UnRAR an Archive

Today we are going to use Python to extract a RAR archive. You may have never heard of this format, or vaguely remember something called WinRAR. Keep in mind there are a crapton of options, and if you get to choose, you should choose optimally for your problem at hand. Today we will focus on RAR files and work with them using Python and then with a Singularity container. Let’s get started!

Why Containers or Python?

You are working on a shared resource where you can’t install system tools for working with RAR, but you can install Python packages, or use Singularity containers!

We are going to use some standard command line linux tools to create a dummy archive to extract, and then demonstrate doing the extraction in Python. Yes, we could just interact with the files using the linux tools, but we are under the assumption that you can’t do these installations. Perhaps you are a researcher and have downloaded RAR archives from a web address, and you also want to interact with the contents in Python.

Create an Archive

If you ever wanted to create a RAR archive on linux (and please consider others first you could do this with “rar” and “unrar” (cue dinosaur “RAAAWR!”

# Install in Debian/Ubuntu
sudo apt-get install -y rar unrar

Let’s make a silly folder of useless files to turn into an archive.

mkdir -p noodles
echo "This is what you live on in graduate school." >> noodles/ramen.txt
echo "This is a meaty noodle that probably your Dad likes." >> noodles/udon.txt
echo "Garfield approved, best with a napkin." >> noodles/lasagna.txt
mkdir -p noodles/sauce
touch noodles/sauce/marinara
touch noodles/sauce/cheese
touch noodles/sauce/alfredo

Oh yeah, we have a nice little thing going on here!

$ tree noodles/
├── lasagna.txt
├── ramen.txt
├── sauce
│   ├── alfredo
│   ├── cheese
│   └── marinara
└── udon.txt

1 directory, 6 files

We can now create the archive with “rar”

$ rar a noodles.rar noodles

RAR 5.30 beta 2   Copyright (c) 1993-2015 Alexander Roshal   4 Aug 2015
Trial version             Type RAR -? for help

Evaluation copy. Please register.

Creating archive noodles.rar

Adding    noodles/sauce/alfredo                                       OK 
Adding    noodles/sauce/cheese                                        OK 
Adding    noodles/sauce/marinara                                      OK 
Adding    noodles/udon.txt                                            OK 
Adding    noodles/ramen.txt                                           OK 
Adding    noodles/lasagna.txt                                         OK 
Adding    noodles/sauce                                               OK 
Adding    noodles                                                      1%

Great! We now have an archive to work with. We can guess that the a says to “add files” to an archive. You should be comfortable with reading the man (manual) pages to learn more about rar, try this:

$ man rar

Extract in Python

There are actually a couple of ways to do this, and I’ll use a module that I know called “patool.” Check it out because it handles much more kinds of archives than rar. Here is how to install it:

pip install patool

# On a shared resource
pip install patool --user

Now let’s open up Python! Note that the noodles.rar is in our present working directory.

rarfile = 'noodles.rar'

The simplest thing to do, in order to extract the archive to the present working directory (and let’s create a new folder for it first) would look something like this:

from patoolib import extract_archive
import os
extract_to = 'new-noodles'
extract_archive(rarfile, outdir=extract_to)

patool: Extracting noodles.rar ...
patool: running /usr/bin/rar x -- /home/vanessa/Documents/Dropbox/Code/shub/containers/rar/noodles.rar
patool:     with cwd='new-noodles'
patool: ... noodles.rar extracted to `new-noodles'.

Now you probably want to parse over them. How can you do that? Let’s write a quick function! This would return a list:

def list_files(base):
    files = []
    for root, dirnames, filenames in os.walk(base):
        for filename in filenames:
            files.append(os.path.join(root, filename))
    return files

Test it out!

In [11]: list_files(extract_to)

And here is a function that would return an iterator. You might want this for larger listings for more efficient parsing.

def iter_files(base):
    for root, dirnames, filenames in os.walk(base):
        for filename in filenames:
            yield os.path.join(root, filename)
for filename in iter_files(extract_to):
    ...:     print('I found a file %s!' %filename)
I found a file new-noodles/noodles/udon.txt!
I found a file new-noodles/noodles/ramen.txt!
I found a file new-noodles/noodles/lasagna.txt!
I found a file new-noodles/noodles/sauce/alfredo!
I found a file new-noodles/noodles/sauce/cheese!
I found a file new-noodles/noodles/sauce/marinara!

The paths above are relative. You would want to use os.path.abspath(os.path.join(root, filename)) for a full path. It depends what you are trying to do.

def list_fullpaths(base):
    files = []
    for root, dirnames, filenames in os.walk(base):
        for filename in filenames:
            files.append(os.path.abspath(os.path.join(root, filename)))
    return files
In [15]: list_fullpaths(extract_to)

Rar-ing with a Container

Let’s say you don’t want to deal with Python, but you still can’t install rar or unrar. You can use a container! If you aren’t familar with Singularity, it’s a container technology (like Docker) that works on a shared resource. You can install it with these instructions.


The container is hosted on Singularity Hub, and built from the repository here.

$ singularity pull --name rar.simg shub://singularityhub/rar

If you are extracting on a shared resource, make sure to export your SINGULARITY_CACHEDIR first, as pulling to $HOME can fill up the quota almost immediately #fatcontainers.

$ singularity pull --name rar.simg shub://singularityhub/rar

You can always ask the container for help before blindly running it.

$ singularity help rar.simg 

    This container provides the rar and unrar utilities. Running the container
    as is is akin to running the rar utility on Linux:
       ./rar.simg --help

    If you want to create or extract an archive, you can also use one of the apps

        singularity apps rar.simg

    Or ask for help for usage for one:

       $ singularity help --app create rar.simg 
       $ singularity help --app extract rar.simg 

Create and Extract An Archive

Here is how to create an archive using the Singularity container:

$ singularity run --app create rar.simg archive.rar noodles/

And now extract the same one, but somewhere else.

$ singularity run --app extract rar.simg archive.rar another-noodles

Advanced Usage

You can interact with unrar and rar in the containers directly if you use “exec”. Here are the same commands, but we are calling the executables directly!

# Create
$ singularity exec rar.simg rar a new-archive.rar noodles/

# Extract
$ singularity exec rar.simg unrar x new-archive.rar more-noodles/

UNRAR 5.30 beta 2 freeware      Copyright (c) 1993-2015 Alexander Roshal

Extracting from new-archive.rar

Creating    more-noodles                                              OK
Creating    more-noodles/noodles                                      OK
Extracting  more-noodles/noodles/udon.txt                             OK 
Extracting  more-noodles/noodles/ramen.txt                            OK 
Extracting  more-noodles/noodles/lasagna.txt                          OK 
All OK

Finally, if you want to be working inside the image, you can use “shell”

$ singularity shell rar.simg
Singularity: Invoking an interactive shell within container...

Singularity rar.simg:~/Documents/Dropbox/Code/shub/containers/rar> which rar
Singularity rar.simg:~/Documents/Dropbox/Code/shub/containers/rar> which unrar

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