Maybe on your online quests for entertainment you have run into some CBR and CBZ files. After some more clicks, you might have found that those are the two most popular formats for the online distribution of comics and graphic novels.
But why? Is there any point in having two more formats on top of everything else, and how can they be used?
A bit of history
Back in the ancient days of computing, when people were exchanging comics through newsgroups, each page was stored and transferred as a single file, a single image.
As connection speeds and storage capabilities improved, those individual pages got packed together in ZIP and RAR files. Each of those files contained numbered image files, usually in JPG format, that made up a full issue of a comic or graphic novel.
This made it easier to download and upload comics and graphic novels, but you still had to unpack them to read them, usually by using a typical image viewer to go through the files one by one.
Sometime down the road, the manipulation of compressed archives in ZIP and RAR format without having to uncompress them became a thing. And, with it, the ability to check the images stored in one of those files without having to uncompress it. That’s when the CBR and CBZ formats were born.
Although they specialize in comics, none of those formats are special in any way. Instead, they are… camouflaged ZIP and RAR archives!
To check it out for yourself, rename any CBR file to RAR or any CBZ file to ZIP, and then try opening it with an archive manager like 7Zip. Inside it you will find a series of image files, and maybe an extra TXT or NFO file, with some information about the comic/graphic novel.
How to read CBR and CBZ files in Linux
sudo apt install mcomix
The program is straightforward to use and offers all functions you may need for an optimal reading experience. For example, there is a thumbnail strip on the left end of the screen that allows quick jumping to any page; the option to display two pages at once, one next to each other, to emulate printed spreads, etc.
Another popular and feature-rich option is YACReader, but you will have to download it from its official site and install it manually.
YACReader doesn’t differ much from MComix in actual use, although it does come with a more “clean” design.
Which one you will end up using is a matter of personal preference.
How to make CBR and CBZ files in Linux
Being simple “packed” archives of image sets means that the creation of CBR and CBZ files is as simple as that of a typical ZIP or RAR archive. Let’s see how we can turn images to a digital comic equivalent.
1. Fire up your favorite file manager and open a folder where you have a bunch of image files.
2. If they’re not, number them sequentially so that they are displayed in proper order in the folder itself.
3. Add them all to a new compressed ZIP or RAR archive in whatever way you prefer. You can select all of them in your file manager, right-click on them and use any archival option it provides, or use a command-line tool like
Rename the produced file’s extension to either CBZ or CBR, depending on if it’s a ZIP or RAR archive, and then try opening it in any comic book reader.
It doesn’t have to be images from a comic. If you wish, you can use personal photos from your last trip abroad or even screenshots as we did.
Thanks to the availability and ease of use of the programs that deal with the format, CBR and CBZ files can be used as an easy, “quick and dirty” way to propagate and present your content. After all, who said you can’t store your web designer portfolio or latest ebook this way? Also, if you are an Android user, you can also make use of these tools to read comics on your phone.
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