Program Description

AutoArchive is a simple utility to help create backups more easily. The idea of the program is that all essential information for creating a single backup—such as list of directories that should be archived, the archive name, etc.—is stored in a single file – the archive specification file. It can use tar for creating archives, it has a command line interface and supports incremental backups.

Archive specification files, also called ”.aa files” are normally stored in a predefined location from where they are processed by the aa command which results to creating of a corresponding backup for each.

Command autoarchive is alias for aa; these commands are equivalent.


aa [options] [command] [AA_SPEC]...
autoarchive [options] [command] [AA_SPEC]...

Most of the options can be specified also in configuration files and in the archive specification file (by using the long option form and leaving out leading dashes) – see Configuration File and Archive Specification File for complete list of options that can be specified there. Command line options has higher priority than options in configuration files but lower priority than the ones in the archive specification file. --force-* options are available for the purpose of overriding some of the options specified in the .aa file.

Boolean options can also have a negation form defined. It has the “no-” prefix before the option name. For example: --incremental vs. --no-incremental. The negation form has always higher priority than the normal form.

List of command line options


Commands for program’s operations. The default operation is the backup creation if no command is specified.

--list Show all configured or orphaned archives.
--purge Purge stored data for an orphaned archive.
--version Show program’s version number and exit.
-h, --help Show this help message and exit.

General options:

-v, --verbose Turn on verbose output.
-q, --quiet Turn on quiet output. Only errors will be shown. If --quiet is turned on at the same level as --verbose (e. g. both are specified on the command line) then --quiet has higher priority than --verbose.
--all Operate on all configured archives. See also --archive-specs-dir.
 Directory where archive specification files will be searched for (default: ~/.config/aa/archive_specs).
 Alternate user configuration file (default: ~/.config/aa/aa.conf).
 Alternate user configuration directory (default: ~/.config/aa).

Archiving options:

-a ARCHIVER, --archiver=ARCHIVER
 Specify archiver type. Supported types are: ‘tar’, ‘targz’, ‘tarbz2’, ‘tarxz’, ‘tar_internal’, ‘targz_internal’, ‘tarbz2_internal’ (default: targz).
-c NUM, --compression-level=NUM
 Compression strength level. If not specified, default behaviour of underlying compression program will be used.
-d DIR_PATH, --dest-dir=DIR_PATH
 Directory where the backup will be created (default: <current directory>).

If enabled, backups are overwritten at the start of creation. If disabled (default), backups are overwritten at the end of creation. Enabling this option can be useful with big backups and low free space on the backup volume.

Let’s say aa data command will create backup /backups/data.tar.gz. If a file with the same name already exists in /backups then – in case this option is enabled – it will be overwritten as soon as creation of the new backup starts. If the option is not enabled the new backup will be first created under a temporary name leaving the old backup untouched. After the new backup is fully created it is renamed to /backups/data.tar.gz overwriting the old one.

Incremental archiving options:

-i, --incremental
 Perform incremental backup.
-l LEVEL, --level=LEVEL
 Specify backup level which should be created. All information about higher levels—if any exists—will be erased. If not present, the next level in a row will be created.
--restarting Turn on backup level restarting. See other *restart-* options to configure the restarting behaviour.
 Maximal backup level. If reached, it will be restarted back to a lower level (which is typically level 1 but it depends on --max-restart-level-size) (default: 10).
 Number of days after which the backup level is restarted. Similarly to --restart-after-level it will be restarted to level 1 or higher.
 Number of backup level restarts after which the level is restarted to 0.
 Number of days after which the backup level is restarted to 0.
 Maximal percentage size of a backup (of level > 0) to which level is allowed restart to. The size is percentage of size of the level 0 backup file. If a backup of particular level has its size bigger than defined percentage, restart to that level will not be allowed.
 Turn on removing backups of levels that are no longer valid due to the backup level restart. All backups of the backup level higher than the one currently being created will be removed.

Options for keeping old backups

-k, --keep-old-backups
 Turn on backup keeping. When a backup is about to be overwritten, it is renamed instead. If --incremental is enabled it applies to all corresponding increments. The new name is created by inserting a keeping ID in front of backup file(s) extension. The keeping ID is a string from interval ‘aa’, ‘ab’, ..., ‘zy’, ‘zz’ where ‘aa’ represents most recent kept backup.
 Number of old backups to keep when --keep-old-backups is enabled (default: 1).

Command execution options

 Arbitrary command that will be executed before backup creation for the set of selected archives. The command will be executed only once in a single invocation of AutoArchive.
 Arbitrary command that will be executed after backup creation for the set of selected archives. The command will be executed only once in a single invocation of AutoArchive.
 Arbitrary command to execute prior to each backup creation.
 Arbitrary command to execute after each backup creation.

Format of COMMAND_* arguments is:

command [arguments]

If arguments are specified then the whole expression should be enclosed in quotes. For example:

--command-before-backup="foo arg1"

Additionally if an argument contains spaces it should be enclosed as well:

--command-after-backup="foo arg1 'arg with spaces 2' arg3"

Force options:

Options to override standard options defined in archive specification files.

 Force archiver type. Supported types are: ‘tar’, ‘targz’, ‘tarbz2’, ‘tarxz’, ‘tar_internal’, ‘targz_internal’, ‘tarbz2_internal’.
 Force incremental backup.
 Force backup level restarting.
 Force compression strength level.
 Force the directory where the backup will be created.
 Force configuration of the command to execute prior to each backup creation.
 Force configuration of the command to execute after each backup creation.
 Force backup overwriting behavior.

Negation options:

Negative variants of standard boolean options.

 Disable incremental backup.
 Turn off backup level restarting.
 Turn off obsolete backups removing.
 Turn off backup keeping.
--no-all Do not operate on all configured archives.
 Do not overwrite backup at the start of creation. Overwrite after the new backup is created.

AA_SPEC is the archive specification file argument. It determines the archive specification file that shall be processed. None, single or multiple AA_SPEC arguments are allowed. If option --all or command --list is specified then no AA_SPEC argument is required. Otherwise at least single AA_SPEC argument is required. If it contains the ”.aa” extension then it is taken as the path to an archive specification file. Otherwise, if specified without the extension, the corresponding .aa file is searched in the archive specifications directory.

Exit Codes

AutoArchive can return following exit codes:

  • 0: The operation finished successfully.
  • 1: The operation finished with minor (warnings) or major (errors) issues.


User configuration file. See Configuration File for its description.
Default directory that contains archive specification files. See Archive Specification File for description of the .aa file format.
Files that stores information about incremental backup. They are created by GNU tar archiver.
Application internal persistent storage. It stores various data needed to be preserved between program runs. For example: last backup level restart, number of backup level restart, etc.
System configuration file. See Configuration File for its description.