Here’s the common syntax I use in archiving and extracting files or folders.

tar -xvf foo.tar

verbosely extract foo.tar

tar -xzf foo.tar.gz

extract gzipped foo.tar.gz

tar -cjf foo.tar.bz2 bar/

create bzipped tar archive of the directory bar called foo.tar.bz2

tar -xjf foo.tar.bz2 -C bar/

extract bzipped foo.tar.bz2 after changing directory to bar

tar -xzf foo.tar.gz blah.txt

extract the file blah.txt from foo.tar.gz

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