Folder Lock\'s main user interface. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

Folder Lock does a lot of things right, but its interface makes me want to rip out my eyes. It's great for 1998, but nearly 10 years on you'd think that since we'd all gotten away from animated icons on Web pages, that the goofy UIs publishers try to foist on us would be gone, too.

But you'd be wrong.

Folder Lock is a great example of this because it's a great program otherwise. It has two main functions: to password protect your files and to encrypt them. It does those functions better than well. Encryption uses the 256-bit Blowfish algorithm, and both it and the password protection can be accessed either from the context menu or by dragging-and-dropping into the Folder Lock secure folder.

There's a veritable treasure trove of advanced functionality as well. You can set files to be shredded; force the computer to shut down after failed password entry attempts; erase document history, the clipboard, and more; and enter into Stealth mode, which hides the app's presence on your computer. All of them contribute to an excellent way for those with administrator access to prevent sensitive files from being seen by the wrong eyes.

Unfortunately, the Folder Lock interface itself goes in for cute when clean would be much more effective. The base skin is a shade of bluish purple somewhere between a three-day-old bruise and a crayon, but that's the least of the problems. The app is shaped--yes, shaped, because a simple rectangle wouldn't do--like a kid's action-figure package. In front of the backing board there's an octagon, topped by a circle. Within that circle are four orange circles.

Folder Lock\'s Advanced Settings menu isn\'t easy to get to and still requires more clicking to see your choices. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

One of them is for options, one is a button to lock the secure folder, one is a button for help, and the last has a key sticking out of it. Click the key to watch it turn and "open" the secure folder. Cute, yes. But hardly necessary.

The worst of it is the location of the options panel. You can access it via the Options button in the middle of the control panel or a tab on the side. The panel then slides out, revealing three more Option buttons. Click Advanced Options to reveal the Settings panel, where there's no indication that clicking on a setting name, such as "Hacker Attempts," does anything. In fact, to get to the advanced settings, you must click on one of the settings names.

The frustrating thing is that with all Folder Lock's features, some of which are very useful, there needs to be an uncluttered interface. What the publishers have created, instead of amusement, is a great way to slow down getting the program to do what you want it to, and that just builds frustration. Sure, it's only a couple seconds of frustration, but who has that kind of time to waste?