Review: Office Guard

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Office Guard contrasts with many products in this test because it targets Microsoft Office users to help them make sense of PKI.

Office Guard contrasts with many products in this test because it targets Microsoft Office users to help them make sense of PKI. With Office Guard you can sign and encrypt documents, manage certificates, send secure email, create virtual drives for your encrypted documents, and more.

The Office Guard product sheets offer suggestions as to the benefits of utilization, and this enthusiasm is carried through to colorful wizards and dialogs that will help the average office worker use PKI and related functionality intuitively.

There is good integration with MS Office products such as Word and Excel, making it easy to sign documents in these applications. In Word, for example, an additional toolbar is provided with an Office Guard menu item. These proved a little temperamental on the test workstation running Windows 2000 SP 4 and Office 2000, sometimes bringing up the required dialogs, sometimes not (the vendors say they are working on a fix for this).

Some wizards, while colorful and clear, were not slick in operation. For example, clicking on an encrypted file within Windows Explorer fires up the Tarmin Office Guard administration module, which immediately tries to access the internet, followed by the file decryption wizard which takes several steps before allowing access. This could drive you crazy on a daily basis. Similarly, mounting or dismounting a virtual drive via the wizards is a lengthy process, as are many operations (the vendor noted there are quicker ways to do this through one-click settings, but they might not be obvious to users).

This is par for the course with Office Guard, plenty of dialogs and on-screen activity in order to accomplish fundamental tasks which might be a click away. A case of programming verbosity perhaps. The constant attempts to access the internet are annoying and would, we suspect, quickly turn users off.

This is not a product we would feel comfortable using daily, but making things attractive and intuitive to average MS Office users has merit. The effort towards an attractive presentation is also welcome, and there are some useful functions. We look forward to future versions of Office Guard.

For:

Comprehensive facilities.


Against:

Messy implementation.


Verdict:

An interesting possibility for MS Office users.

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