I was under the impression that the * glob does not match dot-prefixed files unless you manually enable such functionality (through dotglob, or your shell's equivalent).

Yet if I have a directory a containing files file1 and .hidden1, then if I do

tar -cvpjf backup.tar.bz2 --exclude 'a/*' a

the resulting tar file contains only the empty directory a and no trace of either the hidden or non-hidden file. My expectation would have been only the non-hidden file1 would have been excluded.

What is going on here?

  • 1
    Since you're using single quotes around a/*, the wildcard is expanded by tar, not your shell. It's manpage doesn't state whether * matches dotfiles, but from your experience, it looks like it. – n.st Jan 11 '14 at 22:47
  • This might help you: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/83661/… – n.st Jan 11 '14 at 22:48
  • Agreed that the wildcard is expanded by tar because of the single quotes, but my reading of man page suggests it expects * not to match dotfiles: Periods (‘.’) or forward slashes (‘/’) are not considered special for wildcard matches. However, if a pattern completely matches a directory prefix of a matched string, then it matches the full matched string: thus, excluding a directory also excludes all the files beneath it. – fpghost Jan 11 '14 at 22:49
  • Strange, you seem to have a different version of tar's manpage than me... (GNU tar 1.26) – n.st Jan 11 '14 at 22:51
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    Actually, after thinking about it, I would understand are not considered special for wildcard matches as are matched by wildcards. So you will have to explicitly exclude files beginning with a dot from exclusion: --exclude 'a/[^.]*'. Just tested it and it seems to work. – n.st Jan 11 '14 at 23:05

First off, since you've enclosed the wildcard in single quotes, it is expanded by tar, instead of your shell, so its dotglob option will have no effect.

tar's * wildcard matches everything, including dots and slashes (as stated in the documentation you found), so you will have to exclude files starting with a dot from exclusion:

tar -cvpjf backup.tar.bz2 --exclude 'a/[^.]*' a

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