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StuffIt
StuffIt Expander
Developer(s) Aladdin Systems, Smith Micro Software
Stable release 14 / September 15, 2009; 5 month(s) ago (2009-09-15)
Operating system Mac OS X, Windows
Type File Compressor
License Proprietary
Website Stuffit Homepage

StuffIt is a family of computer software utilities for archiving and compressing files on the Macintosh and Microsoft Windows platforms: it was originally produced for the Macintosh. An old version (5.2.0?) for Linux (x86) and Sun Solaris 2.7 or later is also available. [1][2] The proprietary compression format used by the StuffIt utilities is also termed StuffIt.

Contents

Overview

StuffIt was originally developed in the summer of 1987 by Raymond Lau,[3] who was then a high school student at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. It combined the fork-combining capabilities of utilities such as MacBinary with newer compression algorithms similar to those used in ZIP. Compared to existing utilities on the Mac, notably PackIt, StuffIt offered "one step" operation and higher compression ratios. By the fall of 1987 StuffIt had largely replaced PackIt in the Mac world, with many software sites even going so far as to convert existing PackIt archives to save more space.

StuffIt soon became very popular and Aladdin Systems was formed to market it (the last shareware release by Lau was version 1.5.1). They split the product line in two, offering StuffIt Classic in shareware and StuffIt Deluxe as a commercial package. Deluxe added a variety of additional functions, including additional compression methods and integration into the Mac Finder to allow files to be compressed from a "Magic Menu" without opening StuffIt itself.

StuffIt was upgraded several times, but Lau had removed himself from direct development and major upgrades to the "internal machinery" were rare. As this was a time of rapid evolution for the Macintosh platform with new features and techniques appearing regularly, the shareware utility Compact Pro emerged as a competitor to StuffIt's in the early 1990s. Compact Pro became a success through a combination of ease-of-use, better compression and higher speed.[citation needed] In fact, Compact Pro could uncompress StuffIt archives at roughly twice the speed of StuffIt itself. Compact Pro development has been discontinued and does not support Mac OS X.[citation needed]

A major upgrade followed in order to compete, adding the freeware StuffIt Expander in order to make the format more universally acceptable, as well as the shareware StuffIt Lite which made it easier to produce — prior to this anyone attempting to use the format needed to buy StuffIt, making Compact Pro more attractive. This move was very successful, and Compact Pro disappeared almost overnight.

Several other Mac compression utilities appeared and disappeared during the 1990s, but none became a real threat to StuffIt's market. The only ones to see any widespread use were special-purpose "disk expanders" like DiskDoubler and SuperDisk!, which served a different niche. Apparently as a side-effect, StuffIt once again saw few upgrades. PC-based formats long surpassed StuffIt in terms of compression, notably newer systems like RAR and 7z. These had little impact on the Mac market, as most of these never appeared in an easy-to-use program on the Mac.

With the introduction of OpenStep as the basis for what would become Mac OS X, newer Mac software lost their forks and no longer needed anything except the built-in Unix utilities like gzip and tar. Numerous programs "wrapping" these utilities were distributed, and since these files could be opened on any machine, they were considerably more practical than StuffIt in an era when most data is cross-platform. With the release of OS X Public Beta, Aladdin Systems released StuffIt 6.0 which runs under OS X, with Expander no longer relying on the StuffIt EngineTM.

Although it was late to market, Aladdin Systems introduced the completely new StuffIt X format in September 2002 with StuffIt Deluxe 7.0 for Macintosh. It was designed to be extendable, support more compression methods, support long file names, and support Unix and Windows file attributes. StuffIt X improves over the original StuffIt format and its descendants by adding multiple compression algorithms such as PPM, and BWT to LZW-type compression. It also added a "block mode" option and several encryption options. In January 2005, JPEG compression was added as a StuffIt X compression option (see the related 'SIF Format' below).

Until the 2005 acquisition by Smith Micro Software, coinciding with the release of Mac OS X v10.4 "Tiger", StuffIt Expander came preloaded with the Macintosh operating system.

Although Mac files generally did not use filename extensions, one of StuffIt's primary uses was to allow Mac files to be stored on non-Mac systems where extensions were required. StuffIt-compressed files typically have the extension .sit, although newer Stuffit X-compressed files carry the file extension .sitx. Encrypted StuffIt archives created with the now-discontinued Private File utility will have .pf extensions. StuffIt-compressed ShrinkWrap disk images will carry .img or .image extensions. However, a Classic version of StuffIt is needed to mount the images or convert them to a newer format readable in Mac OS X.

Smith Micro Software offers free downloads of StuffIt Expander for Mac and Windows, which expands (uncompresses) files compressed using the StuffIt and StuffIt X format, as well as many other compressed, encoded, encrypted and segmented formats. The shareware application DropStuff permits the compressing of files into the StuffIt X format.

The StuffIt and StuffIt X formats remain, unlike some other file compression formats, proprietary, and Smith Micro Software charge license fees for its use in other programs. Given this, few alternative programs support the format.

StuffIt Image Format (SIF)

Early in 2005 a new JPEG compression system was released that regularly obtained compression in the order of 25% (meaning a compressed file size 75% of the original file size) without any further loss of image quality and with the ability to rebuild the original file, not just the original image. (ZIP-like programs typically achieve JPEG compression rates in the order of 1 to 3%. Programs that optimise JPEGs without regard for the original file, only the original image, obtain compression rates from 3 to 10% (depending on the efficiency of the original JPEG). Programs that use the rarely implemented arithmetic coding option available to the JPEG standard typically achieve rates around 12%.)

The new technique was implemented as a StuffIt X format option in their StuffIt Deluxe product. They have also proposed a new image format known as SIF, which simply consists of a single JPEG file compressed using this new technique.

Pending filing of their patent, they retain knowledge of the details of this algorithm as a trade secret. However, recent published research has described methods that achieve similar results, as has a method held by Infima; see JPEG#Lossless further compression for details.

Criticisms

Marketing Practices

When a user visits the Smith Micro website to download the free Stuffit Expander utility, they must submit a valid E-Mail address and other information to which the company can later send marketing information. There is no opportunity to opt out of this marketing prior to download. [4] The software can be downloaded for free, without sending marketing information, from download.com [5] for Windows, or MacUpdate[6] for Macintosh.

Intrusive Behaviour

Whenever you use Stuffit Expander for Windows, it automatically associates itself with all supported archive types, regardless of any existing applications, and without giving any choice to the user.[citation needed]

Backwards Compatibility

Changes to the Stuffit compression software, claimed by the developer to be upgrades, frequently render previous versions of Stuffit unable to decompress newer archives without first downloading or purchasing the new version. This incompatibility can be inconvenient for work flows where timely execution is of importance. Though users are able to create archives in a legacy format, this functionality is not clearly exposed. [7]

Bloatware

The StuffIt software is updated about every year (at least since version 6, 2001[8]) and each year it adds little features (see Backward Compatibility above) while still requiring a new payment. Also, the software size grows (Expander: v10 is 8.3mb, v11 is 11.1mb, v12 is 13.4mb, v13 is 22.7mb [9]) with an interface that isn't transparent like the builtin zip utility. [10][11]

StuffIt Wireless

On July 5, 2005, Smith Micro Software announced their acquisition and were intending to expand the new JPEG recompression technique to wireless platforms and other file formats. The initial press release and preliminary information saw the first use of the title “StuffIt Wireless.”

Alternatives

Mac OS X includes a compression utility that is compatible with the open format zip (BOMArchiveHelper). Versions of Mac OS prior to 10.3 did not preserve resource forks in the zip format, but in versions since 10.3 (Panther), Stuffit is no longer a requirement for Mac file compression. Zip is also a de facto standard, so it is more widely accepted for archives and sharing.

While StuffIt used to be a standard way of packaging Mac software for download, Mac-native compressed disk images (DMG) have largely replaced this practice.

StuffIt might still be used in some situation where its features are required (better compression, JPEG compression, encryption, old packages). An open source alternative might be The Unarchiver, even if it doesn't support newer StuffIt file formats.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Official vendor information about StuffIt for Linux and Solaris
  2. ^ Stuffit Archives, explains how to open StuffIt and StuffIt X archives on Linux
  3. ^ Raymond Lau: StufIt
  4. ^ Example of a Download Page: [1]
  5. ^ Download.com StuffIt Standard Edition Download Page[2]
  6. ^ MacUpdate
  7. ^ Discussion thread from Macworld Review of Stuffit: [3]
  8. ^ Version Tracker data: [4]
  9. ^ VersionTracker data: [5]
  10. ^ Comments on Version Tracker: [6]
  11. ^ Comments on MacUpdate: [7]

External links

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