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9/96 Reviews SW: SafE Mail 1.12

Listing of September 1996 Reviews

So Secure You Won't Want to Read It

By Serdar Yegulalp

SafE Mail is a good idea in a bad package. This key-based encryption program lets you encode and compress any file for transmission through conventional 7-bit Internet e-mail, but it's seriously hampered by subpar delivery and execution.

SafE Mail fits on a single disk; installing it takes just a few minutes, and the program icon can be placed in any group. For security's sake, the program can be installed only once from the original floppy so you must get it right the first time.

The program employs the user's name and a password of up to 52 characters to generate a 22-character public encryption key, which can be distributed to your mail recipients. You'll need to provide the password every time a file is encrypted or decrypted.

The hassles start when you begin using the program to encrypt documents. SafE Mail requires you to save the data to be encrypted in a separate file rather than your working file. You specify input and output in separate dialog boxes, which seems nonintuitive and unnecessary.

Once you've chosen filenames, the program encrypts quickly, converting megabyte-sized binary files in less than a minute on a 166MHz Pentium system. There are several bugs in the program, however, that may make it difficult to get that far. My copy sometimes locked inexplicably after I selected an output filename. When I reinstalled the program, it wouldn't run at all.

My single biggest complaint about SafE Mail, though, is its clumsy Windows 3.1x-style implementation. SafE Mail doesn't exploit any of the available mail-system hooks in Windows for MAPI. You can't, for example, automatically attach an encrypted file to an outgoing mail message or have SafE Mail encrypt a message already composed in a mail program-unless you save the message as a separate file, encrypt it and then re-import the encrypted message.

On the other hand, the program is well-documented, and the manual offers interesting details about cryptography and data compression.

If SafE Mail were rewritten as a 32-bit program with MAPI extensions and a streamlined interface, it would be a useful utility. But in its present form, and with a hefty $249 price tag, it's hard to recommend this program over lower-priced or public-domain apps.

SafE Mail 1.12
Pros: Quick; secure
Cons: Crashes; 16-bit; no MAPI
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT
Disk Space: 1MB
SafE Mail Corp.
800-252-9938, 919-676-2810
WinMag Box Score: 2.5

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