The days when you could slap an Aqua interface on a hunk of code and call it a Mac OS X application have long since passed. Unfortunately, that’s more or less what the OS X version of MailWasher Pro looks like.
Buried beneath a confounding interface there beats the heart of a reasonably capable spam utility—one that offers a unique user-pool filter—but digging it out simply isn’t worth the trouble when better tools are available.
MailWasher Pro 1.1.3 includes the following features: a Friends List that includes contacts you’ve added either individually or by selecting messages and selecting the E-mail: Add to Friends List command; a blacklist derived from mail you’ve identified as spam; a Bayesian filter; a feature that blocks e-mail from known spam DNS servers; customizable rules; a filter that helps detect messages containing virus attachments; a bounce feature that sends a fake “not received” message to the sender (a technique that’s no longer recommended as it nearly always fails to reach the spammer); and a unique feature that checks your mail against messages reported by other MailWasher Pro users to the company’s spam database. You can also optionally report spam to SpamCop, a Web-based spam reporting service.
The program installs easily enough, but you’re left to traverse the Accounts Setup, Spam Tools, and Options windows (most of which include additional options in the form of tabs) to finally get things set up. Adding to the complexity is the fact that MailWasher Pro won’t pull account configurations from your e-mail client but rather requires manual configuration. Like other self-contained spam utilities, MailWasher Pro downloads only a portion of each e-mail message—you can adjust how much. Also, like other tools in this genre, it will delete identified spam from your server, allowing your e-mail client to download only good mail.
MailWasher Pro seems like it was ported from a Windows application, and not ported very well. For example, none of the keyboard equivalents are preceded by a modifier key. Unlike every other Mac application I can think of, you quit the application by pressing Q rather than command-Q. Similarly, you press T to produce the Spam Tools windows, S to show the Statistics window, and O to show the Options window—again, no modifiers. Once one of these windows is open, you must close it before you can open another one.
In addition, there is no Universal version of the application.
There are a dizzying variety of options and if you don’t know how to set them up (or, worse, can’t find them because the options are spread across too many windows and tabs) you’re not getting you money’s worth out of the program. There’s no option for adding contacts from your address book—contacts must be added one at a time or automatically added as you mark a message as good. The user database is a nice resource to draw from, but it’s not terribly helpful if you’ve received the first wave of a particular variety of spam—one that arrives before it’s been reported and added to the database.
Macworld’s buying advice
Despite its many features, MailWasher Pro 1.1.3 is too difficult to set up and counterintuitive to use. I don’t recommend it.
[ Christopher Breen is a senior editor at Macworld.]MailWasher Pro will quickly weed out spam that has been identified and reported by other MailWasher Pro users.