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Nowadays, there is a large variety of programs that address your data encryption needs. In this arcticle you can read about some popular such programs that focus on this task. However, few programs are as simple and as easy to use as the MEO encryption program by NCH Software, a freeware for both Windows and Mac. Additional information can be found in this article on strong encryption.
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The MEO Encryption program focuses on a few basic tasks: file encryption, email encryption and hash creation/validation. It also provides a brief list of options and a detailed help page . Nevertheless, a user who has a bit of experience in similar software can get by without spending much time consulting the help, as the program is quite intuitive. A few minutes of experimentation would be enough to learn this program thoroughly. A small drawback that is quite evident after a while is the splash screen that appears when the program is launched and the fact that there is no way to disable it from the options.
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The file encryption function, which is also the dominant one, is quite straightforward and can be carried out using either the Blowfish algorithm (for faster encryption), or the triple DES one (for stronger encryption), as it can be seen from this screenshot . It would be better though if the program offered more options, such as the AES-256 algorithm, which is a very popular option in other software. MEO asks for a password for the encryption, which has to be entered twice for verification. However, it doesn’t provide any evaluation of the password’s strength, like other programs. The encryption process creates a file with the extension .meo or .exe (if the self-decryption option is chosen). The option for the encrypted file to be in a compressed format can be handy if you want to save some space. When decrypting a file, a progress bar appears to provide an insight on how long the whole process will take (see screenshot ).
The email encryption function is quite similar. It is necessary to set up the email configuration first (see image for details). Although the program does not encrypt the subject of the email, it encrypts everything else, including the attachment(s) (see screenshot ). In addition, a copy of the encrypted email can be saved for future reference. This function works decently, even though it is not clear what kind of encryption algorithm it uses (there is no relevant option in the email dialog box). Moreover, the email has to have an attachment in order to be encrypted, something which is a bit strange as a prerequisite.
The hash function is also straight-forward. It has the option of three popular hashing algorithms, MD5, SHA-1 and Tiger Tree. Both the hash creation and validation are quite fast and very simple to perform. This function is probably the highlight of this software.
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MEO Encryption has a quite minimalistic yet effective Graphical User Interface. This allows it to be open while other windows are also active. It is quite useful that the MEO window itself can be used as a dropping location for other files, which the user wants to encrypt. It would be better though if the GUI could have some transparency setting and the option to be always on. In addition, it would be nice if there was a button for the hashing function in the main GUI, instead of just in the menu and as a keyboard shortcut. Apart from all that, the program’s GUI is very intuitive and quite user-friendly.
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Overall, the MEO data encryption software is a quite good freeware. It is not as robust or rich in terms of options like other commercial products, but it does the job and is adequate for the novice user. As it’s still in version 2.10, we would expect a lot of improvements to take place in future releases, making it a viable data encryption alternative. You can find additional information about this program in the NCH Software website.
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1. http://www.nchsoftware.com/encrypt (last accessed March 2011)