Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Stuff Stuffit

Eugh. Stuffit Expander is a piece of crap.

For the uninitiated, you need StuffIt to open .sit archives which are apparently common on the Mac platform. It’s been made largely obsolete by the cross-platform .zip format but some people still use it and StuffIt seems to be the only program for Windows that can open them (any suggestions of alternatives welcome).

StuffIt Expander is a freeware tool that allows you to open the contents of .sit files. It doesn’t let you create them; for that, you need to pay for one of the commercial StuffIt programs (this is probably why the .sit format isn’t very popular). I encountered a .sit file which contained a font that I wanted, and since the file wasn’t available in any other format, I had to download that and then install StuffIt Expander to be able to do anything with it.

Except you can’t download StuffIt Expander on its own – you have to download a trial of one of the commercial StuffIt applications which will then expire after 15 days (15 days! That’s all!) and leave you with just the expander bit. So rather than downloading a small bit of freeware you have to download some monstrous 10+MB file that’s largely useless after 2 weeks anyway. Fine if you’re on a fast connection but on a 256K connection it takes a while and would be even worse on dial-up. In the end I used a slightly older version from a cover DVD from a computer magazine.

On installation, this program will then make itself the default program for a range of archive formats, then ask you whether you want it the default. I didn’t want it to be the default for anything – all I wanted was to be able to extract the contents of this .sit file and then be on my way – so I deselected all the checkboxes (there was a ‘Select all’ button but naturally no ‘Select none’). But then instead of restoring my file associations it left them all unassociated, so I had to manually repair them – a task that Windows XP makes easier than in previous editions but still not the easiest of tasks.

This program could have been so much more useful, had it just been a simple application for expanding .sit files. Instead, it tried to be a jack-of-all-trades and just annoyed me.

Mac users, if you’re reading this, please, do not be tempted to use the .sit format. The sooner it dies off the better.


  1. It works quite well on the Mac platform, and is still one of the primary compression formats used on the mac (for mac software and such), so it wont be going anywhere for us anytime soon.
    On the mac, you also download the larger demo (actually it is pre-installed on all macs), but for as long as I have been using a mac, I only get a “this is unregistered” message and have never had it actually expire. I am able to compress into .sit free. Of course, I can also compress .zip, .gzip and all the formats using stuffit, or just .zip using the built in Mac OS X compressor.

  2. I find it quite annoying when people send .sit files to people who they know don’t run a Mac (or when they don’t know the OS at all).

  3. Ah – don’t you just love Google context sensitive Adwords? This entry has now got adverts suitable for people that want to buy Stuffit 😉

  4. I use a program called “ExtractNow” with a “.sit” plugin to extract from .sit files. It has been a year since the last update but it still works pretty well.

    • Thank you flatrabbit; ExtractNow worked fine.
      Aladdin’s website must be down today; so, not only did Digital River make downloading a pain in the ass — it didn’t work!
      I clicked from your comment and I had my file .sit expanded in a matter of minutes.
      you rock, flatrabbit (oh, and the Neil guy too)

  5. Neil, I have been using PC’s now for almost as long as you have been alive.
    4 Months ago I finally gave up on Windows, which I have used since its first incarnation and moved to the Mac platform.
    Perhaps you should think twice before condemning a format that works faultlessly within the environment for which it was originally designed, sure you don’t like expander but it’s no reason to rally against .sit.
    I for one would never go back.

    • John, I think the point Neil was trying to make was simply that .sit is a very bad cross-platform format.
      The morale of the story is simply that .sit archives don’t belong on sites that aren’t Mac specific, as it’s hell to manipulate them on any other platform. Good old zip’s can be extracted on pretty much any OS with ease, which is why they are (fortunately) widespread.

  6. I would agree with the notion that people should not send .sit files unless they know, without a doubt, that the person on the other end has a Mac.
    Back in OS 9, Stuffit Deluxe was a great utility to have. It was needed. Along came OS X, and most recently 10.3 with built in .zip reading and writing, and it is not needed.
    I used to love the .sit format. Now I really hate it. It all started to go down hill for me when I got my PC and had to install Stuffit Expander on it.
    I do not see Stuffit files going away anytime soon, for the same reason that there are still AOL users out there. There might be a better alternative, but that doesn’t mean squat.
    Thankfully Stuffit Expander is pre installed on OS X. In some cases it is even updated through OS X’s Software Update engine.
    I use Stuffit when I absolutely have to. I too wish more Mac users would use .zip.

  7. I don’t think Mac users are trying to keep .sit alive. I’ve never seen anybody daft enough to make a .sit archive and as I type, StuffitExpander is sitting there refusing to extract files for me.

  8. I’ve been using stuffit for nearly 2 years on windows, i hate to say it but i love the program. I use it as my primary compression and extraction tool so im not plauged by the problems of it trying to kill your other file assosiations (as i want it to be associated).
    The main feature that i havent found anywhere else that makes me like it is the ability to double click zip files etc and then have them automatically extract to a pre defined location.
    If you know about ne other extraction progs that have a double click extract operation like that leme know as stuffit does look like crap. And i just use the double click and the right click context menu. =)