The Mac really doesn't have a lot of great utilities for creating file archives, but it does have one excellent option for unarchiving: the aptly named The Unarchiver. It integrates directly with the OS X Finder and supports practically any format you can imagine.Note: The Unarchiver isn't actually capable of creating archives, but there's really no app on the Mac that does a great job of archiving and unarchiving. You really need two separate apps for the best experience. The Unarchiver provides that experience for unarchiving, but for creating compressed files you'll need something else. We'll discuss your options first thing in the Competition section of this post.
Platform: Mac OS X Price: Free Download Page
- Supports practically every compressed file format you can think of. See the full list here
- You can toggle which compressed file formats The Unarchiver will decompress and which ones it will ignore.
- Integrates with the Mac OS X Finder like it was a built-in feature.
- You can choose where it extracts files, or you can have it ask you every time.
- You can choose to keep or discard the archive once it has been decompressed.
The Unarchiver doesn't do much, but that's kind of where it excels. It just unarchives practically any file you can throw at it. It's about as speedy as you can expect, and you can customise which file types it handles and which ones it doesn't. Using it feels like part of the OS X Finder, which is the other thing that makes it so great. Basically, using The Unarchiver is like adding a much broader range of supported compressed file formats to your Mac.
The Unarchiver doesn't do much, so it's lacking in that regard. Not only would the ability to actually compress files be very welcome - especially if it was through a contextual menu item - but the lack of features and control make it difficult to deal with an imperfect (and the occasional multi-part) archive. Aside from that, there's not much to complain about. It does what it says it's going to do, and it does it well the majority of the time.
Before we get into the competition (of which there is very little), let's talk about apps that can compress your files. The best ones are kind of pricey. Archiver is very pretty and will cost you $US19. Behind its good looks is a pretty good feature set, offering plenty of supported formats and even the ability to password-protect an archive. Alternatively you have an app called Compress Files. It weighs in at $US15, so you'll save a little money. In exchange for those savings you lose a few supported file formats. For a little more than both apps ($US20), you can get BetterZIP, which offers tons of features and supported formats. If you want a free utility that only supports ZIP files, use the one built-in to the Finder already. If you want a free app that can create zip files without including the annoying .DS_STORE files that OS X loves to include in its archives, try YemuZip.
As for the competition for The Unarchiver, there are a few apps worth noting. UnRarX is probably the best RAR decompressor on the Mac, but it suffers from a really unfriendly user interface. It's free, though, and is indispensable when dealing with RAR archives - specifically the problematic ones. For ZIP files, you can count on the Mac OS X Finder to handle those for you no problem. Most of the previously-mentioned archive creation apps can handle unarchiving files, too, but nothing is quite as good as The Unarchive so chances are you'll prefer to use two apps - one for archiving and one for unarchiving - to get the job done.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on file archive utilities.