Dealing with junk mail

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows for wonderful means of communication—free voice and video calls, no-cost text messaging, and the ability to share your life with thousands of strangers you can call friends. On the other—like in the real world plagued by department store flyers jammed into mailboxes, robocalls, and acolytes moving from door to door to spread The Word—it provides a means for others to junk up your inbox with unwanted missives. In this lesson we’ll look at Mail’s junk mail protections, as well as at other ways you can keep from being overwhelmed with Internet offal.

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam …

You’ve likely heard the term spam used to refer to junk email. This is a reference to a sketch from the BBC’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus where the word spam is chanted over and over. It was specifically applied to unwanted communications thanks to miscreants of the era who filed posts on electronic bulletin boards that repeated the word often enough to scroll other users’ messages off the screen.

Additional measures

Normally I’d wrap this up with “And that’s junk mail filtering under Mail.” But because Mail can do only so much (and I really, really hate spam), I’m going to suggest that there are more things you can do. (As well as things you shouldn’t do.)

Do

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Using Mail's rules, smart mailboxes, and VIPs

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Back in Mac 101’s long-ago days when we were first getting our feet wet with the Finder, I introduced you to smart searching—the process of creating a series of conditions that would display matching files in a list. For instance, you might set up a list of JPEG image files that were over a megabyte in size. As I explained at the time, the idea of stringing together conditions to filter the information you see is a concept that runs throughout Mountain Lion.

One area where this concept is apparent is in Mail’s rules. But rather than using such conditions to deal with files already on your Mac, more often than not, you employ rules to sort your email as it’s delivered to your Mac. Just as an example, let’s apply this idea to the real-life paper mail that we still receive from time to time.

When you open your physical mailbox at home, you find all your mail bunched together—catalogs, magazines, letters from your Auntie Di, bills, advertisements, and Netflix envelopes. Now imagine, instead, opening that mailbox and finding your most important mail (say, envelopes stuffed with money) right up front, personal correspondence that you care about in a little bin to the right side, your Netflix envelope in yet another bin to the left, magazines sitting in their own container near the back of the box, and any junk mail reduced to a bare few ashes. Far more convenient, yes?

The two-condition rule: I cited this rule when discussing how to end the annoyance from everyone in your company hitting the Reply All button when they should instead click Reply. It requires two conditions.

Here’s the scenario: Some division in your company is clueless about when you should and shouldn’t use Reply All. This leads to your receiving one “Welcome Aboard” message followed by umpteen “Me Too!” replies that you care nothing about. But you’d like to filter these things out without missing any important messages directed to you.

In this case, you first configure the very top pop-up menu that appears in the ‘If x of the following conditions are met’ statement. The x, in this case can be either any or all. If you choose any, only one of the conditions has to be met for the following action to be imposed. With all, every condition must be met for the rule to function.

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Creating, sending, and receiving email

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Last week we began our exploration of Apple’s Mail application. Having read through that lesson, you’re familiar with the makeup of the Mail window. This week we’ll turn from geography to communication—creating, sending, and retrieving email. Taking it from the top ...

The New Message window

Click the toolbar’s New Message button, or press Command-N, and the New Message window appears. It has its own toolbar that contains, by default, the following buttons: Send Message, Attach Document, Show Format Bar, Show/Hide Photo Browser, and Show/Hide Stationery Pane. Like Mail’s toolbar, this one is also customizable. Just Control-click (right-click) the toolbar, choose Customize Toolbar, and from the sheet that appears drag the tools you want to the toolbar. From this moment forward, those buttons will appear in every New Message window (or at least until you hold down the Command key and drag them out). We’ll explore these buttons further later in the lesson.

Composing messages

Finally, to the message body—that large area at the bottom of the New Message window that begs to be filled. You could, of course, simply click in this area and start typing, but there are more interesting ways to fill this void. To see what I mean, let’s return to the toolbar.

Attach Document: This first button is one way to send one or more files along with your message. Click it and a navigation sheet appears, which you use to choose the documents that will be bundled with your message.

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The anatomy of the Mail window

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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There are many ways to communicate with others using the tools Apple provides—text, voice and video chats, and posts to social networking sites. But the one most frequently used by many of us is email. You create an account, compose a message, slap on an attachment if you like, add a recipient and subject heading, and send.

Some time ago, I showed you how to set up email accounts on your Mac through Mountain Lion’s Mail, Contacts & Calendars system preference. With this lesson we begin exploring the application you’ll use to create, send, and receive email messages—Apple’s Mail.

By default the Mail window is a fairly straightforward affair. Along the top you see the toolbar as well as a Search field. Just below the toolbar are heading for mailboxes you’ll routinely access. If you click the Show button in this area, a Mailboxes pane appears. Below this area is a list of messages contained within the selected mailbox. And to the right is the message area, which takes up the bulk of the window. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of the Mail window.

Below the bar

By default you will see five items below the toolbar—Show, Inbox, VIPs, Sent, and Drafts. We’ll look at the effects of clicking the Show button shortly. In the meantime, I’ll just explain that if you click one of the mailbox links you’ll see the contents of that mailbox listed in the messages pane. The number of unread messages will appear to the right of the mailbox listing—Inbox (25), for example.

The VIPs entry has a downward-pointing triangle next to it. Click this triangle and you can opt to view all VIPs or just one of your choosing. (I’ll explain VIPs in a future lesson.)

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Using Mountain Lion's dictation and text-to-speech features

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Though not everyone cares to admit it, we all talk to our computers. Much of the time these conversations are quite short and comprised of ejaculations of joy or, when things aren’t going swimmingly, a grumbled #$%&@!! Regardless of what you say to your Mac, it always responds in the same way—with stoney silence. But it needn’t.

And it needn’t because Mountain Lion includes a dictation feature that lets your computer transcribe your spoken words in an impressive way. And if you’d care to have your Mac do the talking, another speech feature allows it to read selected text back to you with one of a group of human-sounding voices. The power to do each is found in the Dictation & Speech system preference.

Dictation

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Configuring Parental Controls

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Last week we explored the Users & Groups system preference. In that lesson I didn’t throughly explain the Parental Controls preference. Now’s the time.

It’s the unwise parent who grants their young child unguarded access to the Internet. Thankfully, Mountain Lion provides some protection with its built-in Parental Controls. If you’re concerned about what your child might see online—or are simply keen to limit the time your Mac-obsessed spawn spends in front of the computer—you should take a long look at Parental Controls.

Don’t have a child (or at least one who needs managing)? Parental Controls isn’t just for parents and kids. If you’re the more experienced Mac user in a household and are setting up a Mac for someone new to it, it’s not a terrible idea to impose some restrictions on that account. This isn’t for the purpose of protecting that person from iffy content, but rather to simplify the interface and keep them from getting lost.

Supervise their socializing

Every parent wants to socialize their child, but that doesn’t mean a responsible parent won’t keep an eye on who that child chooses to be social with. Parental Controls’ People tab can help. Here you find options to limit Game Center, Mail, and Messages. In the case of Game Center you have two options—Allow Joining Game Center Multiplayer Games and Allow Adding Game Center Friends. For Mail and Messages, in each case you click a Plus (+) button to add addresses or chat names to a sheet that appears. (These addresses can be pulled directly from your contacts, or you can create new contacts and, optionally, add them to the Contacts list.)

You can choose who the user can and can't communicate with.
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Configuring Mountain Lion's Users & Groups

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Throughout these Mac 101 lessons I’ve made references to your user folder, your account, and Administrators. And it’s possible that you’ve taken it on faith that I’ll explain what these things are and how they fit into all that is the Mac OS. Now is that time.

Mountain Lion, as was every other version of OS X before it, is a multiuser operating system. Think of it this way: You have a house and within it there are rooms for you, your mate, your daughter, and your son. Each room is arranged and decorated by the person who inhabits it. All your stuff is in your room and when you close the door, the other people living in that house have no idea what you’re doing with your stuff.

Now replace “house” with “Mac OS” and “room” with “user” and you’ve got the idea. You can have multiple user accounts on a single Mac, and each user has access to the applications on that Mac as well as their stuff—documents, movies, music, and so on.

Configuring a Group account

Creating an Administrator’s account works much the same way. The one account (other than Managed with Parental Controls) that requires a bit more explanation is the Group account. This is an account where you allow groups of certain users already registered on your Mac to have access to specific folders.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve set up standard user accounts for your four nephews—Pipeye, Peepeye, Pupeye, and Poopeye. Pipeye and Peepeye are upstanding young men and can be trusted. Pupeye and Poopeye, however, are pipe-smoking rapscallions. Within the Users & Groups preference you, as Administrator, go through the usual motions to create a new account, but this time you choose Group from the New Account pop-up menu.

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