Public Domain Archiver Template

The Compression Ratings corpus consists of real test data. In practice such data consists of multiple files. A TAR container is redundant and not optimal for compressors. The order in which files are compressed also matters. There is no optimal solution for all compressors, different compressors may need different sorting order, therefore it follows all compressors should support compressing multiple files.

Discussions with several authors since the launch of the site has often touched the matter of testing multiple files and the TAR issue. Some authors have difficulty before they can implement their own file analysis (sorting order) with a rather banal task: supporting elementary archiver framework in their program.

Here is a public domain solution for the problem. A C++ template that you can use for your programs.

List files in a directory

First, let's implement a minimal program to list files, recurse directories and sort files by extension.
int main(int argc, const char **argv) {
  Walker<FileIterator<Filename> > w(std::for_each(argv + 1, argv + argc,
                                    Walker<FileIterator<Filename> >().Recurse()));
  std::sort(w.begin(), w.end());
  std::copy(w.begin(), w.end(), std::ostream_iterator<std::string>(std::cout, "\n"));
  return 0;
Let's test it.
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template> g++ -Wall minimal_filelist.cpp -o minimal_filelist 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template> ./minimal_filelist 'm*' 'p*' 'w*' 
The Filename looks like this:
struct Filename: std::string {
  typedef std::string NameT;
  Filename& Name(const NameT &s) { static_cast<NameT &>(*this) = s; return *this; }
  Filename& Size(uint64_t n) { return *this; } //we don't need this now
  const NameT& Name() const { return *this; }
  NameT Extension() const {
    size_type k = find_last_of('.');
    return k == npos ? c_str() : substr(k + 1);
  bool operator< (const Filename &b) const { return Extension() < b.Extension(); }

Collecting files

The Walker collects files from the directory tree. Here is how it works:
template<class Iter> class Walker: public std::vector<typename Iter::TypeT> {
  typedef typename Iter::TypeT::NameT S;
  bool recurse;
  void Walk(Iter f, const Mask<S> &m = Mask<S>()) {
    while (++f) m != f.FileName() || (f.IsFile() && (push_back(f), true)) 
                || (f.IsDirectory() && recurse && (Walk(f.Name()), true));
  Walker(): recurse(false) {}
  Walker& Recurse(bool r = true) { recurse = r; return *this; }
  Walker& operator() (const PathAndMask<S> &pm) { Walk(pm.P(), pm.M()); return *this; }
  Walker& operator() (const char *s) { return (*this)(S(s)); }

Windows drives

Unfortunately Windows has a unique concept for paths. A prefix for a path may refer to different physical partitions. This causes some problems for handling paths such as c:* which doesn't refer to all files beginning with c: but to a wholly different place. This is why we need platform specific way to split path and mask.

We shall attempt to provide fairly universal solution, by handling the drive letters even for non-Windows platforms:

template<class S> struct PathAndMask {
  S p;
  Mask<S> m;
  PathAndMask(S s): p(s) {
    std::replace(p.begin(), p.end(), '\\', '/');
    RelativeDir(p) && (p += "/*", true);
    typename S::size_type k = p.find_last_of('/');
    Mask<S>("?:*") == p && (k == 2 && (p.insert(2, "/."), k += 2) || k == p.npos
      && (k = (RelativeDir(p.substr(2)) ? p.length() : 2), p.insert(2, "."), true));
    m = (k != p.npos ? p.substr(k + 1) : p);
    Mask<S>("?:") == p.erase(k != p.npos ? k + !k : 0) && (p += '.', true);
    m.empty() && (m = Mask<S>(), true);
  const S& P() const { return p; }
  const Mask<S>& M() const { return m; }

File iterator

So far everything is portable, but we need a platform specific file iterator for the Walker. Here is a POSIX implementation using opendir() and readdir():
template<class T> class FileIterator: public T, private stat,dirent {
  DIR *dir;
  const typename T::NameT path;
  void Set() { T::Name(path + FileName()), ::stat(T::Name().c_str(), this), T::Size(st_size); }
  bool DE(dirent *de) { return de && ((static_cast<dirent &>(*this) = *de), Set(), true); }
  typedef T TypeT;
  FileIterator(const typename T::NameT &s): dir(opendir(s.empty() ? "." : s.c_str())),
                                            path(s.empty() || s == "/" ? s : s + '/') {}
  ~FileIterator() { dir && closedir(dir); }
  bool operator++ () { return dir && DE(readdir(dir)); }
  bool IsFile() const { return S_ISREG(st_mode); }
  bool IsDirectory() const { return S_ISDIR(st_mode) && !RelativeDir(FileName()); }
  typename T::NameT FileName() const { return typename T::NameT(d_name); }
The FileIterator can support storing data such as file timestamps, permissions, etc. just by adding couple of more lines to the FileIterator::Set() function. With trivial modifications we can use FindFirstFile() and FindNextFile() instead for MS-Windows, having operator++ call FindFirstFile() when called for the first time.


Since there is no standard way to support globbing (pattern matching with wildcard characters) such as *.txt or d?cumen*.txt we need another platform specific object for the Mask. For POSIX platforms we can use fnmatch():
template<class T> struct Mask: T {
  Mask(const T &s = "*"): T(s) {}
  bool operator== (const T &s) const { return !fnmatch(T::c_str(), s.c_str(), 0); }
  bool operator!= (const T &s) const { return !(*this == s); }
For non-POSIX platforms such as MS-Windows, we need to implement our own fnmatch().
inline static int fnmatch(const char *m, const char *s, int dummy = 0) {
  if (*m == '*') for (++m; *s; ++s) if (!fnmatch(m, s)) return 0;
  return (!*s || !(*s == *m || *m == '?')) ? *m | *s : fnmatch(++m, ++s);
For Windows we need to disable the MinGW argument globbing:
#ifdef __MINGW32__
int _CRT_glob; //disable argument globbing for mingw32

Archiver Template

Let's now implement a full archiver with some common features:
  1. support multiple files
  2. support directory trees
  3. sort files by extension
  4. support basic arguments that typically are found in archiver: -r for recurse, -v verbose, -m choose compression method
  5. ask permission to overwrite a file that already exists
  6. store name and size for each file
  7. support >4gb files
  8. call a compressor to compress data
int main(int argc, const char **argv) {
  Arguments a(argc, argv);
  if (a.size() < 2) throw std::string("usage...");
  typedef std::string FileNameType;
  FileNameType archive(a.Pop());
  UI ui(a.Bool("-v"));
  bool recurse(a.Bool("-r"));
  CompressionMethod method(a.Num("-m"));
  typedef Walker<FileIterator<FileProperties<FileNameType> > > W;
  W w (std::for_each(a.begin(), a.end(), W().Recurse(recurse)));
  if (w.empty()) throw std::string("no files found");
  std::sort(w.begin(), w.end());
  FileOut out(archive);
  std::for_each(w.begin(), w.end(), 
    Archiver(out << method, ui, *std::auto_ptr<Compressor>(method()))).Done();
  return 0;
A simple class to handle arguments given from the command line.
struct Arguments: std::vector<std::string> {
  Arguments(int argc, const char **argv) { std::copy(argv + 1, argv + argc, 
                                           std::inserter(*this, begin())); }
  value_type Pop() {
    if (empty()) return value_type();
    value_type s(front());
    return erase(begin()), s;
  bool Bool(const value_type &s) {
    std::vector<std::string>::iterator i = std::find(begin(), end(), s);
    return i != end() && (erase(i), true);
  struct SubstrMatch: std::string {
    SubstrMatch (const std::string &s): std::string(s) {}
    bool operator() (const std::string &b) const { return b.substr(0, size()) == *this; }
  template<class T> bool Num(T &n, const value_type &s) {
    std::vector<value_type>::iterator i = std::find_if(begin(), end(), SubstrMatch(s));
    return i != end() && (std::istringstream(i->substr(s.size())) >> n, erase(i), true);
  unsigned Num(const value_type &s, unsigned default_value = 0) {
    unsigned k = default_value;
    return Num(k, s), k;


struct Archiver { 
  std::ostream &os;
  uint64_t num, sum;
  UI &ui;
  Compressor &comp;
  Archiver(std::ostream &o, UI &u, Compressor &c): os(o), num(0), sum(0), ui(u), comp(c) {}
  template<class T> void operator() (const T &k) {
    FileIn in(k.Name());
    ++num, sum += k.Size();
    comp(os << k, in, k.Size());
    if (in.bad()) throw std::string("problem reading ") + k.Name();
    if (os.bad()) throw std::string("problem writing output");
  Archiver& Done() { ui.Done(num, sum); return *this; }

Compressor interface

struct Compressor {
  virtual void operator () (std::ostream &out, std::istream &in, uint64_t n) { 
    throw std::string("compressor not implemented"); 
  virtual ~Compressor() {}
struct CopyCompressor: Compressor {
  void operator() (std::ostream &out, std::istream &in, uint64_t n) {
    while (n) out.put(in.get()), --n; 

Extractor Template

Finally an extraction program that extracts the files made by the archiver template.
int main(int argc, const char **argv) {
  Filelist a(argc, argv);
  if (a.empty()) throw std::string("usage...);
  FileIn in(a.Pop());
  if (a.empty()) throw std::string("no files defined");
  CompressionMethod method;
  in >> method;
  UI ui(a.Bool("-v"));
  Extractor(ui).operator()<FileProperties<std::string> >(in, a, *std::auto_ptr<Compressor>(method())).Done();
  return 0;
Files that are extracted are given from the command line, so we implement additional functionality for the argument class.
struct Filelist: Arguments {
  Filelist(int argc, const char **argv): Arguments(argc, argv) {}
  struct MaskMatch: std::string {
    MaskMatch(const std::string &a): std::string(a) {}
    bool operator() (const Mask<std::string> &m) const { return m == *this; }
  bool PopMask (const std::string &s) { return Bool(s) || std::find_if(begin(), end(), MaskMatch(s)) != end(); }


struct Extractor {
  uint64_t num, sum;
  UI &ui;
  Extractor(UI &u): num(0), sum(0), ui(u) {}
  template<class T> Extractor& operator() (std::fstream &in, Filelist &a, Compressor &comp) {
    for (T k; a.size() && (in >> k).good(); ) {
      bool ok = a.PopMask(k.Name());
      ok ? ui.Processing(k) : ui.Skip(k);
      ok && (RemoveIfExists(k.Name()), CreatePathForFile(k.Name()), sum += k.Size(), ++num);
      File o(ok ? k.Name() : "", std::ios::out);
      comp(o, in, k.Size());
    return *this;
  Extractor& Done() { ui.Done(num, sum); return *this; }

Testing Archiver and Extractor

sami@q6600:~/archiver_template> g++ -Wall archiver.cpp -o archiver 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template> ./archiver /tmp/k -r -v 'm*' 
file /tmp/k already exist, overwrite? (y/n)y 
56189 bytes, 8 files. 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template> g++ -Wall extractor.cpp -o extractor 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template> md kk 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template> cd kk 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template/kk> touch mask.h 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template/kk> ../extractor /tmp/k -v '*.h' 
skipping file minimal_filelist.cpp 
skipping file minimal_filelist.cpp~ 
file mask.h already exist, overwrite? (y/n)y 
skipping file mask.h~ 
skipping file minimal_filelist 
skipping file mydir/another_dir/file1 
skipping file mydir/another_dir/file2 
1614 bytes, 2 files. 
sami@q6600:~/archiver_template/kk> ls -R 
mask.h  mydir 

sami@q6600:~/archiver_template/kk> diff -s mask.h ../mask.h 
Files mask.h and ../mask.h are identical 

Full source code

Update 2009-05-06: the code contains bugs: no static keyword should be at static int _CRT_glob; for MinGW, the Extractor(ui)... line should end with .Done(); and there are missing brackets in the ok && ... line at Extractor. (These bugs are fixed at the quoted code in this article.) Also some of the code is redundant. Also note that the programs are case-sensitive (when globbing files).

Let me know if you found this code useful or made improvements to it. Write to sami (at)

Thanks to Eugene Shelwien for feedback and benchmarks.

2017-2023 ©