Utility software

Spamfire 2.3

Matterform Media’s Spamfire 2.3 is one of several spam utilities that act outside of your e-mail client—downloading all your e-mail, filtering it, deleting the spam from the server, and leaving only the good stuff for your inbox. It’s easy to configure, separates spam and good e-mail into Definite, Probable, and Borderline groups, and offers flexible rule configuration. But it’s also occasionally unstable, and like Intego’s Personal Antispam X4 10.4.2 (   ), it requires a yearly subscription fee to maintain its database of spammy URLs.

Like other spam utilities, Spamfire offers editable black- and whitelists as part of its Senders preference as well as Bayesian filters, which you can reset but not edit. Spamfire’s corpus —the collection of words the Bayesian filter uses to identify spam—can only be pruned to remove old entries that slow down filtering without improving accuracy. The program also includes a renewable 12-month subscription ($13) to receive updates to its URL filters database (a long list of spam sites). Additionally, you can create conditional rules much like those in Apple’s Mail and Microsoft’s Entourage— If Body Text Contains Cialis Mark as Spam, for example.

Spamfire includes a Revenge feature that lets you report spam and phishing schemes to SpamCrime (a Web-based spam reporting service), the spammer’s ISP, the FTC, PayPal, and eBay (and you can add additional reporting authorities). Unlike earlier versions of the program, Spamfire 2.3 doesn’t attempt to bounce spam back to the sender, a technique that is not only ineffective but often punishes the innocent and junks up the Internet with needless traffic.

When you first launch Spamfire, it walks you through a setup assistant where you choose your e-mail client (Qualcomm’s Eudora (   ), Bare Bones Software’s Mailsmith (   ), Microsoft Entourage (   ), Mozilla Thunderbird, Apple Mail (   ), and CTM Development’s PowerMail (   ) are all supported) and import addresses from a text file if you like (Spamfire automatically adds the contacts in Address Book to its whitelist). It then presents you with a list of e-mail accounts to choose from (it checks Mail and Entourage’s preferences for these accounts). It can automatically import your POP and IMAP e-mail settings from these programs.

For POP accounts, the program changes your e-mail account’s configuration settings so that it works through a local proxy—retrieving pre-filtered e-mail via the Spamfire application rather than directly from your ISP. IMAP accounts don’t work through a proxy. Any messages filtered from an IMAP account are re-e-mailed through your SMTP server. Spamfire can separate your good and bad mail into Definite, Probable, and Borderline folders, thus making it easier to locate spam and good mail that’s “on the edge.” This is a nice touch and is similar to what SpamSieve (   ) does by color-coding mail based on its “spamminess.”

The program has a couple of obvious flaws. The first is that it offers no preview pane. Instead, to view the contents of a message in order to judge its worth, you must open the message in a separate window. The program is also too ready to delete mail from the server. While testing a number of spam utilities I intentionally left spam messages on my POP and IMAP servers and Spamfire deleted them. I could certainly forward those messages to myself, but I prefer the safety of being able to leave messages on the server and then delete them when I want to, rather than my spam utility taking that liberty. That’s one of the reasons I prefer programs such as C-Command’s SpamSieve and Intego’s Personal Antispam (   ), which work within your e-mail client.

Lastly, the program seems a little unstable. More than a few times, it did nothing while supposedly retrieving mail, even though the application wasn’t technically locked up. The vendor is currently working on a Universal version of the program and says that this upgrade should also improve reliability.

Macworld’s buying advice

I like how easy it is to use Spamfire 2.3 and I appreciate its ability to filter mail into subcategories—that does make it easier to separate the borderline messages from the definitely good or bad ones. And, if I were looking for retribution, I’d find its Revenge feature helpful. But I’m a little uncomfortable with the amount of control it has over the mail on my POP and IMAP servers, I don’t like having to pay yearly subscription fees (however modest), and I wish it were a little more stable. Spamfire will certainly cut down on the amount of spam you receive, but SpamSieve does the job more easily and safely.

[ Christopher Breen is a senior editor at Macworld.]

Spamfire’s Filter Results tab can tell you how the program reached its conclusions.

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