Smith Micro Software StuffIt Standard 9.5
At a Glance
The first thing you notice upon launching the $25 (as of 12/6/06) StuffIt Standard is that it looks like an ad. Then you realize that it is an ad. SmithMicro Software would really prefer that you buy the $40 (as of 12/6/06) StuffIt Deluxe.
Of course you get more if you shell out for the Deluxe version. It lets you view StuffIt archives as folders in Windows Explorer (Windows XP already does this with .zip 2.0 archives). StuffIt Deluxe also integrates itself into Microsoft Office programs, and can automate backups.
I hate to disappoint the company, but I reviewed the Standard version.
Whatever the price, StuffIt comes with its own compression format. Two formats, actually, .sit and the newer, more efficient .sitx. The StuffItX format is especially impressive when compressing JPEG images. Conventional wisdom says that .jpg files don't compress because they're compressed already. In my casual tests, StuffIt, when creating a .sitx archive, shrank these pictures by about 25 percent.
To extract .sit/.sitx files, non-Stuffit users will need to download and use the free Stuffit Expander utility.
StuffIt also manages .zip files (of course), but SmithMicro takes this beyond simply supporting the old, creaking .zip 2.0 standard. Version 9.5 can decrypt the 256-bit AES encryption that WinZip added in 2003 with version 9 (you'll still need the password, of course). Unfortunately, it can't create WinZip-compatible encrypted files. If you want better security than .zip 2.0's easily defeatable password protection, you'll have to create a .sitx archive (which can hide file names and supports RC4-512, AES-256, BlowFish-448, or DES-64 encryption).
StuffIt also can't segment ZIP archives (split them into multiple files of user-definable size), but it can do so with .sit/.sitx archives.
To make the most of such features, Stuffit Standard 9.5's wizards are a good place to start, and they're equal, if not better, than those of the other programs I looked at. Another nice touch: You can archive and FTP your files over the Internet--a useful tool for long-distance backup.
If you're serious about compression, then StuffIt Standard 9.5's blend of archive-management tools, strong encryption, and speedy performance make it well worth a look.