EmailCRX 1.6.2

Hendrickson Software Components’ EmailCRX 1.6.2 is one of a number of spam utilities that attempts to separate good messages from junk using a variety of spam-busting techniques. Once it’s filtered your e-mail (and you’ve corrected its mistakes), it removes the junk from your POP server and then allows you to download your now-sanitized e-mail.

I prefer spam utilities that work within the confines of my e-mail client. That way, all my e-mail is in one location where it can be easily managed. I’m a little leery of working with separate utilities, as I’ve seen such utilities delete the wrong items from the server.

Unlike most other spam utilities, EmailCRX doesn’t use statistical learning filters--the most common of which are Bayesian filters that identify spam by the kind and frequency of certain words in your messages. Instead, it relies on blacklist and whitelist entries; these are based on user-defined phrases, a whitelist of friends (you can import your OS X Address Book contacts), country filters that allow you to reject e-mail based on its country of origin, an optional challenge/response system that requires correspondents to verify their identity, and a reverse-DNS (rDNS) system that looks for valid entries in message headers.

The program also includes a Report Abuse feature that attempts to contact the spammer’s ISP to report the spam being sent through the service. Satisfying as it may be to rat out spammers, using this feature could net you several return messages, either acknowledging the report or bouncing back to you as undeliverable.

The program isn’t easy to set up without instruction; it's populated with scads of options. You must configure your POP account manually (the program doesn’t support IMAP accounts) as well as make a variety of filtering decisions. Because EmailCRX sends your good e-mail to you via a proxy server, you must also configure your e-mail client so that it downloads its mail via EmailCRX rather than directly from your ISP’s POP server. The developer understands that configuration can be tricky and provides a detailed and easy-to-follow installation guide.

EmailCRX has the smell of a Windows port. For example, when you open a window--the program’s Settings or Messages window, say--you must close that window before you can open another one. Try to open another window and you discover that all the items in the Database menu (which holds all the program’s important commands) are grayed out. And the main EmailCRX window holds two square transparent buttons; the tooltips that accompany each tell you that clicking one puts the program to sleep and the other generates a log file. Very un-Mac-like.

The program’s main Messages window could be improved as well. For example, you can’t sort mail by date and time received. You can only sort by message number (which works poorly, as EmailCRX puts message 57 between messages 569 and 570), Status (spam, read, reliable, and country), Subject, and From. Fortunately, unlike some other spam utilities, it does include a preview pane, so you can see the contents of a selected message without opening a separate window.

One of the disadvantages of using a spam utility that relies on statistical learning filters is that you have to train it. The utility needs to have a fair idea of what you consider spam and enough example messages to accurately assess both good and bad e-mail. Given that EmailCRX doesn’t use statistical learning filters--and therefore doesn’t need to be taught, relying instead on spotting legitimate information in message headers--it’s a little surprising that it’s not more accurate when you first use it. Its Countries filter does quickly identify a fair amount of spam, and once I’d identified a few hundred messages (and thus beefed up its black- and whitelists), it caught much of my spam. And while challenge/response is certainly effective, many people don’t care to use it because it places the burden of your spam problems on the people you correspond with. I should repeat, however, that this feature is optional.

Macworld’s buying advice

I favor spam utilities that work within my e-mail client and EmailCRX doesn’t do that. It does offer a variety of ways to filter your e-mail but lacks a statistical learning filter, which could help improve its results. I’m not keen on challenge/response systems but they do work and those who like them may welcome the addition. I wish the program was a little easier to set up and that it was more Mac-like. Thankfully, there are alternatives, like C-Command’s SpamSieve 2.6 (   ) that are both easy to use and effective.

[ Christopher Breen is a senior editor at Macworld.]

EmailCRX’s preview pane makes it easy to view a message’s content.

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