If you’ve ever double-clicked on a .sit file to extract its content, then you’re familiar with StuffIt. This popular compression, expansion, and archiving utility has been a Mac staple since 1987, but with the 2005 release of Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), something significant changed: Tiger included a built-in Zip tool that compressed files into archives without requiring a third-party application. So it’s worth asking: Is StuffIt still necessary?
Based on a battery of tests using the new features, I’d say yes. The new StuffIt Deluxe 11.0.2, a suite of applications, offers a variety of new features and enhancements: optimized performance on Intel Macs, efficient JPEG file compression, new utilities that let you easily navigate and search your archives, and the option to create encrypted .zip files to protect your sensitive data. This is an impressive upgrade of a very mature product. Comparing it to previous versions, another question arises: Is it worth $80? Again, I’d say yes: If you need the new features and improvements, StuffIt Deluxe 11 is worth the upgrade price.
Stuff or zip?
Stuffing, or compressing, files takes much longer than zipping them, because StuffIt’s compression technology shrinks archive files much more than zipping does. StuffIt 11’s compressed files are about 25 percent smaller than compressed files derived from OS X’s built-in Zip archive tool. In my testing on a 2.66GHz Mac Pro, StuffIt Deluxe 11 took 81 seconds to compress 186MB of mixed media files into a 101MB SITX archive. In contrast, OS X’s built-in utility took 19 seconds to compress the same batch of files into a 147MB ZIP archive. If you frequently share files online, the extra time you spend stuffing them will save upload and download time. And StuffIt’s Mac-centric file formats (SIT and SITX) are still widely used, making this application popular in the file-sharing community.
In addition to its archiving functions, StuffIt Deluxe 11 has a useful new feature called Archive Manager. This application displays a list of all the archives stored on your computer, grouped into collections. Archive Manager includes a set of predefined collections, which display lists of your StuffIt archives, Zip archives, and others. You can also create and customize your own collections. For instance, I was able to create a collection that searched for JPEGs on my hard drive and sorted them into a list, which I could then highlight and archive. So instead of using Spotlight or clicking through folders on your hard drive, you can rely on Archive Manager’s organized, easy-to-access archive databases.
Smith Micro says that StuffIt Deluxe 11 compresses files 20 percent faster than version 10. In my tests, version 11 took 81 seconds to compress 186MB of mixed media files—29 seconds faster than version 10. So if you upgrade from version 10 to version 11, you’ll get better and faster compression.
Version 11 was about 26 percent faster than version 10 when we tested the app on a Mac Pro. But speed boosts for the new version are not as impressive on non-Intel Macs: when we tested both versions on a 2.5GHz Dual Power Mac G5, the differences in performance were negligible.
StuffIt 11 also delivers substantial JPEG file compression, something OS X’s built-in archive tool does only minimally. In my testing with the Better Compression option selected, StuffIt Deluxe 11 compressed 162MB of JPEGs into a 124.5MB .sitx file—a 23 percent reduction from the original. Moreover, if you choose the Better, With Thumbnails setting when compressing JPEGs, you can also use Archive Manager to view thumbnails without unstuffing the archive.
Macworld’s buying advice
Whether you need StuffIt Deluxe 11.0.2 depends on what you do with your Mac. If you do a lot of archiving—for sharing photos, MP3s, or movie clips—this version is a worthwhile upgrade that will save time and space while keeping you organized. Conversely, if all you need is a utility that extracts files from these archives, you can download StuffIt Expander 11 for free.
[ Brian Chen is an assistant editor for Macworld.]StuffIt Deluxe 11’s Archive Manager lets you view and customize collections of your archives to keep your files organized.