely ready at all 😦 Great to see progress on it again 😀


  4. BartOtten Says:


    “Ark is actually one of those small utilities I kinda disliked a bit, mostly due to its quirky interface”


  5. jniklast Says:

    wow that’s exactly was annoying me a bit, when you are extracting lots of archives into the same place.
    great great work!

  6. Matthias Pospiech Says:

    I never got comfortable with ark either. I either use the commandline ( konquerors zip Folder (though confusing if people do not recognise the difference to a normal folder) or Winrar using wine.
    Winrar is a good example because it workflow appears logical to me.
    Ark never provided the folder I want to extract to, whereas winrar simple offers a sub folder with the name of the archive which in most cases is exactly what I need and I never understood the selection of items in ark. If I selected all then all items where extracted multiple times to the hard disk.
    Maybe these things are solved already, maybe not. If ark is shipped with KDE4 I will definetly test it again.

  7. atomopawn Says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    (And so forth)

  8. teezee Says:

    Really cool.

    I hope you dont mind if i share my wish for ark with. Usually I extract a archive through right click -> extract here. My problem however is that I never know if I should use “extract here” or “extract here in folder” because I never know if there already a folder in the archive. Therefore I’m always forced to check first because I neither want no folder or 2 folders.

    If you implement something like an intelligent extract here that would be awesome.

  9. phxx Says:

    Thanks for that. I really miss a good archive interface in KDE. Sure: kio-slaves are good but not the evolution’s end …

    btw: Nice blog design. I like clear and simple designs 🙂

  10. Flavio Says:

    WOW! Great stuff. It’s these simple usability touches that make a great DE.

  11. Andreas Says:

    Here is another guy who never liked ark due to its interface from the dark ages of desktop computing. If you can fix it you can create the first *good* archiver GUI for KDE!

  12. christoph Says:

    Harald, I really like the suggestion of teezee.

    What you could do is to extract into a folder (same name as archive without archive extension), but if that new folder only contains a single folder, move that folder one step up. You would have to take care of colliding names, though 🙂


  13. Dareus Says:

    it would be nice if simple click on the extract button could extract all files directly in a previously set directory. This way one click to extract, if you want more click on the little arrow. I think that this could be more efficient.
    Anyway great work man, keep on rocking!

  14. Christian Says:

    I second the “intelligent extract here” problem teezee described above!

    Also, another thing that always bugged me about ark: I usually extract an archive and have “open target folder” active, which will bring Konqueror to the foreground but leave ark open in the background. A “close after extraction” switch would be much appreciated!

  15. oyvind Says:

    Great changes! I’m using KDE4 unstable on Opensuse 11.0 and there are 2 features I’m missing:
    – right-click archive in Dolphin and choose “extract here” and the archive is extracted without any questions.
    – I have Ark and Dolphin open. I select the files in Ark and drag them over to Dolphin and they are automatically extracted to that folder.

  16. Chris Says:

    Hi Harald, I want to join in and say bravo for fixing a usability issue. Pretty much was already said by many ppl before, so I will rather focus on another issue:

    The folder selection dialogue you are using by default comes with a KHistoryCombo if I’m not mistaken. It’s the combo box below the tree view. Thus IMHO there is no use for a new and huge widget for the task of selection previous targets, just use the combobox for that.

    Why not use the new widget? Because it generates a new layout which people have to get used to. If they see the standard selection dialogue they know what to do.

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

  17. Askrates Says:

    If it was possible to do what Christian above says, we would have one hell of a good archiving application!

  18. Ryan Says:

    For the issue of “Extract here” vs. “Extract here in folder,” take a look at a cli package called atool. It can unpack any archive and automatically puts its contents into a folder if they aren’t already. You can take a look at the algorithm. I believe it works like this:

    Create a temp folder.
    Extract the archive inside it.
    If the temp folder contains only one file/folder, then the contents of the archive were already collected, so just move that one file/folder out of the temp folder.
    Else, rename the temp folder to the name of the archive (minus the extensions).

  19. Lucian Says:

    I’d like to have easier dragging. Now you must be careful to drag perfectly horizontally, because vertical drags select.

  20. KRF Says:

    Very nice, ark needed a bit of love for a long time 🙂

  21. Dread Knight Says:

    Neat improvements!

  22. Cougar Says:

    Cool ! Too bad it won’t be in 4.1.

  23. AlexeiSergeev Says:

    Nice but…
    2) pls, add *.rar support.
    3) pls, add support for native languages and non-utf ( like Cyrillic windows-1251) sybmols in file names support.
    1) Too-too-too late,
    Thats all wishes for now, thank you!

  24. kinto Says:

    What teezee and ryan have suggested seems fantastic to me!!! Please consider it. Thank you and keep up the good work!!

  25. Thomas Says:

    I can only join in with the others: Nice work!

    One feature I miss when extracting a single file is specifying an alternative filename. This would come handy if i.e. I already extracted the whole archive and modified one file of it, then I have to recheck with the original version. Since the (modified) file with the same name already exists, I cannot reextract it (not even overwriting, at least with KDE 3.5.9).

    A 2nd problem with single file extraction arises, where the archive contains subdirectories. At the moment I cannot extract e single file from a subdirectory without ark automatically creating the same subdirectory in the destination directory first and putting the desired file into this new subdirectory. Afterwards I have to manually move the file one directory up and delete the unnecessary subdirectory.

    I know, just nitpicking details, but I could use ark much more with them … Maybe both problems can be resolved with a new “Save as”-action on single files (or even single folders), so the existing “Extract”-action doesn’t have to change its established behaviour.

  26. Shadowfiend Says:

    Very nice work!

    I will +1 the request to add drag and drop capabilities. It’s always driven me up the wall that I can’t do that with ark.

    AlexeiSergeev: while I haven’t tried it in KDE4, in KDE3 as long as you had rartools installed, you could deal with RAR archives. Again, I’m not 100% sure about KDE4, though.

  27. Rudd-O Says:

    The library you have open in your examples sounds like a large porn file. Come on, dude, libASS? hahahahaa

    Thanks for your efforts and contributions, Harald.

  28. DanaKil Says:

    yep, thank you for your work 🙂

    And I agree with oyvind’s and teezee’s comments. I had already reported a bug for the “close after extraction” some time ago :

    It would be much more simple : click on a website on a archive, choose “open with ark”, check what you just downloaded and click extract… even better if Ark can go to the background and send a notification when extaction is finished and quit

    …and the “Extract to” menu command always annoyed me too 🙂

  29. IAnjo Says:

    +1 teezee’s idea and also +1 to drag and drop.

    I’m also one of those that kinda dislikes ark, because it always felt so clunky and hard to use, so thanks for working on it!

  30. Harald Says:

    Wow, all these comments exceeded all my expectations… Thanks everyone!

    @teezee: I support your idea, browsing a bit through the source code now to see what’s possible…

    @Dareus: Personally I think a single click button that just extracts to a previous dir would be too prone to mistakes. Do you extract so much that clicking escape and pressing enter (assuming that the intelligent folder extraction method above is used) is too much? (and there’s also the dropdown menu that reduces it down to a click and drag operation)

    @oyvind: I guess that extract here option could be done as a combination of modifying the dolphin service and adding some good command line options to ark. Will have a look at it

    @Chris: Well I didn’t notice the khistorycombobox before you mentioned it now, but to be honest I think it should be more visible, reason being that when you’re extracting stuff picking a place from the history is something you would probably do 80% of the time. Of course, one could also say that just using the locations bar at the left would be sufficient for those commonly used directories… I’m not sure really, but for now I’ll just follow your suggestion and throw out the recent directories. Less duplication is almost always good!

    And to the people mentioning drag and drop, of course I agree fully. Will have a look at it.

  31. Sergey Says:

    Well here’s another request that would make KDE File Management a little bit ahead of the competition (With what there is already, it just seems to miss one really important thing for people), if you people can add the file transfer dialog some kind of information about the transfer, the speed, the total and remaining space and so on, Windows Vista actually does it rather well, if KDE can do it, that would be great.

  32. Bob Says:

    I wrote a wish report a while ago about how I thought the use of ark could be improved but filed it under konqueror:

    The report isn’t that clear so for clarity:

    * the most common use case I find with using zip files is downloading them from a web site (e.g. source code for something), navigating to the download folder, opening ark and then extracting. This is cumbersome and requires many steps and much experience of using KDE.

    * my idea is that you combine the save and extract steps into one step. I’m not sure the best way to do this, but have something of the form that when you click a .zip file on a webpage, you should instantly show some customised ark file dialog that looks similar to the usual “save file” dialog but with some more options. As well as just “save”, you should have a “save and extract” button. Checkboxes for “delete archive after extraction” and “open folder after files are extracted” would be useful to.

    By doing this, you will probably trim the time it takes for this common activity to happen from about 30 seconds to 3 seconds.

  33. João Fernandes Says:

    Those are very good improvements. But Ark also lacks password protected RAR support and progress info when packing/unpacking, which is really annoying. I’m now using OpenSuse 11 with KDE4 and the lack of Ark service menus in Dolphin and Konqueror is something that really give me chills.
    I’m a Linux/KDE user for two years and I have to admit that sometimes I miss WinRAR.

  34. Tim Says:

    I agree with Thomas. If you just want to extract some files (especially just one) from an archive you usually don’t care about having the entire directory structure replicated. Ark should find the common root of the selected files and just create the structure from there.

  35. kwilliam Says:

    Thanks for joining the Planet and for working on Ark! It sorely needs some GUI simplification. 🙂

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  42. jim dorey Says:

    yes, password protected rar’s, a major annoyance, i have to use unrar from a konsole for that, but it’s actually not a bad way to go, way faster than ark(in 3.5.x). what i’d like to see, as part of that, is some way to enter commonly used passwords, perhaps using hints, or even plain text for downloads(even the legal stuff sometimes has passwords), maybe an option to use the directory name as the password, i store all my pass protected archives in directories named like that.

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  48. John Says:

    So, a post very late to the party, but obviously these new features are now officially part of Ark, as they’re included in the regular repository versions. Kudos for adding the quick-extract’s recently used folders and RAR password support… you made me start using Ark again…! 🙂

    Question though: Ark’s quick-extract button keeps a list of each and every folder that you ever extracted anything to… Over time, the list clogs up with paths and devices that were only used once (and which will never be used again.) It would be really nice to be able to prune that list back down so that it’s more relavent again, and not spammed full of paths and devices that no longer exist. 😉 Where’s the file that stores the list of quick-extract paths? I’d *REALLY* like to edit it to show only the three paths that I commonly extract stuff to… 😉

  49. Harald Says:

    It takes them from the history list of the kde directory selection dialog, shared between all program that use that dialog. See .kde/share/config/kdeglobals in the “DirSelect Dialog” section. There you will find the list, if you wish to shorten it or even clear it completely.

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