Books Business Design Games Hardware Internet Utilities Text Other

Stuffit Deluxe 8.0.1

Review by: Gary Coyne

Provides: Compression program for Macs, PCs, Linux, and Solaris
Developer: Aladdin Systems
Requirements: Mac OS X.1.5 (OS X.2 for CD burning and AVR)
Retail Price: $79.99, upgrade is $29.99

A surprisingly large number of people have no idea what compression is and claim they've no use for it. Despite that curious contradiction, people use and/or interact with compressed documents more than they realize. In fact, if you have downloaded just about anything from the web, you have probably dealt with a compressed document. Aladdin's new version of Stuffit Deluxe 8.0 continues with making a great product greater with a few new features. Regrettably, compression-improvements itself seems to have plateaued out.

Compression, for those who are new to computers and/or are starting on their way to becoming a geek is simply using a variety of "algorithms," or program codes, on some other document or application so that the other item occupies less space on a hard drive. So, if the code said something like "xyyyyyyzzz," the compressed code could look like "x6y3z" (50% savings) Similarly, one could substitute "th" for every "the" (33% savings). All these techniques create a new document that uses less space on the computer. In addition, a smaller document can be sent across the web in less time than the original larger document. This is obviously more critical if you are on a phone instead of (say) a DSL modem, but either way it helps because either way this means shorter download times.

What's critical is that the compressed document can be returned back into its original state and that the compression and decompression can be done in as little time as possible.

It's been almost a year since the last version of Stuffit (see my review). One of the big news aspects of Stuffit 8 is that it does not run in the Classic Mac OS. If you are still running OS 8.5 - 9.2.x, you can still purchase Stuffit 7. If you don't own Stuffit Deluxe (or haven't updated in a long time) and use OS X, Stuffit 8 is the way to go.

Probably the biggest change that will strike past users are the new icons, and there are new icons everywhere

I gotta tell ya, if you tend to use big icons, the new icon for Stuffit 8 is fine. Cute even. But if you tend to use smallish icons, the new Stuffit 8 icon is dark (on your desktop), confusing, and easily missed.

Moving past the appearance of the icon, probably the most important issue for many will be how well and how fast does it compress. So, just before I installed Stuffit 8, I did some tests with Stuffit 7. Then I repeated the tests with Stuffit 8. The folder I used for this test was just a simple folder of Word and FileMaker documents along with some image files. This collection was selected because it provided a good general collection of image types. Keep in mind that different types of documents compress differently. Thus, do not be surprised if you try and duplicate this test to find that your 2.3 MB folder of files may compress to a smaller or larger final product than what's shown below. This is to be expected. The times for these files were based on compression on a G4 733 MHz using OS X.2.6.

This is what I found:

Compression Method bytes Stated size Seconds to Compress
none (original) 2,267,210 2.3 MB -
Sit 655,856 644 KB 12
655,860 644 KB 12
Sitx 592,211 580 KB 15
592,211 580 KB 15
Zip 634,198 620 KB 11
634,203 620 KB 11.5
Tar (archived not compressed) 2,071,552 1.9 MB 5
2,071,552 1.9 MB 5
LHa 658,045 644 KB 8
- - -
Where the gold is Stuffit 8 and the Cannery is Stuffit 7

In short, as can be seen in my simple test, the savings are essentially insignificant. What is interesting is that while the Zip compression is not as small as the Sitx compression, it is smaller than the Sit compression as well as faster. I do not know if this is the same Zip compression algorithms used by the PC version of Zip or only compatible. It's a pity that the Mac Resource forks are not supported by Zip compression.

OK, so there's not much new in regards to compression and/or time. But there is some new stuff: Probably the more important item is Archive Assistant. Simply put, it's a backup program. It lets you back up to just about anything including CDs (you need to have at a minimum OS X.2 to burn CDs with Stuffit Deluxe). This is not a robust backup program and will not take the place of Retrospect or Data Backup. What it will do is compress and place on a separate disk, CD or other media your stuff from your personal "document" folder.

There's method in this idea before you discount it out of hand. The most important "stuff" on your hard drive are your documents. Not your programs, not your system, not even your preferences. They can all be recreated. But can you recreate your term paper, your tax information, your music collection, or the great American novel? Probably not.

If you find that keeping (all) your documents in your Document folder is not unreasonable, Stuffit Deluxe 8 does provide yet one more opportunity (mechanism) to save your stuff.

My only complaint with this extra program is that it can only save stuff from the Home folder and is limited to the various sub-folders shown above. Similarly, one cannot select other folder(s) to add to the collection. Perhaps with Stuffit Deluxe 9, but not with this version. As it is, it's a good idea, but way too limiting.

Another new feature is actually a return of an old feature--Finder control of compression and decompression via typing. This is a feature I never used when it was available and therefore never missed, but I find that many people have missed this feature dearly. So if you were one of them, the good news is that you are now clear to retype. So, by simply typing ".sit" at the end of a file will initiate the compression and by removing the ".sit" at the end of a file will initiate the unstuffing of a file. This also lets you have control on the type of compression used because if you type in ".sitx" you will get a ".sitx" compression. The other advantage to this approach is that if you have your preferences set to not delete the original file when compressing, you will always have the original file and the compressed file on your hard drive (until you delete one or the other). When using the typing in the Finder approach, the file you changed is the item compressed and there is no original file to have to deal with.

The process is not interruption free though. After adding a (for example) ".sit" to a ".doc" you will be asked which suffix you want (the .doc or the .sit). Only after confirming that you want the .sit will the file be compressed. This returned ability is via a PreferencePane document, "Stuffit AVR" (Archive Via Rename) that has one button "Start" or "Stop."

My biggest problem with this approach to compression is that first you have to click on the icon on the hard drive. Then you have to click on the name. Then you have to wait a moment to have the selected name change from selected to editable, then you have to manually place the cursor at the end of the name (or click the right arrow key). Then you can add the desired suffix. Then you have to verify what you want from a pop-up window.

For me it's a lot easier to just make the item active in the Finder and type Command-S to compress or Command-U to decompress. Alternatively I can do a Control click to have all the options available with contextual menus or use the MagicMenu on the top of the menu bar to select all the options I need/want. Below is an image of the MagicMenu (placed in the menu bar) providing all of Stuffit Deluxe's options. [The same options from the MagicMenu are also available from the contextual menu.]

But as I've always said, options, alternatives, and redundancy is good.

One of the niftier additions to Stuffit are the new software plugins

Once placed in the proper location and the respective programs are restarted, one has immediate access to Stuffit from within the three programs from the File menus. From there, one will then be able to do the following:

While this seems like a great idea, only one of these could be great but isn't all that great. The first two are nothing that cannot be done just as well from the Finder. The ONLY thing that this provides is that one doesn't have to seek out where the document is and apply the various operation(s). On the other hand, when selecting "Stuff And Mail" one is asked to save the document someplace on your hard drive (and provide a new name regardless whether the document had a name or not). From there it is compressed. So now you have your original document, the newly saved (and newly renamed) document, and the compressed version of the document.

On the other hand, the "Open Archived Document" looked like it had some great potential, but it didn't. Let me back up to explain why I just said what I said. A Stuffit Archive is a compressed collection of anything. It could be a single document or it could be a folder of anything. It could be a folder of nothing but Word documents or it could be a web site with any collection of different document types. All this menu selection does is to simply open an archive. At first I had an imaginary hope that it meant "Look inside an Archive Document." That is, let's say you had an archive of some project with many files, perhaps of different types. At some point you decide you want to open a Word document from amongst the files so you open Word, select this option and, in a Finder's-Open like interface, you find the file amongst the compressed files, select it, and open the file. Unfortunately that's not what this is. All it does is to open a compressed archive and/or file. If the archive had a variety of file types within, it will open the alphabetical first one after opening the archive.

The best way to deal with a scenario described above is to double-click the archive of many files which forces Stuffit Deluxe to open and one can then view all the files within the archive. If you know which file you wish to open, you can select that file, drag it onto your desktop, and then open it in Word (or whatever).

[The reason the Stuffit Preferences are also brought into these plugins is because that lets you select ".sit" or ".sitx" (or whatever) prior to selecting either of the first two.]

On the other hand, if you know the name of the file, but cannot remember which archive you placed it in, you can use the "ArchiveSearch."

The ArchiveSearch was introduced in Stuffit Deluxe 7. While slow, it is good. Painstakingly, ArchiveSearch finds each Stuffit archive on your computer and looks for the title you have provided in the Search field.

In addition to and/or aside from name, one can search for size, compressed size, kind, label, date created, date modified, file type, and/or creator.

As mentioned, Archive Search is slow. As can be seen in the image above, the archive must first be found and then it must be searched. Fortunately for OS X, one can read one's mail while one is searching for a specific document.

Stuffit Express PE is the final part of Stuffit Deluxe was introduced with Stuffit Deluxe 6.5. With Stuffit Express PE (Personal Edition), one can easily create their own "drop boxes" to perform your self-created macros.

If you find that you need to repeat any series of steps of (say) compressing a document-uploading it to a server via ftp, and then emailing someone (or a group of people) of your activity, Stuffit Express PE supports a fairly robust set of macros to select from and wizards to guide you to create a program-let. Drag your document/folder to this newly created icon and let it do the repetitive work for you.

In short, Stuffit 8 could have (and perhaps should have) been Stuffit 7.2. The new features (Archive Assistant, Stuffit Third Party Plug-ins, and Stuffit AVR) are hardly enough to warrant an upgrade for most users. The .LHa archive addition is welcome as this compression format is becoming more common as it is a free, open format. None of the implementation of .LHa comes anywhere near the wonderful interface of Stuffit.

If you already have Stuffit Deluxe 7, unless something I've written here strongly beckons you, there is little reason to upgrade to Stuffit Deluxe 8. If you do not own Stuffit, there is no reason not to. Stuffit is a must own application. Stuffit Deluxe 8 is not a must have upgrade. (If you have an earlier version of Stuffit (e.g., 6.5 or earlier) and have recently moved to OS X, than this is a must have upgrade.)

By the way, if you have upgraded and are using 8.0.0, be sure to download the 8.0.1 updater which repairs a problem where some OS X application programs cannot be run after having been expanded.

Applelinks Rating- Stuffit (in general)

Applelinks Rating-Stuffit 8 (as an upgrade)