Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Rants about StuffIt

It’s fair to say I don’t like the archiving software StuffIt – see previous rants – but it’s been a couple of years since my last rant. StuffIt 13 is out in all of its flavours so it’s about time for another rant, I think. Unlike previous rants, I’ll focus purely on the Mac version since I’m a Mac user and the StuffIt .sit file format used to be popular with Mac users.
In a nutshell, I dislike StuffIt for the following reasons:

  1. It’s bloatware. The downloadable disk image for the basic StuffIt Expander is over 22 MB. To put that into context, Firefox for Mac, which is a universal binary, weighs in at 17 MB, and is arguably a far more complex piece of software. In fact, Firefox supports the unzipping of (at least) gzip and zip archives since web pages and images can be encoded using these formats. Quite what they need all of those megabytes for is a mystery, since all the expander does is dump the contents of an archive into a folder. It would be hugely ironic if the expander’s disk image wasn’t compressed, of course.
  2. To download it, you have to give a working email address. You can’t just give a fake one and get the download link, as the download link is emailed to you. And there’s this gem of a notice at the bottom of the page:

    Please note: By confirming your email address and downloading this file, you are signing up to receive periodic followup emails from us. Any emails we send you will contain unsubscribe information, and you may opt-out of future emails at any time.

    Sure, you can unsubscribe when the next email comes through, but frankly I would rather not be subscribed in the first place. SmithMicro, StuffIt’s distributor, is an American company, which is probably a good thing for them as I’m pretty sure this would fall foul of data protection laws in other countries. All I’m asking for is a tickbox that lets me opt out of receiving emails. Or, better still, a direct download link, like 95% of other software downloads.

  3. The free expander program has been made deliberately obscure, and instead its bigger but non-free brothers are promoted. Now SmithMicro have to make their money somewhere but even when you select to download the free Expander you are bombarded with links to the paid-for packages. And when you click the link to download the program from the email that you receive, it defaults to the paid-for version, even if you previously selected the free version.
  4. StuffIt is the only program I know of capable of reading the .sitx format, which is apparently an improved version of the .sit archive format. .sitx thankfully hasn’t really taken off so these files are rare, but I have Expander handy in case one crops up. If it weren’t for this archive format I wouldn’t even bother with Expander, never mind any of the other StuffIt programs. The Unarchiver is what I use for every other type of archive and it works well without needing my email address or trying to sell me software that I don’t want, but alas .sitx support is missing.

The fact is that these rants essentially echo what I have previously written 3 years ago – in other words, the situation hasn’t improved in 3 years. In fact, I’d say version 13 of the Expander, with its vastly over-inflated size, is probably the worst version yet. It’s telling that its Wikipedia page has a ‘Criticisms’ section. If SmithMicro are serious about people wanting to use the .sitx format, they either need to make the software considerably less intimidating for those wanting to open the files or publish the file format for people to integrate into their own programs.
Windows users wanting to free themselves of StuffIt can use ExtractNow, which supports .sit files when the appropriate addon (available from its FAQ page) is installed, but again, no support for the .sitx format. Again, it’s free and doesn’t require your soul email address.

2 Comments

  1. What have you come across that uses .SITX? I have never seen that format in all my downloading I have done. (alot)
    I had downloaded Stuffit a long time ago, and since I found The Unarchiver, I have put Stuffit in my favorite place to put programs like it. The trash can.

  2. The full suite of Stuffit applications has added nothing new (or at least nothing useful to me) since the early Mac OS X days. The .SITX format is required for segmentation. It’s been that way for a while but not always.
    And I share your opinions about requiring an E-mail address and making the Expander application difficult to find. I believe all this was started in the Aladdin or Allume days when the applications were shareware. The need for the brand name “Stuffit” software has declined and I suspect SmithMicro is simply trying to maintain status quo in sales.
    I’ll be curious to see how long Stuffit continues. It use to serve the masses well but those masses have found alternatives that are free for the most part. Maybe it’s ready to be relased into the public domain or open source market where more creative ideas are born.