The TAR file format was initially developed within a Unix environment with a purpose to support tape backup procedures. Subsequently it has been used for file archiving purposes and to collect multiple files into one file for storage or distribution. TAR is also the name of an application that handles TAR files. TAR, despite still being quite popular, particularly in the Linux platform, does have some shortcomings, which have been addressed through new versions of the format.
A TAR file is a collection of files into one file. It is not compressed by default. A number of compression applications exist which can then be used to compress the entire TAR file, such as gzip. If compression is applied then this changes the file extension from.tar to .tar.gz to denote its compression. The new additional suffix is dependent on the type of compression used. TAR files consist of a file header and file data rounded up to a multiple of 512 bytes.
The .zip file extension is the most well known file type related to compressed and archived files. First released in 1989, the format is still widely used and is built into Microsoft Windows releases since 1998. It is also supported by Apple's OSX operating system. The ZIP format supports compression via several different techniques and even supports simply archiving of files without compression. Despite being 20 years old, the ZIP format looks set to continue to thrive whilst bandwidth and storage remain relatively costly.
The compression techniques used to create a .zip file do so by compressing each file individually. This has the advantage of potentially using different appropriate compression techniques for each file within the archive, however under normal circumstances it limits the potential compression capability. Although the ZIP format allows for up to 10 different types of compression to be chosen, the DEFLATE method is the most common. DEFLATE is based on Huffman coding.