One of the problems with sharing files between Macs and PCs is they use different compression and encoding formats. Macs generally use the StuffIt format for compression, whereas PCs use Zip. Macs often use BinHex for encoding files for email, but PCs are more likely to use uuencode. Since we Mac users are in the minority, our tools have had to be better. Thanks to Aladdin's StuffIt Expander and a wide variety of other tools (often available for free), it's usually easy for us to deal with Zip archives, uuencoded files, or even a wide variety of Unix file formats. In the PC world, however, tools support Macintosh formats less frequently, so good luck if you're using a PC and need to snag a folder of Microsoft Word files that have been compressed with StuffIt and then binhexed.
Now, thanks to Aladdin Expander 2.0 for Windows and Aladdin DropStuff 1.0 for Windows, we Macintosh users can work with the file formats we're used to and which we already use.
Aladdin Expander 2.0 -- Like its Macintosh relative, StuffIt Expander, Aladdin Expander is totally free, and it is available as a 1.2 MB self-extracting archive from the Aladdin Web site.
Once installed, it creates a shortcut on your Windows desktop onto which you can drop files compressed and encoded in a variety of formats, including StuffIt (.sit), Zip (.zip), uuencode (.uue), BinHex (.hqx), MacBinary (.bin), ARC (.arc), Arj (.arj), and gzip (.gz), plus self-extracting archives created by StuffIt, Zip, and Arj. Aladdin Expander supports long file names, decodes MIME files, decrypts files encrypted with Aladdin's Private File encryption utility (also cross-platform), and joins StuffIt-segmented archives.
Although drag & drop is the way that most Macintosh users would think of interacting with Aladdin Expander, you can also drag & drop into Aladdin Expander's window, or use its menus or toolbar. More interestingly, you can right-click a file, then choose either Expand or Expand with Options from the pop-up menu that appears.
Aladdin Expander's options provide functionality similar to StuffIt Expander's, with a few interesting tweaks accessible via the More button in the Options dialog. A cross-platform tab provides controls that enable Aladdin Expander to convert text files to Windows format, save Macintosh-specific files (those with resource forks that would otherwise be lost) in MacBinary format, and add file name extensions based on the file's type and creator. These features prove extremely useful, since they save you the trouble of converting Macintosh text files to Windows format separately and properly identifying files that lack filename extensions. The option to save Macintosh files in MacBinary format is also handy, since you can expand a StuffIt archive, then move an application, say, back to the Macintosh without destroying it.
Aladdin DropStuff 1.0 -- As you might guess from the version number, Aladdin Expander isn't new. However, Aladdin DropStuff 1.0 is new and mimics the functionality of the Macintosh DropStuff with Expander Enhancer. You can download a 1.1 MB self-extracting archive from Aladdin's Web site. Aladdin DropStuff is $20 shareware, although TidBITS sponsor Digital River is offering it to TidBITS readers for $14.95 through the link in the sponsorship area at the top of this issue.
Compressing one or more files with DropStuff works via drag & drop as you'd expect, although you can also drag & drop into its window, use the menus or toolbar, or right-click a file and choose an appropriate method of compressing from the pop-up menu.
Aladdin DropStuff offers a few unusual features. If you have Windows Messaging installed, you can Stuff and Mail one or more files with a single command; similarly, the Stuff and Send To command enables you to send the resulting StuffIt file to a variety of different places in Windows. Finally, since Zip files are the standard in Windows, Aladdin DropStuff can create them as well (and I've found DropStuff easier than other Windows Zip utilities).
A nice touch in Aladdin DropStuff is that Aladdin mapped Control-Q to Exit; unfortunately Aladdin Expander lacks a similar keyboard shortcut. I prefer Windows applications that follow Macintosh conventions for keyboard shortcuts - give me Control-Q over the meaningless Alt-F4.
Finally, We Can Stuff Windows -- In my use so far, I've found that the easiest way to use these utilities is through the contextual menus available when you right-click a file. That's partly because I'm used to a lot more screen real estate on my Mac, and the desktop shortcuts are often obscured by other windows. I'm mainly grateful that we have these utilities - if you regularly work with Macs and the occasional PC, especially via the Internet, you need Aladdin Expander and Aladdin DropStuff.