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5/15/2006
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Review: LockNote

With this elegant single-purpose utility in place you can get rid of all those sticky notes that help you remember passwords and similar sensitive data.

You'll be able to toss out your sticky notes or scraps of paper with passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information. After you’ve set up LockNote, one of the most elegantly simple, single-purpose utilities I've seen recently.

LockNote, by encryption and privacy software publisher Steganos, secures a document of free-form text of your choice in a clever way (I’m not telling) that should hide itself well from most malware. It performs this magic without mucking up your Windows registry; splattering files around your hard disk; or, during my testing, conflicting with other software such as system-wide encryption tools and security suites. LockNote simply does its work modestly when you request and otherwise stays out of your way.

You won’t need a help file — even if one were available. Usage is really this simple:

  1. Download LockNote from the Steganos Web site. Even at dialup speed, the download takes little more time than the blink of an eye.

  2. Click the downloaded file to begin creating your document. (No installation is required.)

  3. Enter free-form text of your choice.

  4. Exit the program (don’t use the "File-Save As" dialog) and enter a LockNote password when requested. The document is encrypted and saved.

That’s it. Thereafter, simply click the executable program again to open your document and read or edit it.

While it's just that simple, there are a few tips that will help you get the best out of the utility.

Before first use of the program, I recommend locating the downloaded file with the Windows Explorer, then right-click to drag-and-drop it to your desktop or your Start menu to keep it handy. After you release the mouse button, select whether to copy, move, or create a shortcut. The advantage of copying is that you can delete the copy (and your encrypted text) and begin anew if you forget your LockNote password.

If you do lose your password or are hit by malware or a computer crash, squirreling away a printed copy of your LockNote document where it won’t be found by prying eyes can help create a new document. For this, do use the "File-Save As" dialog to create a temporary copy, which won’t be encrypted. I recommend a filename ending in .txt so it can be opened in Notepad. Then use Notepad to print the copy. Finally, delete the unencrypted text file. Your encrypted document remains intact.

Since LockNote uses an interface similar to Notepad, you can edit your encrypted LockNote with standard Windows commands, including deleting all contents. Or if you decide to remove LockNote and all your text, simply delete its executable file. Just as no installer program is required, no separate uninstaller is available.

I’ve been impressed by many of Steganos’ broader-reaching privacy and encryption tools lately and may review them in the coming months. Meanwhile, be sure to check them out while downloading LockNote.


LockNote
Steganos GmbH
www.steganos.com
Price: free
Summary: LockNote is the easiest solution to gather and safeguard sensitive pieces of information while providing immediate access to them.

J.W. Olsen has been a full-time IT author, columnist, editor, and freelance book project manager with more than 1000 editorial credits since 1990, and has provided computer, Web site, and editorial services to other clients since 1985. He welcomes feedback via the response form at www.jwolsen.com.

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