Linux – Shell command to tar directory excluding certain files/folders

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Is there a simple shell command/script that supports excluding certain files/folders from being archived?

I have a directory that need to be archived with a sub directory that has a number of very large files I do not need to backup.

Not quite solutions:

The tar --exclude=PATTERN command matches the given pattern and excludes those files, but I need specific files & folders to be ignored (full file path), otherwise valid files might be excluded.

I could also use the find command to create a list of files and exclude the ones I don't want to archive and pass the list to tar, but that only works with for a small amount of files. I have tens of thousands.

I'm beginning to think the only solution is to create a file with a list of files/folders to be excluded, then use rsync with --exclude-from=file to copy all the files to a tmp directory, and then use tar to archive that directory.

Can anybody think of a better/more efficient solution?

EDIT: Charles Ma's solution works well. The big gotcha is that the --exclude='./folder' MUST be at the beginning of the tar command. Full command (cd first, so backup is relative to that directory):

cd /folder_to_backup
tar --exclude='./folder' --exclude='./upload/folder2' -zcvf /backup/filename.tgz .

Best Solution

You can have multiple exclude options for tar so

$ tar --exclude='./folder' --exclude='./upload/folder2' -zcvf /backup/filename.tgz .

etc will work. Make sure to put --exclude before the source and destination items.