Excel Encryption

Regular reader Wolfgang sent me an encryption concept a few months ago. At first glance, it looked like a really good idea. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to delve into it, but you can. See Encryptor-Decryptor.

It encrypts only locked cells in select worksheets, so that you can “partially encrypt” a workbook, leaving some cells accessible and visible, and others inaccessible.

Somebody download it for the 5 free days and tell me what you think. I didn’t note a price on the website, which would probably influence my decision. Also, I encourage the developers to make the trial 30 days; five just isn’t enough.

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22 thoughts on “Excel Encryption

  1. The idea of encrypting portions of a workbook is good, but I wouldn’t trust this guy’s crypto binaries with my apple pie recipe. Proprietary and unrevealed encryption algorithms are BAD BAD BAD.

    Not only are no details of what crypto algorithm is used revealed (usually a sign they’re using Bubba’s Extra Cool Fancy Neat Crypto) but you can’t even regsvr32 the dll and look at the public interface of his library. If the dev were to link in the MS encryption libraries, I would be much more interested. Otherwise, there is absolutely no assurance that their crypto is at all secure.

    I wouldn’t touch this silliness with a 10 foot pole.

  2. Hi Dick…

    thank you very much for kind support…

    …the price will be 40 bucks or 35 euro

    …yes, we will increase the trial to an internationally accepted 30 days

    best,
    wolfgang

  3. Hi lon..

    if you would be kind enough to send us your apple pie recipe, we will consider using your code..

    we are always eager to learn something new, even when thrown at us in your unique friendly way..

    why not use a 20 foot pole? just to make sure, you know…

    …as the late frank kabel used to say: there are people and there are people

    best,
    wolfgang

  4. As long as the suppliers is honest and points out the pro’s and con’s of their products people in general can make their own judgements and decisions about the product and services.

    The future will judge weather a product like this has any relevance for the large population of Excel end-users worldwide.

    Personally I fully agree with the following quote from the site:

    “The only real way to protect the code is to compile it to machine code as a COM…”

    However, If You really want to protect something a good start is to *not* use a computer ;)

    Good luck with the feedback and the development of the tool!

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  5. wolfgang,

    I got curious and downloaded the package.

    Since I always begin to read the helpfile I did not make any exception here.

    If Your intention is to make a commercial product then I highly recommend to improve the helpfile, both the structure and the design.

    Have a look on Macromedia RoboHelp which is a capable and easy tool for it, which is well worth the money.

    You need to re-organize the content so it will have a logical structure from an user perspective, i e guide them.

    Of course, You should explicit mention terms of supports and also an e-mailaddress.

    Are any entitle for free update or?

    There are also questions raised due to some confusions:

    “The product may be used with Microsoft Excel 97 and higher.”

    OK and FYI the internally number is 8.0.

    “MICROSOFT OFFICE 9.0 OBJECT LIBRARY or higher version”

    Which refers to 2000!

    What about using the tool with Excel 97 and Windows 95?
    I recommend You to explicit state some of the information in the helpfile on You page in order to give people a good picture before any decision.

    You mention license agreement but only a disclaimer of warranty is available. Re-write the disclaimer as its impression is negative, i e I interprate it as “hey, use it on Your own risk and don’t call us for any support and help…”

    In my experience a good helpfile gives the users a good start and increase the impression of a professional product.

    I have no interest to make any further input about the tool itself.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  6. hi dennis,

    i really appreciate your comments for their clarity and supporting nature…

    it is relatively easy to say: hey, what is this sh.. and throwing it away immediately…

    i also agree that people may express their comments but in a world-wide accepted way, there is no need to be aggressive..

    we really have to think about turning this into a commercial product for all three of us are employed (not self-), so there is limited time available

    i only had this idea when reading our local forums and learned that almost every third or forth topic dealt with individual cell protection..

    we could turn this into a “free-bee” but only after our expenses have been “nulled” out as we asked for external coding help which we gladly found in the person of damon ostrander…

    btw, we do have an e-mail address which is shown at our site…

    anyway, we do need to discuss this issue amongst us regarding it’s future or limit ourselves to a local version only…

    again, many thanx for your valuable inputs submitted in a friendly way…

    best regards,
    wolfgang

  7. Wolfgang,

    You’re welcome :)

    Creating and selling any commercial add-in put demand on long-term commitment and a professional support.

    In general it’s the same commitment as with all kind of softwares.

    Let the above be Your guide in the decision making process.

    Hopefully You will get some more technical feedback as well.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  8. Just my 2 cts:

    A couple of years ago I’ve developed a product *I* thought (silly me) potentially would be good to sell. It is called Autosafe and was developed long before Excel XP got it’s autorecovery features. (see http://www.jkp-ads.com/Download.htm). In my opinion it is better than autorecovery too.

    I thought companies would be interested in a product that potentially can prevent many manhours of work lost due to a crash (and Excel 97 and 2000 were far from stable…).

    I proved wrong. Single users don’t have the authority to move their IT dept to buy such an addin and IT departments are too busy keeping their email systems up and running and resetting user passwords to even bother to consider such an improvement.

    This is one of the reasons all my current addins are free and are just there to show potential clients what they might expect from me.

    I don’t want to put you off to much, but I’ve been there…

  9. JK –

    Just today, I was reminded how superior your Autosafe tool is. I was working on a new version of a workbook, but accidentally made my changes in the current version. After I copied a range from one sheet to another, I saved the file. Then I realized that I’d cut the source range, and bolluxed up the formulas and links in the target range, and the good version had been overwritten by the save. A-a-a-a-rgh!

    But I remembered that your Autosafe puts the backups into the temp directory, and from there into the recycle bin. The version in the temp folder was the same as the one I’d destroyed, but the newest one in the recycle bin was the latest good one. I restored it, and in less than five minutes, I’d saved myself a good hour of rewriting formulas.

    The autorecovery feature of Excel is not flexible enough to allow on-the-fly recovery of workbooks. It’s only available for fleeting moments at the beginning of start-up, and if I don’t explicitly recover a workbook, it causes Excel to crash upon unloading (I can’t save one until a later instance of Excel).

    Since you don’t charge for your add-ins, I guess I owe you a beer for Autosafe. And probably another one for the Name Manager.

    Thanks,
    – Jon

  10. hi dennis and jan-karel…

    the major difference between you guys and us is very simple: you are outspoken experts whereas we are, with the exception of damon, rookies who just had an idea…

    dennis’s
    Let the above be Your guide in the decision making process….

    and jan-karel’s
    I donít want to put you off to much, but Iíve been thereÖ

    will definitely be taken into our consideration…

    thanx again…

    best,
    wolfgang

  11. Hi Wolfgang,

    First of all, kudos to you for developing something that you saw a need for. Hopefully the constructive comments from Dennis [Hi Dennis :)] and JK help.

    I spent close to a year on and off developing an addin that I figured should prove useful as it also deals with a common Excel issue raised in the forums. The actual core code took a week or two to write, the big time consumer was the error proofing, peer review, appearance and front end.

    I deliberated for some time as to whether I should charge for the addin or not – initially I intended to as IMO there were some very flimsy existing tools that charged around $30 for far less functionality.

    Eventually I made it freeware, partly as I didn’t want to suppport it full time (I can’t bear even loking at the code now), it had cost me time and not money, I had already achieved satisfaction by delivering the bloody thing, and mainly because there is so much fanastic free Excel code out there (Name Manager, Find Link etc) that I struggled to justify charging for mine. But had I invested significant dollars as it sounds like you have, I’d be looking to cover my costs as well

    My program has been downloaded over 2000 times and I’ve received three donations for it – and one of thos doesn’t count as it came from a friend. So I’m running at less than a 0.1% donation rate thus far, lots of thankful emails but not many bucks, but thats fine with me as I didn’t need a financial return

    I don’t think there is a pot of money at the end of the rainbow for a generic addin developer, Walkenbach’s PUP (which I have purchased 50 licences for) is the only successful generally aimed addin that I can think of – good luck in proving me wrong

    Best wishes

    Dave

    PS. Thanks JK for the AutoSafe link, I’m checking that one out now.

  12. hi dave…

    i looked at your site and product and all i can say is: wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww…

    we are defenitely lightyears away from all the stuff that you people did/do and your thoughts convinced me (plus the ones from dennis and jk), to turn this into a “non-profit” organization…

    i am going to improve the help section as well as i can and yes, we also gave it already a “donation” thought, knowing that this will be fun to watch…

    it was/is fun to develop something out of the ordinary and here’s how we did it:
    “encryption-software-programming involves 50% memory work, 50% math skills and 50% memory work…”

    from all i’ve learned so far it is clear to me to follow the advises from experts and have a good time…

    thank you very much, dave..

    best,
    wolfgang

  13. Wolfgang,

    That’s why the Daily Dose of Excel is such a great place :)

    Jan-Karel,
    I share Jon’s opinion to 100 % but I still wonder what happen with the Swedish translation of it ;)

    BTW, do You guys, MS MVP, have any influence on MSFT when it comes to the development of coming releases?

    Dave,
    You still have the time to lurk around :)

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  14. Jan-Karel,

    The network-version of Autosafe, it must have been at least 2 years ago and I do not longer keep a copy of it.

    Let me know if You want it translated to Swedish and I will happily do it.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  15. wolfgang,

    No problem, thanks for the kind words. I look forward to seeing your final product

    Dennis,

    Not too much time to lurk, family and work are keeping me very well occupied :)

    Cheers

    Dave

  16. Hi,

    I evaluated the Encrypter-Decrypter and I have to say that I like the idea but I don’t really see the point in it or the value and here’s why.

    If you encrypt the contents of a cell, you prevent users and Excel from ‘seeing’ the contents of the cell. Since most of the uses for Excel involve storing a value or a formula within a cell that impacts on cells somewhere else within the workbook, you prevent the spreadsheet from working. You might as well encrypt the entire file or make a copy for public distribution and delete the cells you don’t want seen.

    It’s my opinion that people need better security in Excel when they’re creating a document for public distribution that uses a set of values and formulas (which should remain hidden) to calculate an ‘end result’ value (which is what the public sees). Excel has full access to the contents of all the cells but the contents of the cell are just shown as garbage to a human reader.

  17. This looks like a neat utility; only problem is (under win2k) I get a ‘cannot find file’ (Cryption.dll) error message when i try and encrypt something. Is there somewhere special I have to put the dll, or something else I need to do? Thanks.

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