How StuffIt stacks up against WinZip

WinZip is zippier, but StuffIt overall has slightly better compression

If you want to squeeze the greatest amount of data onto your hard drive, compression is the way to go -- and the ZIP format has long been a trusted method that nearly any Windows user can invoke. SmithMicro's StuffIt Deluxe 12 is a file-compression utility on steroids: it can archive and compress files of all types (to the Stuffit format and even to ZIP itself). The real question is: How well does it hold up against a well-known and popular application such as WinZip?

StuffIt runs on Windows Vista, XP, and 2000; a Mac version (US$79.99) supports Mac OS 10.4 and above. I chose to test the US$49.99 Deluxe version over the Standard version (US$24.99) because of its support for self-extracting archives and Office plug-ins.

What makes StuffIt a pleasure to use is its command center, where you can pick from a list of the most common functions:

  • Compress

  • Compress and send via FTP (it can keep track of multiple destinations)

  • Compress and e-mail the file

  • Create an archive and burn it to CD/DVD (it handles disk spanning and supports HD-DVD and Blu-Ray media, etc.)

All of the functions use an easy-to-follow, step-by-step wizard. Building a self-extracting archive is equally easy, with a five-step wizard that lets you choose the destination of the expanded file (for example, on your recipient's desktop), specify the text to display in a window before a user opens your file, and so on.

Click on any file in the list and you'll see the specifics (number of files in the archive, for example), and you can add files or add encryption. Double-click on a single-file archive and the program decompresses the file and displays it (assuming there's a program associated with the original file).

The second tab on the control center displays all the compressed files StuffIt finds on your system, which you can filter by date, name, or drive (but not folder) location. Click on any file in the list and you'll see the specifics (number of files in the archive, for example), and you can add files or add encryption. Double-click on a single-file archive and the program decompresses the file and displays it (assuming there's a program associated with the original file).

A third tab lets you search for an original file within an archive by name, size, date, and drive letter.

SmithMicro says its new release provides improved compression of Microsoft Office documents such as PowerPoint (which tend to be rich in graphics), PDF documents, and MP3 audio files. The company also says that StuffIt uses a variety of specialized compression technologies and picks the one best suited to your source, though there are plenty of options to choose from if you wish. For example, you can encrypt a file in StuffIt format using DES (64-bit encryption), AES (256-bit encryption), RC4 (512-bit), and Blowfish (448-bit).

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