Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
A package of smaller programs
Although StuffIt installs with a single setup program, it actually consists of several separate applications--a somewhat confusing approach compared to WinZip's single, unified app--though most of these programs are accessible through StuffIt Browser. Beginners may find StuffIt's many options bewildering, especially since the suite doesn't include helpful wizards to guide you through the most common tasks, as WinZip does.
StuffIt DropStuff lets you compress files by dragging them to an application that's running or to the program's desktop icon. You can also right-click a file or a folder in Windows Explorer and use the resulting pull-down menu to compress it. StuffIt Expander does the converse, decompressing archives you drag to it or archives on which you double-click. Archive Search looks within archives--groups of compressed files--for specific filenames, but it can't search for specific strings of text within files, as WinZip can. StuffIt Browser combines these functions in a familiar Windows Explorer-style interface, especially useful for combing through archives and selecting individual files to decompress.
The most innovative application within the StuffIt suite is StuffIt Express, which creates individual dropboxes, or file folders, that automatically execute a series of commands. For instance, you might create a dropbox that automatically compresses a folder, uploads the resulting archive to an FTP server, and sends out e-mail notifying a select group of people that a new file is available.
Like WinZip, StuffIt expands ACE, ARC, PAK, ARJ, and BinHex (HQX) files and expands and creates CAB, GZIP, LZH, MIME, PF, RAR, SIT, TAR, UU, UUE, and ZIP archives. For a complete list of file formats available within StuffIt, see the chart on its Web site. While it does not cover as many file formats as the Mac edition, StuffIt For Windows should be more than adequate for most PC users.
Within StuffIt, you select either SIT or ZIP as your default compression setting--the program works equally well with either. Other useful features include the ability to create password-protected archives, segment large archives into chunks small enough to fit on a set of floppy disks, and build self-extracting archives. In our tests, StuffIt compressed and decompressed archives as fast as WinZip and was able to create ZIP archives of the same size.
Tech support is available
SutffIt works well overall, but we did encounter one minor glitch in our tests: it failed to compress a few files when creating an archive of an entire folder. We called Aladdin's tech support line (available Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT). After waiting on hold for about 15 minutes, the tech support representative explained that this is a known issue and suggested a workaround that solved the problem. The company expects a patch to be available shortly.
The bottom line? StuffIt 7.0 For Windows gives the venerable WinZip some serious competition by delivering a complete Mac-compatible compression solution for the PC, at about the same price: $29 for WinZip, $29.95 for StuffIt. Since WinZip doesn't support the SIT format, StuffIt makes more sense for those who need to share archives with Mac-based users. WinZip's user interface is a bit more intuitive and user-friendly, however, so download both before you decide which file compressor is best for you.