Apple creatively named it Archive. Windows users will think of it as Zip, as in zip up files and folders to archive or send to others. There was a time when all Mac users had was the venerable Stuffit as the archive and compress tool. Mac OS X users have a dozen or more highly capable tools that do almost the same thing.
Here are the four I like the best, starting with free.
Archive & Compress? What’s It All About?
There was a time, back in the day when hard disk drives were expensive and storage was small, that archiving files and folders meant Stuffit.
It’s more of an afterthought these days, but Stuffit still packs plenty of features, including zip, but most Mac users are happy with the built-in, and free, Archive utility.
Select a few files and folders in the Finder, right click and select Archive, and your Mac zips everything up into a neat and tidy and compressed folder.
The zip file usually, but not always, works well everywhere– Mac, Windows PC, Linux. While free, Archive doesn’t do much. Mac users have the option to use disk image to archive and protect files and folders, but that leaves cross platform usage out in the cold.
Stuffit, Pack, And Zip
$50 will get you the latest Stuffit Deluxe, which runs on Mac and Windows, and has every feature you can think of bolted on. Stuff, zip, encrypt, compress, FTP and email files and folders until the cows come home.
Stuffit uses a colorful, Fisher Price inspired interface with bells and whistles to make any government bureaucrat happy. Browse inside most archives without opening. Schedule backups. Encrypt backups. Buy another copy of Stuffit and do the same thing on a Windows PC.
Elsewhere, the same Mac developer brings you the free iPackr and big brother iPack. Each compress or archive to a variety of formats from zip to far to gz to bz2 and more. There’s not much difference between the free and not-so-free versions, but you’ll pay extra for password protected archives. Both could win awards for cute icons. Don’t look for much product help or detail from the developer’s website, either.
My favorite compression tool costs a bit more than iPackr but less than Stuffit. BetterZip is as Mac-like as an app can get.
It creates archives in the most common Mac and Windows formats, and gives you control to see and edit what’s inside an archive without extracting the whole mess first.
Navigate folders and files in the left Sidebar, use the Toolbar to Add, Delete, View, or Extract files. If you’re deeply involved in archiving files and folders, BetterZip helps you manage the password process by remembering what goes where. 256-bit AES encryption gives you strong security and creates WinZip compatible archives.
Of the four commercial archive tools (Archive is built-in to your Mac), only Stuffit is not available on the Mac App Store. iPackr acts as a free or lite version of iPack. BetterZip also has a 30-day trial option.
The Stuffit website is as loaded with information and options as the app. iPack is notoriously sparse and the website is mostly worthless. BetterZip is elegantly done, much less expensive than Stuffit, yet does much more than the iPack ’em twins. If you love archive bells and whistles, Stuffit is the one. In between free and Stuffit is BetterZip. Less money, easier to use, highly secure.