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Safe: Encrypted File System

Welcome to the Safe source!

Safe is an application that makes it easy to encrypt your files. When you encrypt your files with Safe they are rendered unreadable to anyone who doesn't have your password.

Safe aims to be cross-platform and currently runs on Windows and Mac OS X. It works with all applications and file types and can store encrypted files anywhere.

Safe is licensed under the GPLv3 and is based on free software.

Repository Layout

  • GNUmakefile: main make file
  • Xcode/: Xcode project
  • assets/: non-code source (e.g. vector graphics)
  • dependencies/: packaged third-party dependency sources
  • resources/: pre-built static binary resources for Windows build
  • src/: all source code, organized by component
  • tools/: build and development tools, usually scripts


Safe's core is composed of two projects, Davfuse and EncFS. Davfuse is essentially used as an embeddable WebDAV server. EncFS is an encryption file system based on FUSE.

Safe glues Davfuse, EncFS and the file system together to run a loopback WebDAV server that does on-the-fly file encryption. Safe integrates with the user's file system by instructing the operating system to mount the WebDAV server.

Currently, Safe runs a separate WebDAV server instance for each encrypted volume. Additionally, each WebDAV server instance gets its own thread. This may change in the future.

Safe's provides minimal UI so that a user can create, mount, and otherwise manupulate their encrypted volumes. No cross-platform UI layer is used, instead the UI re-implemented for each supported platform using the native system UI library.

Source Code Conventions

Safe is a C++11 project. Certain C++11 features are adopted to minimize the chances of programming errors using C++11 features.

  • All functions signal error via the C++ exception mechanism.

  • "Out" parameters are not allowed, it is better to return an aggregate value (the "return value optimization" is relied upon).

  • Do not use naked new / delete, only use std::unique_ptr and std::shared_ptr. If you must pass raw pointers via C-based mechanisms, use std::unique_ptr::unique_ptr() and std::unique_ptr::release().

  • Use RAII for C-based resources via safe::create_deferred() and safe::ManagedResource<>.

Since Safe is a cross-platform project, it is sometimes necessary to use alternative languages and their conventions. For instance, typically Objective-C method do not throw C++ exceptions and instead return nil. All Objective-C methods in Safe should follow the idiomatic Objective-C conventions. When implementing an internal cross-platform C++11 interface in Objective-C, make sure to translate between the two conventions, e.g. turn nil return values into C++ exceptions.

Source Code Layout

All directories in src/ mirror the C++ namespace the code exists in. For example, all the source code in the src/w32util directory lives in the w32util C++ namespace.

  • src/mount_webdav_interpose: code specific to the bundled webdavfs_agent override library

  • src/safe: Safe application code

  • src/safe/mac: Mac OS X specific Safe application code

  • src/safe/win: Windows specific Safe application code

  • src/update_driver: code specific to the bundled update_driver.exe executable

  • src/w32util: our internal Win32 C++ support library

In general most code should go into the src/safe directory unless it is specific to a particular platform or it is specific to an external helper binary that Safe bundles.

Design Philosophy

Above all else, Safe aims to be minimal. It aims to do one thing well and consistently. That one thing is to make it easy for people to encrypt their files, nothing more. Once this goal is accomplished, Safe should stay out of the way.

This philosophy also bleeds into how Safe is built. Minimal effort and minimal code are of the utmost importance. Don't architect things super intricately upfront. First do something reasonably minimal and refine incrementally as necessary. Asymptotically, simple things should be simple, and complex things should be composed of simpler things, nothing should be composed of more complex things.

Here are some manifestations of Safe's design philosophy:

  • Keep external dependencies low, only rely on a dependency if the vast majority of the functionality is required.
  • No unused code.
  • No third-party UI library, use native UI library and use minimal internal application-specific interfaces.
  • No reliance on over-generalized autotools or build system, Safe will never build for more than a handful of platforms.
  • Minimal UI, minimal options, just do whatever is best and most secure for the user.
  • No installer, just a portable executable.


Before building make sure you have Safe's other dependencies in the same directory as this package: davfuse, encfs, protobuf. These dependencies are not stock and contain Safe-specific patches, they are also versioned with Safe, so you need to make sure you have the right ones.

If you downloaded the Safe source release package (the .tar.gz), you should already have all the right files.

If you obtained Safe from the GitHub repository, make sure you checked out That is a meta-repository that contains each correctly versioned dependency as a git submodule.



Before you can build Safe, you need the following stock prerequisites. Default options are fine.

After installation make sure that both CMake and Python are accessible from the MSYS command prompt. Try running the cmake command and the python command. If they are not, you will have to add them to your Windows %PATH% environment variable.


Simply run:

$ make dependencies

Then run:

$ make Safe.exe

Mac OS X



The Mac OS X application is built using Xcode, simply launch Xcode and open the Xcode/Safe.xcodeproj located in this directory. Once launched, select the Xcode "Run" command. The first time Safe is run it may take a while as it first builds its dependencies.


Copyright (c) 2013, 2014 Rian Hunter

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see

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