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October 27th, 1999


StuffIt Deluxe 5.5
Contact and Other Information
Manufacturer: Aladdin Systems
Product Home Page: StuffIt Deluxe
Description: Compression software solution
Address: Aladdin Systems Inc.
165, Westridge Drive
Watsonville, CA 95076
USA
Price: US$79.95 - List
US$74.95
- Outpost.com
Telephone: (831) 761-6200
Fax: (831) 761-6206
Requirements System 7.5.3 or later
15MB disk space
10 MB of RAM recommended

System Used For Testing Power Mac G3 All-in-one 233MHz with Mac OS 8.6
[Review]
StuffIt Deluxe 5.5, A Smooth Upgrade
by Michael Munger

Introduction

StuffIt Deluxe 5.5 is, at this moment, the leader in compression software solutions for the Macintosh. While DropStuff and StuffIt Expander will offer you basic functionality for low prices - the former is $30 and the latter is free - the Deluxe suite offers more features and better integration between the compression software and the Mac OS. One basic feature, for example, is to open an archive without decompressing it, which is an advantage over Expander.


Installation

Double clicking on the installer, then clicking the Continue button, saying OK to the license agreement and entering the serial number brought me to the installation process. The installer offers Easy Install, a customizable install, and an uninstall option. This is great for power users who actually know what they want to use and what they might not care for. Easy Install might be better for people who never used Deluxe before. Too many products out there do not offer any customization options when installing. Your biggest dilemma will be to decide whether you want to use the application to do your work or to use all the Finder integration offered. The latter will need more RAM.


Documentation

Unfortunately, there is no printed manual... but at least, you can print the full documentation using the PDF manual, which, of course, requires Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. The manual is packed with all the possible information you could be looking for about the software, and has a long index of keywords to help you find the topic you are looking for.


The User Interface

This was neglected. If you open a compressed archive with the StuffIt Deluxe application, you will face a black and white, old Mac OS interface. A face lift wouldn't hurt one bit. On the other hand, if you enable the StuffIt Browser in the True Finder Integration control panel, double clicking an archive will open it as if it was a folder, using the latest interface elements, depending on what version of the Mac OS you use. Though this is not a new feature, you can use it to avoid the ancient appearance of the application itself.


The Stuffit Deluxe interface if the True-Finder Integration option is used

The new 32-bit icons for Mac OS 8.5 or later, though, are really cool. The BinHex files you download from the Internet will finally have something better than the generic document icon, while the whole icon set was updated. Some of the credit goes to the Iconfactory folks, who helped creating them.

The selection of icons that comes with the package


New features

Aladdin Systems claims that it added nifty new features in its compression suite: let's examine them, one by one.

Archive CM: This allows you, via contextual menus, to browse an archive, the same way you can open a folder's hierarchy in the Apple Menu. The Archive item appears with the other submenus when you control-click on a stuffed file. It works nicely, though double clicking on the file will give you much more visual information than this barely useful feature...

Magic Tools: From now on, you can copy and move files from the Finder menu or contextual menu, choosing exactly where you want your files to land after the operation. The Gather function lets you select multiple items and when you use it, will gather (duh!) them together in a folder named "Gathered Items". This is mostly for someone who wants to make a new archive with the items selected in the Finder. This is neat; it does the drag and drop work for you. Get More Info gives you interesting information such as the Type and Creator of a file, the MIME Type, and of course, the basic Get Info information. Make Alias To... well... allows you to make aliases to files :-)

.zip and .uu file creation: Finally! StuffIt Deluxe offers you the chance to create .zip and even .exe files for Windows users, and the DropZip drag and drop application will zip files that you drop on its icon. It doesn't allow you to open a .zip archive without decompressing it, though. Also, you can create .uu files for UNIX users. Both file extensions will work with Archive Via Rename. This was a major demand from power users when StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 was released, and it looks like the Aladdin Systems folks listened. There goes ZipIt...

20% faster performance: Is it really faster? During the tests, it looked like it was. The best way to explain the difference between Deluxe 5.0 and 5.5 is to take a look at the progress bar. With 5.0, the new archive format slowed things down, and the progress bar covered big chunks each time it went further, but the delay between "chunks" was very long. With 5.5, the bar advances at a much faster pace, covering smaller parts of the remaining space each time, but the overall delay to compress or decompress an archive is shorter. With the improvement, the speed seems to catch up a bit with the older archive format's performance. But this was on a 233MHz G3, and your mileage may vary on slower Macs.

DropConverter: This drag and drop application will, when you drop pre-5.0 archives on it, convert them to the new 5.x format.

Access Symantec DiskDoubler Files: Symantec used to develop a competing compression solution for Macintosh, named DiskDoubler. Though I could not find any such files, Aladdin Systems claims its software can access them and decompress them.

Secure Delete: This would delete files without any possibility to recover them later, just like Norton Utilities does. But with StuffIt Deluxe 5.5, you do it with a drag and drop application. It worked during the evaluation... UnErase couldn't find the erased files.


Noteworthy features

These are not new, but they are still useful. The Magic Menu offers access to the suite's features without having to launch the StuffIt Deluxe application. In the Finder, you can do all your work and even use the Stuff and Mail command, which takes a file, opens a new outgoing message and places it as an attachment in your favorite e-mail application. You have to specify your e-mail client of choice in your Stuff and Mail preferences, though.

The StuffIt Browser treats an archive just like a folder. Dragging files inside and outside of it will compress or decompress them. Cool! Archive Via Rename reacts to your moves when you change a file or folder's name. If you add .sit, .hqx .bin or .zip at the end of it, it will compress/encode it. If you remove the extension, it will decompress or decode. Neat! The translating capabilities are amazing. If you received a DiskDoubler archive and a BZip file, StuffIt Deluxe will spare you a headache.


Overall performance

StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 was quite a mess, and it looks like 5.5 fixes a few problems. Speed was increased for sure. Is it really 20%? Hard to say. One fact remains, it is faster. We experienced a lot of bugs when using the StuffIt Browser before 5.5, and they disappeared with the upgrade. Creating self-extracting archives used to add around 250 kilobytes to the compressed file with version 5.0, and with version 5.5, it added only a hundred kilobytes. In general, this upgrade works better than the previous version.


Problems

While there are a few known issues in the documentation, the main problem with this software is that the new archive format introduced with version 5 makes your life difficult when it comes to sharing files on the Internet. Why? Mostly because there are people who cannot use the latest Expander or who do not use it because they choose not to. There should be some feature that creates hybrid archives that would still open under older StuffIt decompression software. Self-extracting archives are probably the solution, especially now that they work better than before.


Conclusion

StuffIt Deluxe 5.5 is certainly a smooth upgrade. It irons out several problems and still holds an awful lot of power. Its preferences allow you to customize it as much as you want, therefore it serves the power users well. There was no loss of data during the testing.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
4 Gadgies
Pros Simply powerful
Improved performance
Great Finder integration
.zip and .exe file creation
Cool icons
Highly customizable
Cons High system requirements
The new archive format is annoying when transferring files to older systems



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