Occasionally we have to judge a flawed product even though we’ve been assured that fixes are on the way. Such is the case with version 5.0.2 of Aladdin Systems’ StuffIt Deluxe, the default compression utility for the Macintosh. Although Aladdin has promised that StuffIt’s bugs will be squashed in updates to be delivered by the time you read this, it’s my duty to report on the current – rather than potential – state of this blemished product.
StuffIt Deluxe lets you compress files and folders into StuffIt archives and expand just about any compressed file you’re likely to find on the Internet. StuffIt SpaceSaver – now included with StuffIt Deluxe – offers background compression and expansion as well as name-based and label-based compression. Just include a user-definable keyword in a folder or file name or give an item a label, and SpaceSaver automatically compresses the item.
And now to the bugs. First, StuffIt Deluxe 5.0’s new cross-platform file format purportedly makes it easier to swap StuffIt archives between Macs and PCs. But although my Mac could open StuffIt archives that had been compressed on a PC, the reverse wasn’t possible: Mac-compressed StuffIt archives refused to open on a PC with Aladdin Expander 2.0 for Windows.
Another bug involves StuffIt’s True Finder Integration (TFI), which lets you convert files and folders into StuffIt archives, self-extracting archives (SEAs), and MacBinary and BinHex files simply by appending a .sit, .sea, .hqx, or .bin suffix, respectively, to the item’s name. Under Mac OS 8.5, if you use TFI to convert a StuffIt archive into an SEA, StuffIt puts the wrong files in the SEA.
Aladdin claims that these kinks will be worked out by the time you read this. What the update won’t address is StuffIt Deluxe 5.0’s new file format: archives you create with this version can’t be opened with an older version of StuffIt Deluxe or StuffIt Expander.
Aladdin claims that StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 increases compression by about 20 per cent over previous versions, but that number depends on the files being compressed. Compressing a folder with 25 PICT files, StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 did create a smaller archive-100K versus Aladdin DropStuff 4.5’s 116K. But when I stuffed a folder containing ResEdit 2.1.3 and all its components, the StuffIt 5.0 archive was 4K larger than its DropStuff 4.5 counterpart. StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 is also slower than version 4.5: on a 250MHz PowerBook G3, even with the Fast Compression option enabled, version 5.0 took 4 minutes and 10 seconds to stuff a 103MB folder; DropStuff 4.5 took only three minutes and 50 seconds.
Although Aladdin stumbled with this version of StuffIt Deluxe, the program’s not all bad. Its many compression options are available via contextual menus, and the program now supports the MacBinary III format. You can view the contents of an SEA without expanding the file, by choosing Remove Self-Extracting from the Magic Menu that appears in the Finder’s menu bar. And the included DropConverter utility lets you batch-convert old StuffIt archives to the new format.
StuffIt Deluxe 5.0.2 is buggy, slow, and likely to be incompatible with the version of StuffIt Expander you currently have. Let’s hope these criticisms are now moot – that Aladdin has fixed the bugs and the compatibility problems, making StuffIt Deluxe once again worthy of our recommendation.