Utility software

Personal Antispam X4 10.4

Intego’s Personal Antispam X4 (10.4.2) is one of a couple of easy-to-use spam utilities that work within your e-mail application. I prefer this approach because it leaves all my e-mail in one location where I can easily manage everything. I’m nervous about a stand-alone spam filter accidentally deleting or failing to forward mail that I want.

This program supports POP as well as IMAP accounts--though that support is limited to the Apple Mail (   ) and Microsoft Entourage (   ) e-mail clients. It’s also the most expensive spam utility I’ve tested and, regrettably, the expense doesn’t stop with the initial purchase. Intego asks that you pay a yearly fee of $30 (after the first year) to receive monthly updates to its database of spammer URLs.

Personal Antispam uses a variety of techniques for filtering your e-mail, including a statistical learning filter, black- and whitelists (it can automatically add Address Book contacts to the whitelist), and attachment filtering (the program filters .bat, .cpl, .pif, and .scr attachments by default, and you can add attachment types if you like). It will also mark as spam those messages sent from URLs identified as being associated with spammers, as well as those with certain language encodings. You can disable any of these filters by deselecting the appropriate checkboxes in Personal Antispam’s main window. That same window supplies a statistical bar graph that details the number of spam messages you’ve received over a period of 30 days, 7 days, or 24 hours.

Setup is largely a snap. When you launch the program for the first time, Personal Antispam asks whether you’d like to use it with Mail or Entourage or both. Its setup assistant does all the work necessary to get the utility to function with Mail. To install the program for use with Entourage, you must adjust Entourage’s Junk Mail settings and create a rule. All this is explained in the manual. Once it's installed, you restart your Mac, register the application, and launch it to configure a few options.

For example, you need to tell it if you want to automatically filter e-mails with Asian or Cyrillic encodings, specifically filter mail with Japanese encodings, or consider any e-mail whose subject line begins with ADV to be spam.

The program adds a menu item to your e-mail client that you use to label messages either as good or as spam. You can train Personal Antispam with archives of spam and good mail just as you can with SpamSieve 2.5 (   ), which also works within your e-mail program. Just select any messages in Mail or Entourage, choose Antispam’s Learn Spam command, and it will do what you ask.

Once you’ve installed the program, simply download your e-mail and Personal Antispam will channel messages it believes to be spam into a Spam folder. Out of the box, it’s anything but accurate, as its statistical learning filter has nothing to base its decisions on. While it’s learning, it tends to allow spam through rather than sternly shifting good e-mail into the Spam folder.

The program respects any server settings you’ve configured for your e-mail accounts--meaning that messages are deleted only when you’ve told your e-mail client to do so. And once you’ve trained the program, you can export its settings and share them with other Personal Antispam users--thus shortening the time it takes them to train the program.

Macworld’s buying advice

Intego’s Personal Antispam X4 (10.4.2) provides ease of use and safety thanks to its built-in nature, and it’s also configurable enough that you can create complex rules for its black- and whitelists. While its suspect-URL database is a great feature, it’s regrettable that you have to pay an annual subscription fee to keep it up to date. The program’s price, that annual subscription fee, and the fact that it only works with two e-mail clients prevents Personal Antispam from receiving my highest praise.

[ Christopher Breen is a senior editor at Macworld.]

[ EDITOR’S NOTE: April 12, 2007 - This review was amended to reflect the fact that Personal Antispam X4 can be trained immediately with archives of spam and good email. ]

Personal Antispam X4 does the job within your e-mail client.

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