With compression now built into Mac OS X 10.3 in the form of the Finder’s Archive command, has Aladdin’s StuffIt Deluxe outlived its usefulness? For remedial compression chores, perhaps. But if you’re looking for more efficient compression and expansion of a wide variety of formats, the ability to encrypt archives, and a wealth of ways to interact with archives, StuffIt Deluxe 8.0.2 remains a necessary tool.
To justify its 8.0 version number, StuffIt adds some new features and enhancements. The Archive Assistant application, for example, creates scheduled backups of the folders at the root level of your user folder. It then creates a compressed archive of those folders in the location you specify on an attached volume, on a writable CD or DVD, or on an FTP site. You can back up only your Home folder or a combination of the default folders in it. You can’t select subfolders within those folders or direct the program to back up other folders on your Mac — so Archive Assistant’s usefulness is limited.
StuffIt Expander 8.0 can expand .sit, .sitx, .zip, TAR, .bin, and .hqx files, and can now deal with Windows Cabinet (.cab) and yEncode (.yenc) files. Mac users will rarely encounter .cab files, which are commonly used to store Windows installer-file archives, but people who download binaries from Usenet groups will welcome .yenc support.
Also new are plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator that allow you to stuff files directly from within these programs. While this is only a minor time-saver, it could be a real help as part of a Photoshop action.
With earlier versions of StuffIt for OS X, longtime StuffIt users were pleased to see the return of the Magic Menu and StuffIt contextual items. StuffIt 8.0 features the return of the Archive Via Rename feature, which lets you compress or expand an item by adding or removing a file or folder name’s extension, such as .sit.
No Speed Demon
To test the extent of StuffIt’s compression and the speed at which it compresses, we took a 260MB folder of 47 TIFF files stored on a 1.25GHz PowerBook G4. When we used the newer .sitx format, compression took 8 minutes and 18 seconds at the Better Compression setting. At the Faster Compression setting, compressing the folder to 187MB took 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
Things improved when we compressed the file to the older .sit format. Using the Better Compression setting, we produced a 134MB .sit file in 5 minutes and 32 seconds — 6MB smaller and 2 minutes and 46 seconds faster than with .sitx. Note that although .sit is faster than .sitx, it doesn’t offer .sitx’s 512-bit encryption and error correction.
There’s no getting around it; compared with Panther’s Archive command (which creates a .zip file), StuffIt is a slowpoke. Archive compressed our test folder to 184MB (about the same as StuffIt’s Faster Compression) in 1 minute and 7 seconds — about a minute faster than StuffIt.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
StuffIt Deluxe remains the Mac’s preeminent archival tool, offering more efficient (though slower) compression and supporting a greater variety of compression formats than OS X 10.3. If you need to routinely compress or expand a wide range of archived files, StuffIt Deluxe 8.0.2 is the tool to use.