By Monte Ferguson
In the early days of computing, when space on disks was measured in bytes rather than megabytes, it was critical to squeeze as much space out of your storage as possible. There were several competing programs to do just that. But as the 80ís drew to a close only one contender was left standing, Stuffit.
Stuffit Deluxe grew out of a very efficient shareware program. Itís main purpose was to compress, and decompress, files into archives. In fact Aladdin (now Allume), the makers of Stuffit Deluxe, still maintain shareware versions of their software.
Compression, and decompression, technologies are under appreciated by many people. The problem is that the programs perform their function so well that they are taken for granted. It becomes easy to overlook their importance. But compressing files is a part of everyday computing life. We all use this technology and we all benefit.
When you compress files you benefit in several ways. Compressing files saves space on crowded hard disks. It makes backing up easier. Organizing your files into compressed archives ensures that current files are kept on your hard drive. Older, less essential, files are securely backed up to external storage. Compressed files also conserve network bandwidth. Transferring one larger file is easier than many small files. Therefore archiving files saves time. Especially when you consider sending attachments via email. Not only does compressing a file save you time but it also saves your recipientís time.
The basic job of compressing files doesnít have that sex appeal which makes for keynote addresses. But itís one of those under-appreciated technologies that has made our lives easier.
Stuffit Deluxe has been around for well over 10 years. So what makes this new version worth your hard earned dollar? Check out some of the new features and see if at least one of them is a Must Have for you.
Recently Allume, formerly called Aladdin, updated the venerable Stuffit (.sti) compression format. They named the new version Stuffit X (.sitx). This new format is now the default format for the program. (Although the older .sit format is still fully supported in Stuffit Deluxe.) This new format offers some advantages over the previous format. Some of the advantages are 512bit encryption of archives, protection against archive corruption using an error correcting redundancy option, better compression than the old format, you can now create archives that are over 4Gb in size (even up to Terabytes in size).
Archive via Rename Returns for OS X: Archive Via Rename (AVR.) allows you to archive files and folders simply by adding the appropriate extension (.zip, .sit, or .sitx) to the end of their names. Expansion can be achieved by removing the extension from the end of the name. AVR does not create a safety copy of the file or folder being effected. It is always recommended to keep backups of important files.
StuffIt Archive Assistant TM StuffIt Archive Assistant is a brand new part of the StuffIt Deluxe package. It is designed to provide an intuitive easy-to use way to backup all your documents, pictures, music, and personal settings. StuffIt Archive Assistant allows you to create and schedule backup tasks that archive your data, and it supports backing up to CDís, DVDís, FTP servers, and external hard drives.
DropStuff now allows you precise control over exactly what files from a particular folder will be added to an archive. Using a ďFindĒ type interface you can choose which files to add to your archive based on their name, modification date, size, and type. To activate this feature, hold down the Control and Option keys while dragging a folder into the DropStuff window.
StuffIt Deluxe provides Add-Ins for various Adobe applications such as Photoshop, and Illustrator, as well as for Microsoft Word. These plug-ins allow you to ďcompressĒ and ďcompress and mailĒ your documents directly from within the application. You can also open documents that have been saved to compressed files using these plug-ins.
CD/DVD Burning: StuffIt Deluxe will now burn archives directly to CD or DVD from StuffIt Archive Assistant. Mac OS 10.2 or later is required for this feature.
With StuffIt Express, a separate application that comes with the Stuffit Deluxe package, you can create custom drop box applications that automatically run compression and file transfer when ever you drag and drop files onto them. For example, you can create a StuffIt Express drop box that compresses files into an archive, uploads them to an FTP server (automatically logging in for you so you donít even have to remember your password), and then sends out a notification Email letting people know where to go to get the files.
StuffIt Expander automatically translates PC file extensions to Macintosh type and creator codes. This helps your Macintosh use the correct application to open the files you download and expand.
StuffIt Deluxe now allows you to access Cabinet archives (.cab) and yEncode encoded files (.yenc). Both formats are most likely to originate from Windows based PC's. CAB archives are most often used to store files used by installers for Windows software, while yEncode files are often found in Usenet groups that host binary files.
Stuffit Deluxe is one of those programs that you can easily forget about. Thatís because it does itís job so well. But itís also because you can use it in so many ways. Heck, you donít even need to launch the program. You can access most, if not all, of itís functions from the Magic Menu, a menu bar add on, or via itís Contextual Menus. Or you can use itís drag and drop mini programs like Drop Stuff. And of course there is always Archive Via Rename, which is one of my personal favorites.
It might not rate up there as a feature to some, but the inclusion of good documentation is extremely welcome. Allume has several well written electronic documents that ship with the program. I scanned through them and found a couple of really useful tips, even though Iíve used Stuffit Deluxe in the past. Iíd especially recommend the Stuffit Primer for first time users.
Compression is the bread and butter of this program. The good news is that the new Stuffit X compression format does make smaller archives. Itís not dramatically smaller,than the older Stuffit format, more like 10-15% smaller in my test cases. But that can still amount to some serious hard disk savings if youíre dealing with large digital pictures of digital video. In my case I took a 727MB folder full of graphics, and text files and managed to shrink it down to around 400MB. Pretty impressive size reduction. Much better than Pantherís built in archiving capability, using the ZIP format.
A feature that I didnít mention earlier comes in handy if you have several Stuffit compressed archives. Itís called Archive Search. This handy tool acts like the Finderís own search tool but it lets you search inside of Stuffit compressed archives.
I like the direction Allume is taking with trying to automate the program. Features like Stuffit Express and the Archive Assistant are time savers. They definitely make the whole suite more valuable.
The program is not a speed king. I hate to say that. But it is true. Itís slower with when compressing to the Stuffit X format vs the older Stuffit format. Which makes sense. slow (especially the .sitx format). Pantherís built in archiving capability is much faster, with the trade off that itís archives are also much larger.
Stuffit Deluxe has become a victim of itís own success. Not only are there many ways to use the program, but some of the features are only available from standalone mini programs. I wish that, when you launched the main program, you could have some interface that let you launch some of those mini programs, like Archive Assistant, directly from the program. Otherwise you have to find that little program to run it.
I have one interface complaint. The toolbar, the buttons that come up when you launch the main program, hovers over any archive window obscuring some files. Sure, I dug in and learned you can hide the Toolbar or anchor it, nail it down to one spot. But how hard would it be to just tell any archive window to open below the Toolbar? It was annoyance when I initially started trying out the program.
I have one gripe with Archive Assistant. It wonít let me choose which files or folders I want to archive. I really like the program, it gives you a clean Assistant style way of setting up automating archiving your files. But, since I canít choose what I want to back up beyond a few preselected folders, this program never gets used on my computer.
These days, even with our large hard drives, we have many ways to fill them to overflowing. Most of us have enjoyed the ease and convenience of digital photography, video and audio. But all of that digital multimedia takes up space, lots of space. Pretty soon you find your hard drive filling up. Thatís when youíll really appreciate Stuffit Deluxe. Itís efficient, easy to use, and does itís job well. Even though Apple now lets you create archives from the Finder for free Iíd still recommend Stuffit Deluxe. The program now has all of the features of itís Classic version plus some welcome additions. Itís so well integrated into the Mac experience that after you install it you might forget it didnít come with the system. Itís that good.
Posted: Saturday, September 24th, 2005