Miscellaneous Ramblings

Three Spam Management Tools

Charles Moore - 2003.07.21 - Tip Jar

"What has a front, has a back," the Taoist philosophers contend, and "the bigger the front, the bigger the back."

Email is one of the most revolutionary innovations of our time, but its backside is spam, that onslaught of unsolicited commercial come-ons and just plain scams that descends relentlessly on our email inboxes like a plague of cyber-locusts.

Applelinks Webmaster Joe Ryan tells me that his spam filters weed out some 10,000 spam messages per day, but even at that, about two-thirds of the messages that make it through to my Applelinks inbox are spam.

However, spam is not inevitable. I have about 20 email accounts, and I would estimate that roughly 98 percent of the spam I receive goes to just three of them - my Applelinks, Low End Mac, and Mac Opinion accounts, respectively - the addresses that are published on the Web.

Even a couple of other accounts I use where addresses get published in my print newspaper columns and articles receive very little spam. And I have several other accounts that I only release the addresses of to select family, friends, and business contacts that never get any spam - really.

For the accounts that are under siege from spam-mongers, I use three different anti-spam tools; all of them passive or semi-passive rather than aggressively proactive.

Eudora 6.0 "Junk" Filtering

Once you install Eudora 6.0, a new mailbox called Junk appears in your mailbox list. The Junk mailbox is like the In, Out, and Trash mailboxes. It cannot be deleted or renamed.

When you check for mail, Eudora attempts to recognize which incoming messages are unsolicited, and those messages are filtered into the Junk mailbox. Your incoming mail goes through the Junk filter before any other filter you may have set up. After 30 days, Eudora automatically deletes these messages (you can configure a warning dialog to give you ultimate discretion).

Perhaps several messages Eudora filters into in the Junk mailbox may not, in fact, be junk mail. To manage messages you do not consider junk mail that reside in the Junk mailbox, do the following:

  1. Scan the messages in the Junk mailbox and select those that you consider not junk mail.
  2. From the Message Menu, choose: Not Junk

By choosing the Not Junk command, the messages you selected are automatically filtered to go to the designated mailboxes you have previously set up.

With time, Eudora will learn which messages you deem not junk and place them in your In box automatically. Conversely, if you find Junk mail in your other mailboxes, just choose Junk from the Message Menu, and these messages are transferred to the Junk mailbox. Eudora will eventually learn to recognize these messages as junk and filter them into the Junk mailbox.

Eudora distinguishes junk mail by a scoring system. You can adjust this scoring threshold by using this slide bar. If you slide the arrow to a low number, Eudora filters junk mail but perhaps not all junk mail. If you slide the arrow to a high number, Eudora filters all junk mail but may also filter legitimate mail to the Junk mailbox. The default setting is at the score of 50.

Mail isn't junk if the sender is in an address book
Check this box to indicate that mail coming from people in their address books should never be marked as junk mail.

Not Junked senders in address book
Check this box to indicate that senders of legitimate mail found in the Junk mailbox should be added to the address book. Future mail from this sender will never be filtered to the Junk mailbox again. This function works with the previous field.

Hold junk in Junk mailbox
Check this box if you actually do want Eudora to filter what it considers junk mail to the Junk mailbox. If this is not checked, junk mail will appear in your In box.

Junk mailbox is never marked unread
Check this box if you want your junk mail never to show that it's unread; that is, not to show a blue dot in the message status column.

Remove mail that is at least _ days old
Enter the number of days you'd like Eudora to keep junk mail in the Junk mailbox. Eudora scans the Junk mailbox daily and removes the messages after the set number of days you enter in this field.

Warn before removing
Check this box if you want Eudora to warn you that junk mail messages are about to be removed.

I should note here that in practice fairly frequently messages I do want to receive are shunted to the "Junk" box by Eudora 6.0. This is preferable to them being arbitrarily trashed, and while it can be configured out to some degree, it is one reason why do not opt for more aggressive anti-spam measures. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

System requirements: Mac OS 8.1 or higher, PowerPC

Eudora may be operated in a $49.95 paid version, an ad-supported version, or a reduced-feature light version - all available in the same download.

POPMonitor 2.1.1

For those of us with slow, dialup accounts, spam is a double whammy. Not only does it waste time trashing unwanted junk messages, it also clogs precious bandwidth, especially with spam ads that have large attachments. The answer is to use software that can preview what's in your server's inbox and allow you to delete obvious spam before downloading your mail.

POPMonitor is a cool little shareware email utility, available in both OS X and Classic versions, that allows you to not only preview the contents of your email boxes before downloading, but also to instantly create blocking filters that can automatically delete subsequent messages from blocked addresses without even previewing them. You can also "bounce" previewed messages that you what return to sender.

You can configure POPMonitor to automatically delete messages from blocked senders. or automatically delete messages that match any filter, and set POPmonitor to switch directly to your email application after it has checked and filtered your mailbox. POPmonitor will first remove any unwanted messages from your mailbox and then tell your email application to receive the remaining messages.

You can display selected messages in separate windows. POPmonitor will not show the entire message but just downloaded part of it. You can specify the size of the downloaded part in the Account Settings window under Read X lines of the message body.

POPmonitor is $25 shareware. The unregistered version of POPmonitor lets you create one mail account, three trusted senders, three blocked senders, and three custom filters. After registering you can create an unlimited number of each.

Editor's note: I use POPmonitor 1.1 every morning before downloading email. This older program isn't automated like 2.0, but it lets me eliminate almost all the spam from the server by

  1. Sorting by date and deleting anything from January 2001. For some reason, a lot of spam is dated from that month.
  2. Sort by To: address. If it's not specifically addressed to my, it's almost always junk.
  3. Sort by Subject. Delete email with no subject, obvious nonsense, and anything else that looks like spam.

By the time I've done that, some mailboxes have no legitimate email left, some only a few, and almost every mailbox I check has some spam deleted before downloading. dk

Nisus Email 1.6.1

Nisus Email is my third anti-spam tool and one of the email clients I use regularly. It is arguably the most unique among more than a dozen POP3 email clients available for the Mac OS, and I find its ability to preview incoming mail and delete messages without downloading them a killer feature on some of my more spam-plagued email accounts.

Unlike POPMonitor, Nisus Email does not let you preview message content before downloading, but its advantage is that you can preview and download to your email inbox and archives with just one application. Nisus Email also allows you to selectively leave large messages on the server for later and just download the ones you want right now while deleting the junk, all in one operation.

Nisus Email, of course, has many other excellent attributes, and indeed its feature set is so deep that I've not discovered everything this program has to offer even after three years of use.

Nisus Email is available in both Classic and OS X native (Carbon) versions and sells for $29.95.

Read my full review of the older Nisus Email version 1.09 on Applelinks.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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