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the -a flag causes tar to automatically pick the right compressor to filter the archive through, based on the file extension. e.g.
"tar -xaf archive.tar.xz" is equivalent to "tar -xJf archive.tar.xz"
"tar -xaf archive.tar.gz" is equivalent to "tar -xzf archive.tar.gz"
No need to remember -z is gzip, -j is bzip2, -Z is .Z, -J is xz, and so on :)
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