Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MailWasher Free (Spam Blocker)

Firetrust's MailWasher Free
A Unique Spam Blocker

As you can see from the screenshot at the left, Firetrust MailWasher Free Edition contains advertising at the top right corner of the interface. This is one of the main drawbacks in the free version of this wildly popular Spam-blocking utility. Like many free versions of products that also have a Pro (pay) version, you are nagged to purchase the more powerful, better version, which is not a bad idea in this case. MailWasher Pro is a more fully-functional version of this anti-spam option. But first, before you decide whether or not to go with this as your Spam-killing choice, let's look at how MailWasher handles Spam.

What makes this utility unique is that it catches the Spam before it ever reaches your machine. MailWasher doesn't remove it from your PC, rather it removes spam from your mail server before you download it to your PC. This may seem strange, but it makes a lot of sense. It means that when you download your E-mail, you download it free of spam. That means smaller, faster mail downloads. It also means that potentially dangerous spam and other unwanted E-mail is kept well away from your PC. One caveat though. You must first be using a POP3 E-mail client, such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Outlook Express or Eudora. In other words, a software program that catches your E-mail, instead of using a Web-based E-mail like Yahoo, Windows Live Mail (formerly Hotmail) or GMail, which all have Spam-blocking features of their own. I do find that Microsoft Outlook 2003-2007 and Thunderbird both have pretty darn good Spam blocking features built into them as well, but many people don't crank up their Junk E-mail filter settings. For those who are pretty liberal about blocking Spam, there is MailWasher to the rescue.

As soon as you launch MailWasher, it shows you a list of your E-mail while it is still on the server. For example, if you use Comcast for your Internet service and E-mail, and you have Microsoft Outlook, for instance, you will see your messages on a list, along with whether MailWasher feels it is a Spam sender or a Trusted sender. If you disagree with its assessment, you simply click on the red Spam button, and it will then allow e-mail from this sender from now on. Likewise, if MailWasher feels that it is a safe sender, but you disagree, you simply click on the green button to make this a Spam-sender for next time. This "training" process takes about a week, but after that period of time, you will see that your number of junk e-mails will drastically decrease. With each batch of e-mail, once you choose whether or not to delete, block, or even bounce back the Spam directly to the sender (a wonderful option), you can then click the big "Process Mail" button on the top toolbar, and the program will automatically open Outlook, Outlook Express et al, and the "good" e-mail will now transfer to that program. So, indeed, MailWasher is a true Spam filter. It filters out the bad mail, and leaves you only with the good. True, there is a brief training period, but after a while, you'll get used to how it works, and MailWasher will automatically catch those junk senders. Also, you can right-click on any individual mail message for additional features, such as "Add to Friends List" or "Add to Junk Senders List."

The reason why people like MailWasher (Free and Pro) so much is that you always see exactly which e-mails are coming in. While many other anti-spam programs are also very adept and catching junk, they automatically move would-be junk mail into a separate folder, making the messages invisible unless you regularly go through the Junk Mail folder, sifting through it carefully, making sure nothing important got in there by mistake. This is a tedious process. With MailWasher, you simply see which messages are flagged as red (Spam), and which ones are flagged as green (good). If anything red looks good, you just click on the little button at the left and make it non-spam. When you're ready to delete messages from the server, you can check the messages on the list, and press the "Process Mail" button, and all of the checked messages are deleted. But they still remain in your E-mail program, where you can move them to saved folders for better organization. Not a bad way of handling the annoying flow of junk and making it more manageable. If you haven't heard of or tried MailWasher yet, spread the word. I think it works quite well.

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