Keeping with its traditional schedule, Smith Micro has released StuffIt Deluxe 2011, the latest version of the longstanding compression and archiving suite of programs. Not surprisingly, the core functionality of the product remains unchanged, so it continues to be able to create archives in a variety of different formats and expand many more.
StuffIt Destinations -- The main new feature in StuffIt Deluxe 2011 is the addition of the StuffIt Destinations application to the suite. Where the StuffIt Archive Manager application that appeared in StuffIt Deluxe 11 back in 2006 remains for locating and working with archives on your hard disk, StuffIt Destinations now provides a Dock-like drag-and-drop target for creating and expanding archives.
That's actually not quite right, since people don't really think, "I want to compress this file and then send it via email." Instead, we think, "I'd like to send this stuff to a colleague via email." The whole compression step is something that's a good idea with large files, and is necessary if you're sending a bunch of files, but let's face it, it's a detail no one really needs to think about these days.
So StuffIt Destinations provides a floating set of customizable tiles, each of which corresponds with a particular destination for the files dropped on it. For each tile, you specify destination, packaging, and notification options. There's also an Expander tile for expanding anything dropped on it, and you can create multiple Expander tiles with different settings.
Destinations can include a local file, a CD/DVD, Smith Micro's SendStuffNow service (see "Smith Micro Enters File Sharing World with SendStuffNow," 4 August 2010), MobileMe, FTP, a disk image, and email (which is currently hard-coded to Apple Mail; Matthew Covington of Smith Micro tells me the next minor update will work with whatever the default mail client is). Some of the destinations, such as MobileMe, FTP, and SendStuffNow, require additional configuration information, such as login details and destination directory.
On the packaging side, each tile can archive files in StuffIt X or Zip format (either plain or encrypted), tar with bzip2, or a disk image. And you can be notified of task completion via either Growl or email.
Once you've configured your destination tiles, using StuffIt Destinations is trivial. You either drop a file or folder on the desired tile, or click a tile and choose a file or folder from the Open dialog. If you don't like the order the tiles are in, Command-drag them to rearrange. You can see a video demonstrating StuffIt Destinations on YouTube.
There's one other tweaky option for each destination tile - Control-click it and you can set up a compression filter that enables StuffIt Destinations to pick and choose among the files dropped on it. So, for instance, you could set up a compression filter to ignore .txt filename extensions, and if you then dropped a folder containing JPEG and text files on the associated destination tile, StuffIt Destinations would create an archive containing only the JPEGs.
For people who distribute a lot of files to myriad locations, StuffIt Destinations could be an extremely welcome workflow aid. If you don't have the screen real estate to keep it running at all times, you can create a droplet that performs the same task as a particular tile; as with the compression filter, Control-click the tile and choose Create Droplet. (Droplets created with previous versions of StuffIt aren't compatible with StuffIt Destinations and will need to be recreated.)
Lacking from this iteration of StuffIt Destinations is any way to extend it beyond its built-in capabilities. For instance, I've created some complex Automator workflows for zipping, renaming, and uploading Take Control ebooks to various online destinations. If I were to use StuffIt Destinations in a big way, I'd like to be able to integrate Automator workflows into destination tiles as well. (And realistically, if you're an Automator power user, you can probably replicate most of what StuffIt Destinations does in Automator workflows.)
Other New Features -- Although StuffIt Destinations is the marquee new feature in StuffIt Deluxe 2011, there are other changes worth noting.
StuffIt Deluxe 2011 now comes with installers for both Mac OS X and Windows, and includes a 3-seat license. So if you need to use StuffIt Deluxe on Windows at work, or in a virtual machine, you don't need to buy a separate version.
Better, faster compression. Smith Micro says that improvements in the StuffIt X format make for faster compression when working with large files on multi-processor machines, along with better compression overall. Of course, because StuffIt X is proprietary, it's best used only for internal or otherwise controlled situations.
64-bit support. Apparently, 64-bit support provides a slight performance boost, particularly if there's a lot of RAM available, but is really just about keeping current with Mac OS X.
System Requirements and Known Issues -- StuffIt Deluxe 2011 requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or later, the iPhoto export plug-in requires iPhoto 8.0 or later (otherwise known as iPhoto '09), and the Aperture export plug-in requires Aperture 2.0 or later. To use the MacFUSE plug-in or Growl notifications requires that you install those utilities.
However, there are some gotchas. Smith Micro ran into an OS-level problem that prevents some components from working properly in Leopard, including the StuffIt Contextual Menu, the StuffIt Spotlight plug-in, and the StuffIt Quick Look plug-in. They're working with Apple to resolve the problem and will release an update when possible. Until then, if you need these features in Leopard, you can contact Smith Micro tech support for a new build that should work.
In Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, contextual menus no longer work, so the StuffIt Contextual Menu isn't available, but Magic Menu, in the menu bar, provides the same functionality.
The Lineup -- As always, there are three levels of the StuffIt family. StuffIt Deluxe includes everything for $49.99, and upgrades from previous versions cost $29.99. In comparison, the $29.99 StuffIt (which was previously called StuffIt Standard Edition and which costs $14.99 to upgrade) has all the basic features, including StuffIt Destinations, but lacks the capability to browse archives, add and remove files from existing archives, rename or extract single files from within an archive, work with online services, and optimize compression of MP3 and PDF files. It also lacks the iPhoto and Aperture export plug-ins, and Automator actions. Finally, StuffIt Expander remains free for anyone who just wants to expand StuffIt archives, encrypted Zip archives, and many other formats.
In my testing, StuffIt Destinations has worked as promised, and the core of StuffIt Deluxe continues to work fine as well. So is it worth the upgrade? For someone who deals with only the occasional archive, almost certainly not, but such people likely aren't buying StuffIt to begin with. Those who live and die by StuffIt are using it multiple times a day, every day, and for them, if StuffIt Destinations can save a few minutes of creating and uploading archives, it's likely worth the upgrade fee.