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HP-UX 11i Version 3: February 2007

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ar — create and maintain portable archives and libraries


ar [-]key [-][modifier ...] [posname] afile [name ...]


The ar command maintains groups of files combined into a single archive file. Its main use is to create and update library files as used by the link editor (see ld(1)). It can be used, however, for any similar purpose. The magic string and file headers used by ar consist of printable ASCII characters. If an archive is composed of printable files, the entire archive is printable.

Individual files are inserted without conversion into the archive file. When ar creates an archive, it creates headers in a format that is portable across all machines. See ar(4) for a detailed description of the portable archive format and structure. The archive symbol table (described in ar(4)) is used by the link editor to search repeatedly and efficiently through libraries of object files. An archive symbol table is created and maintained by ar only when the archive contains at least one object file. The archive symbol table is in a specially named file that is always the first file in the archive. This file is never mentioned or accessible to the user. Whenever ar is used to create or update the contents of an archive, the symbol table is rebuilt (unless the z modifier is used). The s modifier described below forces the symbol table to be rebuilt.

One key operation character from the set, drqtpmx, is required and can be optionally preceded by a hyphen (-). The required key operation character can be specified with one or more modifier characters from the set abcfFilsuvzACT. posname is used with the r and m key operations and the a, b, and i modifiers to specify a position in the archive. afile is the archive file. Constituent files in the archive file are specified by name arguments.

The following list describes the key operation characters:


Delete the named files from the archive file.


Replace the named files, or add a new file to the archive:

  • If the u modifier is used with the operation character r, only those files with modification dates later than those of the corresponding member files are replaced.

  • If an optional positioning character from the set abi is used, the posname argument must be present and specifies that new files are to be placed after (a) or before (b or i) posname. In the absence of a positioning character, new files are placed at the end.

  • ar creates afile if it does not already exist.

  • If no name is specified and:

    • the specified archive file does not exist, ar creates an empty archive file containing only the archive header (see ar(4)).

    • the archive contains one or more files whose names match names in the current directory, each matching archive file is replaced by the corresponding local file without considering which file may be newer unless the u modifier is also specified.


Quickly append the named files to the end of the archive file. Positioning characters are invalid. The operation does not check to determine whether the added members are already in the archive. ar creates afile if it does not already exist.


Print a table of contents of the archive file to the standard output. If no names are given, all files in the archive are described. If names are given, information about only those files appears.


Print the named files in the archive to the standard output. If no names are specified, the contents of all files are printed in the order that they appear in the archive.


Move the named files. By default, the files are moved to the end of the archive. If a positioning character is present, the posname argument must be present and, as in the r operation, posname specifies where the files are to be moved. Note that, when used with a positioning character, the files are moved in the same order that they currently appear in the archive, not in the order specified on the command line. See EXAMPLES.


Extract the named files. If no names are given, all files in the archive are extracted. In neither case does x alter entries from the archive file.

The following list describes the optional modifier characters:


Position the files after the existing positioning file specified by posname .


Place the new files before the existing positioning file specified by posname .


Suppress the message normally produced when afile is created. For r and q operations, ar normally creates afile if it does not already exist.


Truncate the named file names to 14 bytes before performing operations on an archive. This modifier has been provided for compatibility with previous releases where file names up to a maximum of 14 bytes were supported. Longer file names were truncated. When used with the r operation, the first existing file that matches the truncated file name is replaced. The f modifier can also be used with other operations to allow the full file names to be specified, rather than the truncated file names. Also see the description of the F modifier.


Place the new files before the existing positioning file specified by posname . Identical to the b modifier.


Place temporary files in the local current working directory rather than in the directory specified by the environment variable TMPDIR or in the default directory /var/tmp. Only the d, m, q, and r operations and the s and F modifiers use temporary files.


Regenerate the archive symbol table even if ar is not invoked with an operation that modifies the archive contents. This modifier is useful for restoring the archive symbol table after the strip command has been used on the archive (see strip(1)) or after the archive has been modified using the z modifier.


Update the archive. (r operations only) Do not copy the local file to the archive unless the local file is newer than the corresponding existing file in the archive.


Give a verbose file-by-file description of the creation or modification of an archive file to the standard output. When used with t, v gives a long listing of all information about the files. When used with the d, m, p, q, or x operations, the verbose modifier causes ar to print each key operation character and the file name associated with that operation. For the r operation, ar shows an a if it adds a new file or an r if it replaces an existing one. For the p operation, ar prints the name of the file to the standard output before the contents of the file are printed.


Suppress the rebuilding of the symbol table when the archive is modified. This modifier is useful only to avoid long build times when creating a large archive piece-by-piece. If an existing archive contains a symbol table, the z modifier will cause it to be invalidated. If a file name longer than 15 bytes is given the entire archive is rewritten. To rebuild the symbol table, either use the ranlib command (see ranlib(1)), or invoke ar again with the s modifier.


Suppress warning messages regarding optional access control list entries. ar does not archive optional access control list entries in a file's access control list (see acl(5)). Normally, a warning message is printed for each file having optional access control list entries.


Prevent extracted files from replacing files with the same name. The C modifier can only be used with the x operation.


Truncate the entire archive. The F modifier causes the entire archive to be rewritten such that all file names within the archive are truncated to 14 bytes, even when ar does not modify the archive contents. The long name table will be removed (see ar(4)). This modifier has been provided for compatibility with previous releases where file names up to a maximum of 14 bytes were supported. Also see the description of the f modifier.


Truncate file names whose archive names are longer than those supported by the file system. By default, files with names longer than those supported by the file system will not be extracted and will cause an error. The T modifier can only be used with the x operation.

Only the following combinations are meaningful; no other combination of modifiers with operations have any effect on the operation:


v, f, F, l


v, f, F, l, and a | b | i


v, f, F, l, c, A, u, and a | b | i


v, f, F, l, c, A, z, s


v, f, F, s


v, f, F, s


v, f, F, s, C, T


Environment Variables

The following internationalization variables affect the execution of ar:


Determines the locale category for native language, local customs and coded character set in the absence of LC_ALL and other LC_* environment variables. If LANG is not specified or is set to the empty string, a default of C (see lang(5)) is used instead of LANG.


Determines the values for all locale categories and has precedence over LANG and other LC_* environment variables.


Determines the locale category for character handling functions.


Determines the locale that should be used to affect the format and contents of diagnostic messages written to standard error.


Determines the locale category for numeric formatting.


Determines the format and contents of date and time formatting.


Determines the location of message catalogues for the processing of LC_MESSAGES.

If any internationalization variable contains an invalid setting, ar behaves as if all internationalization variables are set to C. See environ(5).

In addition, the following environment variable affects ar:


Specifies a directory for temporary files (see tmpnam(3S)). The l modifier overrides the TMPDIR variable, and TMPDIR overrides /var/tmp, the default directory.


phase error on file name

The named file was modified by another process while ar was copying it into the archive. When this happens, ar exits and the original archive is left untouched.

ar write error: file system error message

ar could not write to a temporary file or the final output file. If ar was trying to write the final output file, the original archive is lost.

ar reports cannot create file.a , where file.a is an ar-format archive file, even if file.a already exists. This message is triggered when file.a is write-protected or inaccessible.


Create a new file (if one does not already exist) in archive format with its constituents entered in the order indicated:

ar r newlib.a f3 f2 f1 f4

Replace files f2 and f3 such that the new copies follow file f1, and f3 follows f2:

ar ma f1 newlib.a f2 f3 ar ma f2 newlib.a f3 ar r newlib.a f2 f3

The archive is then ordered:

newlib.a: f1 f2' f3' f4

where the single quote marks indicate updated files. The first command says "move f2 and f3 after f1 in newlib.a", thus creating the order:

f1 f3 f2 f4

Note that the relative order of f2 and f3 has not changed. The second command says "move f3 after f2 in newlib.a ", creating the order:

f1 f2 f3 f4

The third command then replaces files f2 and f3. Since files f2 and f3 both already existed in the archive, this sequence of commands could not be simply replaced by:

ar ra f1 newlib.a f2 f3

because the previous position and relative order of f2 and f3 in the archive are preserved (no matter how the files are specified on the command line), producing the following archive:

newlib.a: f3' f2' f1 f4


If you are a user who has appropriate privileges, ar can alter any archive file, even if it is write-protected.

If the same file is mentioned twice in an argument list, it might be put in the archive twice.

If multiple copies of a file exist in an archive, ar matches the first occurrence of the file in the archive.

ar automatically creates an archive symbol table, a task performed in early HP-UX versions by ranlib. Use of the z modifier either suppresses generation of the symbol table, or invalidates it if it exists. The ranlib command can be used to rebuild the symbol table if an archive was built with the z modifier.



Temporary files


System Tools:


Invoke the link editor



Access control lists


Assembler, compiler, and linker output


Archive format


Find the ordering relation for object files or archive libraries


Regenerate an archive symbol table


Strip symbol and line number information from an object file


Create a name for a temporary file

Texts and Tutorials:

HP-UX Linker and Libraries Online User Guide

(See the +help option)

HP-UX Linker and Libraries User's Guide

(See manuals(5) for ordering information)



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