Five years ago, the Free Software Foundation announced The Unarchiver as a free tool to extract RARv3 archives. In that blog post, you can notice how the FSF hoped that existing GUI extraction tools like Ark would integrate support for The Unarchiver. That’s because The Unarchiver’s GUI is only available on Mac OS, while on Linux there are only the CLI frontends (which are lsar to list an archive and unar to unpack an archive).

Currently, Ark requires two non-free utilities to handle RAR archives: unrar to open and extract an existing RAR, and rar to create a RAR archive from scratch. This is a problem for many Linux distributions. For instance, Ubuntu and Fedora don’t ship unrar in their default repositories, and so does Debian. Slackware does not ship neither rar not unrar.

A patch from Luke Shumaker introduced basic support for The Unarchiver, but it was never accepted upstream due to a couple of annoying limitations. Fedora ships a downstream version of this patch in their Ark package.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on updating this patch. I have rewritten the plugin almost from scratch and I’m fairly confident that we can merge it for the next 16.04 stable release of Ark. The unar backend can now even extract encrypted RAR archives, something that libarchive does not support yet (libarchive can be an alternative to The Unarchiver for free RAR support).

You can find this new plugin in the feature/unarchiver upstream branch. Tests are welcome, if you can compile Ark from sources (Slackware users, I’m looking at you!)