Utility software

SpamSieve 2.6

C-Command’s SpamSieve 2.6.1 is the gold standard of spam utilities, by which other utilities should be judged. It earns this high regard for a variety of reasons, not least of which are its accuracy and ease of use.

SpamSieve, which works within a variety of e-mail clients, including Apple Mail (   ), Microsoft Entourage (   ), Qualcomm’s Eudora (   ), Gyaz Square’s GyazMail (   ), Bare Bones Software’s Mailsmith (   ), Mozilla’s Thunderbird, and CTM Development’s PowerMail (   ), requires some configuration to get up and running correctly.

Although the SpamSieve menu includes commands for installing Mail, Entourage, and Eudora plug-ins, you must also configure your e-mail client’s rules so that they can access the AppleScripts that help SpamSieve do its job. SpamSieve’s manual includes easy-to-follow instructions for doing this, though a setup application would be welcome.

Once installed, SpamSieve’s training commands appear either in an AppleScript menu (Entourage) or within a program menu (Mail). When SpamSieve makes a mistake, simply select the incorrectly tagged message and invoke either the Train Good or Train Spam command to correct it. By default, SpamSieve will color-code messages in Mail to indicate their level of spamminess, thus making it easier to identify borderline messages.

Like other spam utilities, SpamSieve uses a variety of techniques for sorting the good mail from bad. It has a blacklist (called a blocklist in the program) as well as a whitelist—mark a message as spam and the sender is sent to the blocklist. Entries in your Mail, Eudora, or Entourage address book are automatically entered in the whitelist, as are the contacts for mail you accept. You can add, subtract, and edit entries in these lists as well as create rules within them.

SpamSieve employs a form of Bayesian filtering and can use the Habeas Safelist. This is a service that requires members to pass a rigorous audit of “best practices” to ensure that their services aren’t used for spamming. Members of the Habeas Safelist can then embed their membership in the headers of e-mail messages they send. SpamSieve looks for this header entry and gives messages that include it favorable treatment.

Unlike other spam utilities I’ve used, SpamSieve lets you train it with groups of selected spam and good e-mail. If you’ve got a few hundred spam and good messages archived in your e-mail client, this helps SpamSieve become acceptably accurate within a matter of minutes rather than the days it can take to train other programs. It also supports both POP and IMAP e-mail accounts.

I like the fact that SpamSieve mostly works within my e-mail client so I rarely need to muck with a separate application or risk losing e-mail in transit between a spam utility and my e-mail software. (To work with the program’s address lists and rules or its corpus—the collection of words the Bayesian filter uses to identify spam—you will need to switch to the SpamSieve application.) SpamSieve is easily trained, and if you want to go beyond the basics and configure your own filters or edit your black- and whitelists, it allows you to do so without a lot of bother. And after just a couple of days of use, it’s nearly transparent to the user.

Macworld’s buying advice

SpamSieve 2.6.1 should be on the lips of all Mac users serious about ridding their computers of junk mail. It’s affordable, effective, easy to use, and as configurable as just about anyone needs a spam utility to be. While other spam software may filter your mail nearly as well, none performs the job as transparently as SpamSieve.

[ Christopher Breen is a senior editor at Macworld.]

SpamSieve mostly hides in the background, but you can check its work by pulling up its Statistics window.
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