Spam is a problem we all face, particularly if you use a desktop email solution rather than a service such as Gmail. I’m a big fan of Apple’s Mail software, and struggled hugely with spam a few years ago – I’d tried several server-side filtering solutions, but nothing had worked particularly well. I then discovered SpamSieve. After installing the software and spending 10 minutes training it, I found that the level of junk email I received reduced to almost none.
This walkthrough will explain how to download and install SpamSieve, train it with old messages, and hopefully enter the spam free state of nirvana. I’ll also touch on a few freeware alternatives for those without a spam filtering budget.
Downloading and Installing
Whilst not free, SpamSieve is available in a 30 day trial format from C-Command’s site. This should be more than enough time for you to see the benefit of the software (or not, as the case may be) and decide whether it’s worth purchasing.
The software supports almost all popular email clients for the Mac, including (but not limited to):
Once downloaded, drag and drop the SpamSieve icon to your applications folder and double click it. There are a number of different installation instructions depending upon the email client you use. A full list can be found here, but I’ll be looking at Apple’s Mail app as it’s probably the most commonly used client on the Mac.
Firstly, Quit Mail. Then open SpamSieve and choose “Install Apple Mail Plug-In” from the menu at the top of the screen. Upon opening Mail again, you should see the following new menu items:
The next step is to create a new local Mailbox called ‘Spam’, then set up a new rule to allow SpamSieve to move all the spam messages it detects into this mailbox. Click Mail > Preferences, then ‘Rules’. The rule you set up should look the same as the following:
After adding the rule, proceed to turn off Mail’s in-built junk mail filtering to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with SpamSieve. Now you’re ready to tell the app which emails are spam and which aren’t.
It’s best to train SpamSieve’s “corpus” with several hundred messages if possible (don’t go above ~800). Use around 65% spam messages and 35% ‘good’ messages. After a few hundred messages of each type are in the corpus, SpamSieve should be catching most of your spam. To train the app with a set of messages, select them all and then click Message > Train as Good or Message > Train as Spam. The messages marked as spam will be colored in gray and moved to the Spam mailbox.
To view the statistics surrounding the number of messages trained, right click the SpamSieve icon in your OS X dock and select ‘Show Statistics’. You’ll see a screen similar to the following:
It’s a great way to see what SpamSieve is doing in the background, and marvel at the sheer number of spam messages it has caught. I combine the local filtering with a server-side system which catches the majority of spam before it’s even downloaded – check with your hosting or email provider to see if they have any such facility in place.
Hopefully after a decent training session, SpamSieve should be very accurate at filtering your email. If you’re concerned that any good messages are being lost, opening the ‘Spam’ mailbox will show all the filtered messages in a colour coded fashion to see which have a higher spam rating than others.
Altering Notification Settings
SpamSieve has a number of different options for letting you know about new ‘good’ messages. Opening the app and clicking SpamSieve > Preferences will allow you to change settings relating to how mail is filtered, the level of strictness and notification settings:
My personal preference is to allow Mail to notify me of incoming messages as normal, so I turn off all the functionality offered by SpamSieve. If you’d prefer to have more control, it’s possible to alter the incoming mail sound, bounce the dock icon, show a badge displaying the number of new messages, or even flash your Griffin Powermate if you own one. Integration with Growl also works well.
SpamSieve costs $30, a price I found worthwhile for saving me so much time wading through junk mail. However, there are also a few other free alternatives which are very useful. These include:
- Mail.app Junk Filter – Whilst not the most accurate and reliable filter, the one shipping with Mail itself is free and may work well for you.
- JunkMatcher – No updates for a while, but a well rounded, free app supporting advanced features.
- Gmail – It’s possible to pass all your email through Gmail for their spam filtering feature – not a local app, but a free and workable option.
I hope that downloading and setting up SpamSieve will convince you that junk email really doesn’t need to be a hassle any longer. With such an advanced and widespread problem, advanced software has been developed to ensure your time isn’t wasted by wading through screen after screen of junk.
There are a number of free solutions if you’d rather not fork out $30, and I’d be interested to hear about the spam filtering system you use – do let me know in the comments!