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1.1 Controlling ar on the Command Line

ar [-X32_64] [-]p[mod] [--plugin name] [--target bfdname] [relpos] [count] archive [member…]

When you use ar in the Unix style, ar insists on at least two arguments to execute: one keyletter specifying the operation (optionally accompanied by other keyletters specifying modifiers), and the archive name to act on.

Most operations can also accept further member arguments, specifying particular files to operate on.

GNU ar allows you to mix the operation code p and modifier flags mod in any order, within the first command-line argument.

If you wish, you may begin the first command-line argument with a dash.

The p keyletter specifies what operation to execute; it may be any of the following, but you must specify only one of them:


Delete modules from the archive. Specify the names of modules to be deleted as member…; the archive is untouched if you specify no files to delete.

If you specify the ‘v’ modifier, ar lists each module as it is deleted.


Use this operation to move members in an archive.

The ordering of members in an archive can make a difference in how programs are linked using the library, if a symbol is defined in more than one member.

If no modifiers are used with m, any members you name in the member arguments are moved to the end of the archive; you can use the ‘a’, ‘b’, or ‘i’ modifiers to move them to a specified place instead.


Print the specified members of the archive, to the standard output file. If the ‘v’ modifier is specified, show the member name before copying its contents to standard output.

If you specify no member arguments, all the files in the archive are printed.


Quick append; Historically, add the files member… to the end of archive, without checking for replacement.

The modifiers ‘a’, ‘b’, and ‘i’ do not affect this operation; new members are always placed at the end of the archive.

The modifier ‘v’ makes ar list each file as it is appended.

Since the point of this operation is speed, implementations of ar have the option of not updating the archive’s symbol table if one exists. Too many different systems however assume that symbol tables are always up-to-date, so GNU ar will rebuild the table even with a quick append.

Note - GNU ar treats the command ‘qs’ as a synonym for ‘r’ - replacing already existing files in the archive and appending new ones at the end.


Insert the files member… into archive (with replacement). This operation differs from ‘q’ in that any previously existing members are deleted if their names match those being added.

If one of the files named in member… does not exist, ar displays an error message, and leaves undisturbed any existing members of the archive matching that name.

By default, new members are added at the end of the file; but you may use one of the modifiers ‘a’, ‘b’, or ‘i’ to request placement relative to some existing member.

The modifier ‘v’ used with this operation elicits a line of output for each file inserted, along with one of the letters ‘a’ or ‘r’ to indicate whether the file was appended (no old member deleted) or replaced.


Add an index to the archive, or update it if it already exists. Note this command is an exception to the rule that there can only be one command letter, as it is possible to use it as either a command or a modifier. In either case it does the same thing.


Display a table listing the contents of archive, or those of the files listed in member… that are present in the archive. Normally only the member name is shown; if you also want to see the modes (permissions), timestamp, owner, group, and size, you can request that by also specifying the ‘v’ modifier.

If you do not specify a member, all files in the archive are listed.

If there is more than one file with the same name (say, ‘fie’) in an archive (say ‘b.a’), ‘ar t b.a fie’ lists only the first instance; to see them all, you must ask for a complete listing—in our example, ‘ar t b.a’.


Extract members (named member) from the archive. You can use the ‘v’ modifier with this operation, to request that ar list each name as it extracts it.

If you do not specify a member, all files in the archive are extracted.

Files cannot be extracted from a thin archive.

A number of modifiers (mod) may immediately follow the p keyletter, to specify variations on an operation’s behavior:


Add new files after an existing member of the archive. If you use the modifier ‘a’, the name of an existing archive member must be present as the relpos argument, before the archive specification.


Add new files before an existing member of the archive. If you use the modifier ‘b’, the name of an existing archive member must be present as the relpos argument, before the archive specification. (same as ‘i’).


Create the archive. The specified archive is always created if it did not exist, when you request an update. But a warning is issued unless you specify in advance that you expect to create it, by using this modifier.


Operate in deterministic mode. When adding files and the archive index use zero for UIDs, GIDs, timestamps, and use consistent file modes for all files. When this option is used, if ar is used with identical options and identical input files, multiple runs will create identical output files regardless of the input files’ owners, groups, file modes, or modification times.

If binutils was configured with --enable-deterministic-archives, then this mode is on by default. It can be disabled with the ‘U’ modifier, below.


Truncate names in the archive. GNU ar will normally permit file names of any length. This will cause it to create archives which are not compatible with the native ar program on some systems. If this is a concern, the ‘f’ modifier may be used to truncate file names when putting them in the archive.


Insert new files before an existing member of the archive. If you use the modifier ‘i’, the name of an existing archive member must be present as the relpos argument, before the archive specification. (same as ‘b’).


This modifier is accepted but not used.


Uses the count parameter. This is used if there are multiple entries in the archive with the same name. Extract or delete instance count of the given name from the archive.


Preserve the original dates of members when extracting them. If you do not specify this modifier, files extracted from the archive are stamped with the time of extraction.


Use the full path name when matching names in the archive. GNU ar can not create an archive with a full path name (such archives are not POSIX complaint), but other archive creators can. This option will cause GNU ar to match file names using a complete path name, which can be convenient when extracting a single file from an archive created by another tool.


Write an object-file index into the archive, or update an existing one, even if no other change is made to the archive. You may use this modifier flag either with any operation, or alone. Running ‘ar s’ on an archive is equivalent to running ‘ranlib’ on it.


Do not generate an archive symbol table. This can speed up building a large library in several steps. The resulting archive can not be used with the linker. In order to build a symbol table, you must omit the ‘S’ modifier on the last execution of ‘ar’, or you must run ‘ranlib’ on the archive.


Make the specified archive a thin archive. If it already exists and is a regular archive, the existing members must be present in the same directory as archive.


Normally, ‘ar r’… inserts all files listed into the archive. If you would like to insert only those of the files you list that are newer than existing members of the same names, use this modifier. The ‘u’ modifier is allowed only for the operation ‘r’ (replace). In particular, the combination ‘qu’ is not allowed, since checking the timestamps would lose any speed advantage from the operation ‘q’.


Do not operate in deterministic mode. This is the inverse of the ‘D’ modifier, above: added files and the archive index will get their actual UID, GID, timestamp, and file mode values.

This is the default unless binutils was configured with --enable-deterministic-archives.


This modifier requests the verbose version of an operation. Many operations display additional information, such as filenames processed, when the modifier ‘v’ is appended.


This modifier shows the version number of ar.

The ar program also supports some command line options which are neither modifiers nor actions, but which do change its behaviour in specific ways:


Displays the list of command line options supported by ar and then exits.


Displays the version information of ar and then exits.


ar ignores an initial option spelt ‘-X32_64’, for compatibility with AIX. The behaviour produced by this option is the default for GNU ar. ar does not support any of the other ‘-X’ options; in particular, it does not support -X32 which is the default for AIX ar.

--plugin name

The optional command line switch --plugin name causes ar to load the plugin called name which adds support for more file formats, including object files with link-time optimization information.

This option is only available if the toolchain has been built with plugin support enabled.

If --plugin is not provided, but plugin support has been enabled then ar iterates over the files in ${libdir}/bfd-plugins in alphabetic order and the first plugin that claims the object in question is used.

Please note that this plugin search directory is not the one used by ld’s -plugin option. In order to make ar use the linker plugin it must be copied into the ${libdir}/bfd-plugins directory. For GCC based compilations the linker plugin is called For Clang based compilations it is called The GCC plugin is always backwards compatible with earlier versions, so it is sufficient to just copy the newest one.

--target target

The optional command line switch --target bfdname specifies that the archive members are in an object code format different from your system’s default format. See See Target Selection, for more information.

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