Aladdin Systems today released StuffIt Deluxe 8.0, the latest release of one of the oldest continuously developed Macintosh programs. It's safe to say that almost every Mac user has seen some facet of StuffIt over the years, thanks to the ubiquity of the free StuffIt Expander, which Apple ships with every Macintosh. For those that haven't seen the full StuffIt Deluxe, though, it provides a suite of tools that enable you to compress, archive, encrypt, and expand files in a wide variety of compression, archiving, and transmission formats. If you are new to StuffIt Deluxe, be sure to read the "What's Included in StuffIt Deluxe" section of the QuickStart file for a full list of components, many of which haven't changed, and which I won't discuss here.
This major upgrade to StuffIt Deluxe 8.0 brings to Mac OS X an extremely useful feature from the Mac OS 9 versions of the program - Archive Via Rename. It also adds a new StuffIt Archive Assistant for certain types of backups, integrates with three popular applications, enhances DropStuff, builds HTML help into the applications, and more.
StuffIt Deluxe 8.0 requires Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later, with Mac OS X 10.2 recommended. StuffIt Deluxe 7.0.3 remains available for Mac OS 8.6 through 9.2.
Archive Via Rename -- I'll confess. I would upgrade to StuffIt Deluxe 8.0 for this feature alone. In Mac OS 9, StuffIt Deluxe long provided a system extension that noticed when you added or removed specific extensions from a file or folder name, performing the appropriate action when you completed the rename action. If you added .sit to a filename, StuffIt Deluxe promptly compressed the file. If you removed .sit from the filename, it was instantly expanded. Since the StuffIt files I use are generally coming from or going to the Internet, managing them by naming them appropriately felt more immediate and direct than using StuffIt Deluxe itself, DropStuff or StuffIt Expander, or even the contextual menus that StuffIt has long provided.
In the brave new world of Mac OS X, however, Aladdin was unable to duplicate the Archive Via Rename feature... until now. It works fine in my minimal testing so far, although Apple's over-reliance on filename extensions (as opposed to the hidden metadata of classic type and creator codes) in Mac OS X means you must confirm rename actions that affect the filename extension. For those of us accustomed (or addicted) to Archive Via Rename from before, the extra dialog is annoying, but for those new to the feature it's actually a helpful confirmation.
That's because Archive Via Rename, unlike every other component of StuffIt Deluxe, acts directly on the file or folder you're renaming. So, if you compress a file using Archive Via Rename, the original file is replaced by the StuffIt archive of that file. And similarly, if you expand an archive in this manner, the original archive disappears, to be replaced by its contents. That's often what you want, but for those times you want to keep your original and archive separate, use another approach in StuffIt Deluxe.
Two final notes. You can turn Archive Via Rename on and off via a new StuffIt AVR preferences pane in System Preferences. The manual says StuffIt AVR will be off by default, but that wasn't true for me. It's also necessary to adjust the Finder preferences to select "Always show file extensions" for Archive Via Rename to work. Theoretically, StuffIt AVR does this for you, but I had to select that option manually.
StuffIt Archive Assistant -- The new StuffIt Archive Assistant is designed to give people a simple backup utility that takes advantage of StuffIt's tight compression. It can store backup archives on any mounted volume (including your iDisk), on recordable CD or DVD, or on an FTP site, and you can schedule it to run on specific days of the week at particular times.
Unfortunately, StuffIt Archive Assistant isn't particularly good for real backups. You can back up only your home folder, or one or more of the default folders inside it, but not any arbitrary folder, much less the entire Mac. Each time you run a backup task, it creates a new StuffIt archive containing all the files in the source folder, rather than adding just files that have changed. It can either create a new time-stamped archive on each run or replace the previous archive (useful for saving space on an iDisk, but potentially dangerous otherwise).
The real utility of StuffIt Archive Assistant comes in burning an archive to recordable CD or DVD, automatically creating segments for archives that span discs. You could use it to create a set of archive discs several times each year to supplement a regular backup strategy. Or, you might use it to back up particularly important files to a remote FTP site (being able to encrypt archives would be helpful in such a scenario) as a secondary offsite backup.
Other New Features -- Aladdin also enhanced StuffIt Deluxe in smaller ways, including faster compression. All the StuffIt tools now support .cab (Cabinet archives) used by Windows installers and .yenc (yEncode) files often used for binaries in Usenet newsgroups. Many of StuffIt Deluxe's components now offer HTML help as well.
If you use Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, or Adobe Illustrator, Aladdin now includes plug-ins for those programs that give them direct access to StuffIt's capabilities. For instance, once you install the Word plug-in (check the manual for instructions), you can save the current document as a StuffIt archive, open an archived document, or stuff and mail the current document. This integration should help some users avoid multiple-step tasks when sharing large files via the Internet. Aladdin plans to add support for other applications in the future.
DropStuff Improvements -- DropStuff 8.0 features two helpful changes. First, if you launch DropStuff itself, its window provides a checkbox that lets you encrypt archives created by dropping files or folders on the window. Also new in that window is a pop-up menu that lets you choose between StuffIt's two main compression formats.
Even more useful, if you hold down Control and Option when dropping a folder on DropStuff, it presents a Find File-like interface for selecting precisely which files should be added to the archive. This feature isn't available in DropZip or DropTar, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Aladdin add it later.
Upgrading -- Some of the components in the StuffIt Deluxe package are available separately, making for a somewhat complex purchase and upgrade scenario. The StuffIt Deluxe 8.0 package contains everything; new copies cost $80, with upgrades from previous versions of either StuffIt Deluxe or StuffIt Standard Edition at $30. StuffIt Standard Edition 8.0, which should appear soon, includes the latest versions of DropStuff, DropZip, and DropTar; pricing hasn't yet been set. The free StuffIt Expander 8.0 will also appear soon (it only adds support for .cab and .yenc files); in the past you download it with StuffIt Standard Edition.
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