StuffIt Deluxe has been shrinking and expanding files on the Mac for more than a decade, which makes it ancient by most digital standards. And as with many old structures, sometimes it’s better to start from scratch than to build on an existing foundation. Aladdin Systems has rebuilt StuffIt Deluxe 7 from the ground up, adding a new compression engine. Version 7 also sports a new plug-in architecture that lets Aladdin add new archive formats to the program without changing its code. But your decision to upgrade will depend largely on the type of work you do.
It’s All Inside
StuffIt Deluxe’s changes are mostly under the hood–its interface and functionality remain substantially the same. You can still compress, extract, and manipulate files in a variety of compression formats, but in version 7 you can also create and open self-extracting .zip archives. StuffIt’s new compression format, StuffIt X (.sitx), offers improved encryption and an enhanced compression algorithm.
StuffIt still gives you many options for compressing files (Aladdin calls compressed files archives): you can use StuffIt drag and drop, the Magic Menu, contextual menus, or the New Archive window. A new Microsoft Word plug-in also lets you compress documents directly from within Word. But Mac OS X users can’t use the True Finder Integration feature, which lets you change an archive’s format simply by changing its file extension. (Aladdin says this is due to a limitation in OS X.)
Multimedia and video producers will appreciate version 7’s ability to create multiterabyte-size archives, a step up over StuffIt’s previous 2GB limit. And Aladdin has significantly beefed up StuffIt’s 40-bit encryption capabilities to 512-bit, RC4 encryption, which makes it more secure than the encryption level most banks require for online banking. Version 7 also supports long file names and includes built-in error recovery; the latter can completely rebuild your archive if it becomes corrupted. And Unix geeks who want to control StuffIt through the Terminal’s command-line interface will find more functionality and better encryption options, such as Blowfish, DES, and AES, right at their fingertips.
But Sometimes Older Is Better
In our tests, StuffIt X files didn’t compress the additional 20 to 30 percent it promises. In most cases, the .sitx file was only 2 to 8 percent smaller than a file compressed in the .sit format, and in some cases, such as with Word documents and MYOB data files, compression was worse. StuffIt X made the most difference with uncompressed multimedia and image files.
We also found a bug in Archive Search, a StuffIt application that lets you search compressed files for specific documents. Archive Search crashed whenever it found a file within a .sitx file. Though these problems were not fixed in the recent 7.01 update, Aladdin says they should be resolved in an update that will be released by the end of 2002.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Highly secure data encryption, better compression, terabyte archive sizes, and command-line access all make StuffIt Deluxe 7 a good update. But unless you’re compressing huge files or you need to make sure the data you’re sending over the Internet is highly secure, simply downloading the latest version of StuffIt Expander may suffice.