Whether you’re protecting sensitive financial documents from thieves or you’re hiding your embarrassing journal secrets from your nosey sibling, keeping the contents of your computer safe from prying eyes is important. Encrypting your hard drive is an effective solution, but may be overkill for many users.
DocWallet is a lockbox for your Mac that allows you to store any kind of file with full encryption, without having to worry about disk partitions. There are a number of ways to protect the data on your Mac, and DocWallet tries to set itself apart from the competition with drag-and-drop simplicity. How does it fare in everyday usage?
You are greeted by a brief tutorial when you first launch the app and asked to create a password. A small gauge helps visualize its strength. DocWallet politely reminds you that if you forget this password, there will be no way to recover it. The lack of a recovery feature can be problematic for the forgetful, but as we have learned from high-profile hacks of online accounts, the password recovery feature is often the weakest link in the security chain.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: DocWallet is not pretty. The black and gold theme feels like it was stripped from the cheesy decor of a Vegas casino in the 80’s. The dark background makes some of the grey text hard to see, and overall, it’s just not a pleasure having the window open.
Visual unpleasantness aside, the layout is intuitive, relying on a single window without any distinct columns to organize your navigation. Across the top of the window are buttons to sync your database and import new files, as well as access to the settings panel and a quick-lock button. Below these controls are buttons to create a new folder, as well as view-options to change from a list to a grid view.
The main listing of your files are shown with some basic, sortable categories, including name, modified date, size, and a colored dot indicating whether or not it has been synced. At the top level, you can place either files or folders, and to demonstrate this, you are given a few empty folders and a welcome document when you first launch DocWallet. You also get some basic shortcuts, including a quick jump back to the parent folder and a quick-lock.
While the import button brings up a simple Finder window to help locate files you may want to add, the app allows simple drag-and-drop functionality from anywhere on your system. I found that dropping files and folders worked seamlessly. DocWallet accepts many common file types, but there are limitations to what it will take. I was able to drop most common text and photo formats, PDFs, and all the standard Microsoft Office formats. However, I wasn’t able to drop Photoshop files (or any Creative Suite files, for that matter).
Perhaps the most appealing feature that DocWallet has to offer is a cloud syncing solution. The developers have created versions of DocWallet for iPhone, iPad, and even Windows, which certainly removes most of the potential obstacles to accessing your files on the go. Unfortunately, syncing isn’t offered as part of the free download, and will cost you $11 per year for syncing between three devices, and $22 per year for syncing between unlimited devices.
If you decide to purchase syncing, the app allows you to export your settings so that DocWallet will behave the same way on all of your devices. A much more elegant solution would just be to sync the settings automatically, or at least give you the option to do so rather than deal with exporting and importing the file. I found the syncing to work quickly, and you can choose to either have the app sync on startup or to force the sync manually.
Ultimately, I think there is a market for apps like this, but potential users should evaluate what their needs are before jumping in. DocWallet is built to serve as a self-contained secure file system, and in designing the app, the developers tried to recreate the wheel. A simple, Finder-like interface would have sufficed, but the clunky structure makes navigation overly-complicated. Syncing is a nice additional feature, but the yearly subscription cost isn’t competitive with what similar services charge.
If encrypting files is a more robust way to keep others from seeing private files, you may want to consider apps like MacHider, which simply hide the files from anyone using your computer. If you just need to sync files, Dropbox and similar cloud services are free, they accept all file types, and offer integration with Finder. Of course, DocWallet’s selling point is the encryption function that prevents others from accessing your data locally, and for that purpose, DocWallet does its job. The basic app without syncing is free, and if you just need a locker, it’s worth trying out.