Ha, I bet for a moment you thought you had stumbled on yet another Fake Steve Jobs blog. Nope just me back with more meaningless blather.
Today I want to talk about zip (and other compression) utilities. I do most of my work (if I have to) with Java. A cornerstone packaging technique in Java is to bundle a bunch of files (compiled code, configuration, etc) into an archive format called a JAR file. The .jar suffix stands for Java ARchive and is really nothing more than a .zip file that contains a directory named META-INF containing a metadata file.
But I digress. The point is that, when working with Java, a good tool for exploring zip files is mandatory. When I’m required to work on Windows (motto: We may be insecure but we’re pretty) I use WinZip. This is a GUI based tool that is very flexible. One of the key features, for me at least, is the ability to view files in a .zip directly form the WinZip window. WinZip has a built in viewer that will display text files but you can have a file within a zip opened by any application. Usually this is the application associated with that particular file type.
Ok, I’m not naive (well not that naive anyway), I know that WinZip is just extracting the file in question to some temp location and then launching an application to load it. Nothing fancy but if you have to manually perform these steps a hundred times a day this is a feature you can grow to love.
Ok, so speaking of growing to love something (awesome segue!) let’s move over to the Mac OS X platform. Mac OS X, of course, comes with a light version of Stuff-It installed. I, however, am a professional (ok, semi-professional) so I immediately popped for the Deluxe version of Stuff-It. Stuff-It has a lot of the functionality of WinZip but, as far as I can tell, does not support the ability to open an individual file while browsing an archive. This has bugged me to no end. In addition, Stuffit-It has always been a little fussy about what file extensions it considers an archive. I had a lot of trouble convincing version 10 and earlier that it really did understand how to open .jar files. Our conversation would go something like this:
Stuff-It: I don’t see any archive files here.
Me: Look at this .jar file, it is really just a .zip file. You can load that.
Stuff-It: It doesn’t say .zip in the filename.
Me: I know, just try to open it.
Stuff-It: Ok, but I’m not responsible for the mayhem that may ensue.
Don’t you hate a program that uses big words like responsible? Anyway at this point I was looking at the contents of one of my .jar files but to view any of these files I still had to perform a manual extraction, locate the file in the Finder, and open it.
To add more joy to this situation I upgraded to Stuff-It version 11. The higher numbered versions are better, right? Not where Stuff-It is concerned, that’s for sure. Stuff-It 11 has convinced itself that .jar files are not really zip files and refuses to even discuss it. It’s attitude seems to be, If it doesn’t end in .zip, it isn’t a zip file and I’m not going to open it.
I didn’t spend much time arguing with Stuff-It 11, I started looking for a replacement. My first stop was a program named ZipIt. This is a nice little utility but, like Stuff-It, it doesn’t have a way to select and view a file from within the tool. As much as I liked ZipIt I just couldn’t live without this feature. Hell, I found myself running WinZip under Parallels for Mac. I bought a copy of ZipIt anyway in the hopes that author Tom Brown might see fit to add this feature.
I had just about given up on Mac based Zip tools when, purely by accident, I stumbled upon BetterZip. This tool had a screenshot that included a View button on the toolbar. My blood started racing – I downloaded the 30 day demo and gave it a try. Son of a bitch! It works. It took me all of about 10 minutes to go back to the BetterZip website and purchase it.
At first I just associated BetterZip with .zip files and Java archives (.jar, .war, .ear). Yes, BetterZip knows that Java archives exist and how to handle them! After using the tool for a couple days in this mode I was so pleased with it that I associated it with all supported archive types and I’ve never looked back. Stuff-It is doomed to remain a group of electronic pulses sitting on my hard drive – never to breathe the sweet fragrance of my computer RAM again.
If, like me, you have been frustrated by Stuffit-It, why not take BetterZip on a 30 day trial run. If you like it, buy a copy and let Robert Rezabek (BetterZip author) know that I steered you on to him. Robert has no idea who I am but it would be nice to be mentioned in a good context for once. 🙂