Software & Apps Linux Which Is the Best Compression Tool for Linux? Take a look at zip vs. gzip vs. bzip2 by Gary Newell Writer Gary Newell was a freelance contributor, application developer, and software tester with 20+ years in IT, working on Linux, UNIX, and Windows. our editorial process Gary Newell Updated on July 23, 2020 Linux Switching from Windows Tweet Share Email The three most common file compression formats you're likely to encounter on Linux are zip, gzip and bzip2. Which one is most efficient depends on what you are planning to compress. We tested all three to find out which compression tool is fastest on Linux. Information in this article applies to the Linux operating system. Overall Findings When it comes to compressing documents, images, and video files, the three formats are about evenly matched. Gzip offers slightly superior compression for documents and most images, but bzip2 is a little better for compressing BMP files and videos. The regular zip format usually falls in the middle when it comes to compression capabilities, but it's compatible with almost every operating system, making it the preferred choice for many users. Formats like JPEG and MP3 are already compressed, so such files do not benefit from further compression. Lifewire Compressing Windows Documents: Gzip Is Most Efficient For our first test, we compressed a document in the Microsoft DOCX format using each compression tool. Using the default settings, the results were as follows: Format File Size Initial file 12,202 bytes zip 9,685 bytes gzip 9.537 bytes bzip2 10,109 bytes Using the maximum compression settings on the same file delivered similar results: Format File Size Initial file 12,202 bytes zip 9,677 bytes gzip 9,530 bytes bzip2 10,109 bytes Running this same test on two other files (one containing text only and one containing text, images, and formatting) delivered the same result: The maximum compression settings didn't make much difference. Gzip comes out on top in all categories, and bzip2 is the least effective. Compressing Images: Bzip2 for Bitmaps, Gzip for Everything Else For the next test, we compressed images in the PNG, JPEG, bitmap, and GIF formats: PNG File Format File Size Initial file 345,265 bytes zip 345,399 bytes gzip 345,247 bytes bzip2 346,484 bytes JPEG File Format File Size Initial file 44,340 bytes zip 44,165 bytes gzip 44,015 bytes bzip2 44,281 bytes Bitmap File Format File Size Initial file 3,113,334 bytes zip 495,028 bytes gzip 494,883 bytes bzip2 397,569 bytes GIF File Format File Size Initial file 6,164 bytes zip 5,772 bytes gzip 5,627 bytes bzip2 6,051 bytes Gzip came out on top again with one exception: the bitmap image. Bzip2 compression produced a slightly smaller file by about 100 KB. In theory, JPEG files are already compressed, so trying to compress them could actually make them bigger. Compressing Audio Files: No Need to Bother The most common audio format is MP3, which has already been compressed, so the tools did not make much difference in the size of the two files we tested: MP3 File 1 Format File Size Initial file 5,278,905 bytes zip 5,270,224 bytes gzip 5,270,086 bytes bzip2 5,270,491 bytes MP3 File 2 Format File Size Initial file 4,135,331 bytes zip 4,126,138 bytes gzip 4,126,000 bytes bzip2 4,119,410 bytes Compressing Video: Bzip2 Is Slightly Better For this test, two video files were compressed. As with MP3, the MP4 file already contains a level of compression. The FLV file does not have any level of compression as it is a lossless format. MP4 Format File Size Initial file 731,908 bytes zip 478,546 bytes gzip 478,407 bytes bzip2 478,042 bytes FLV Format File Size Initial file 7,833,634 bytes zip 4,339,169 bytes gzip 4,339,030 bytes bzip2 4,300,295 bytes Bzip2 did the best job at compressing both formats, but the results were similar for all formats. Compressing Executables: No Compression Needed Because executable files are compiled code, it's no surprise that they don't compress well. File 1 Format File Size Initial file 26,557,472 bytes zip 26,514,031 bytes gzip 26,513,892 bytes bzip2 26,639,209 bytes File 2 Format File Size Initial file 195,629,144 bytes zip 193,951,631 bytes gzip 193,951,493 bytes bzip2 194,834,876 bytes Although the effects were minimal, gzip comes out on top, and bzip2 comes in last. Compressing Folders: Whatever You Do, Don't Use Bzip2 Finally, we compressed a folder full of images, documents, spreadsheets, videos, audio files, executables, and other different file types. We used each format on three different compression settings: Default Compression Format File Size Time Taken Initial file 1,333,084,160 bytes N/A zip 1,303,177,778 bytes 1 minute, 10 seconds gzip 1,303,177,637 bytes 1 minute, 35 seconds bzip2 1,309,234,947 bytes 6 minutes, 5 seconds Maximum Compression Format File Size Time Taken Initial file 1,333,084,160 bytes N/A zip 1,303,107,894 bytes 1 minute, 10 seconds gzip 1,303,107,753 bytes 1 minute, 35 seconds bzip2 1,309,234,947 bytes 6 minutes, 10 seconds Fastest Compression Format File Size Time Taken Initial file 1,333,084,160 bytes N/A zip 1,304,163,943 bytes 1 minute, 0 seconds gzip 1,304,163,802 bytes 1 minute, 15 seconds bzip2 1,313,557,595 bytes 6 minutes, 10 seconds Based on these tests, it is clear that bzip2 is not as useful as the other two compression tools. It takes longer to compress the folder, and the final size is larger than the other two tools. Final Verdict Use either zip or gzip as your Linux file compression tool. The difference between zip and gzip is negligible, and while gzip generally comes out on top, the zip format is more common across different operating systems. While bzip2 can outperform both in rare instances, the benefits are minimal. More from Lifewire How to Use 'bzip2' to Compress Files Become a Linux Guru in 10 Steps Example Uses of the Linux gzip Command What Is an MP3 File? What Is a CPGZ File? How Audio File Formats Differ and What This Means for Listeners What Is a ZIP File? How to Search Compressed Files Using Linux What Is an EMZ File? Linux Command/Unix Command — zcat 15 Best Free Zip & Unzip Programs What Is a 7Z File? How to Zip and Unzip Files and Folders on a Mac JPEG File Format Myths and Facts 5 Best Free File Converters for Occasionally Used Formats What Is Lossless Audio Compression?