Friday, March 5, 2010

Mac App Squeeze Review

Recently Lifehacker had an article that said that the mac application "squeeze" could be downloaded and registered free for one day (By the way the article can be found here). Since it was free (and looked pretty interesting) I decided to download it and try it out.

But before I really installed it I went to their website to find out what it did here. According to the lifehacker post squeeze saves hard drive space by compressing files (the folders you yourself can specify). And according to the developer it's a compression feature of snow leopard so it's actually a system feature (and sorry, the software is 10.6 only, no 10.5) so even though the application might be uninstalled the files can still be decompressed. Their site promotes squeeze as "a background file compressor, which uses the new HFS-compression technology in Snow Leopard to transparently compress the folders you configure it to process. Mac OS will read those files normally, they will just take less disk space.

I had more questions so I'm just going to post the answers to some of them I had from the faq here. It answered most if not all of my concerns.

I have uninstalled Squeeze. Will compressed files still work?

Absolutely! Squeeze simply converts files to the compressed format understood by the Snow Leopard implementation of HFS - from that point on, it is the Operating System itself that deals with the file, uncompressing it for you on the fly whenever you need it.

What kind of folders should I select to squeeze?

We recommend you select folders where usage is heavier on reading but lighter on writing. In addition, folders with music, movies and pictures are not good candidates to compress, as they are already compressed in most cases. Excellent candidates are your Applications and Documents folder.
Will compressed files work on machines not running Snow Leopard?

Yes, unless you share them directly (via File Sharing, for example). All other means should work fine (email, dropbox, copy to a pen drive, copy to an external drive, etc.). This is because when you copy a compressed file to any location in the disk, the system will create an uncompressed copy.
How can I uncompress a file?

Simply copy it using the Finder. The copy will be an uncompressed version of the file. Make sure, however, to copy it into a folder that is not being watch by Squeeze, so it does not compress the copy, or pause Squeeze for a moment while copying the file. Alternatively, you can use the command line utility afscexpand to decompress files in place

Is Squeeze compatible with Time Machine?

Yes. Time Machine will have no problem in backing up compressed files. However, there is one inconvenient. After Squeezing files, Time Machines detects that the, now compressed, files have changed and makes a new backup for them. So, your newly compressed folders will be completely backed up again. We are looking for a way to improve this in a future release.

So for that day I tried it out and I put my documents folder and applications folders to be compressed. Squeeze is version 1.0.4 now and attached are some screenshots of the application. Actually I guess it should be called a preference pane because it actually resides in system preferences.

So this is the general screen where you can turn squeeze on and off. One downside is that squeeze comes with a menubar icon where you can pause squeeze, but you can't pause it directly from the preference pane itself. I also wish that it would automatically pause itself if the computer was on battery. It also includes a helper aspect that I had to take out of the login items. I took out my email address and name but note that the free license lasts until 1.9.9

Here is the second screen of the squeeze application where you can choose folders to compress. As you can see I've only included the documents and application folders. I noticed the most savings came from the applications folder, and after the compression the folder took a lot quicker to start up.

Now you might say, wow this application's the greatest. It just compresses folders and you get more hard drive space out of this! But one of the big questions is that of compatibility, and I personally have an external hard drive that can boot 10.5.8 to repair my 10.6 boot partition. In the end I decided to stop the compression because of this, though I must say that I haven't experienced any problems with this application. If you're asking whether you should get it or not (by the way it costs $10 now, not free anymore) I would say that if you're really running out of hard drive space and you don't have any concerns with compatibility issues sure get it. But if you do have some concerns about compatibility you should wait a bit so that it'll be ironed out more. But so far the reviews of the application have been pretty good.

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