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Sort email using rules and avoid spam

Spam is showing no signs of abating and in fact it is still growing and it is becoming an increasingly irritating problem for many people. The amount of spam - unwanted email messages selling products and services you are not interested in nor have asked for - that is sent over the internet each day is actually greater than the quantity of valid email. If you only get a few spam messages each day you should consider yourself lucky because some people get up to 500 and that's no exageration

There are utilities and services available that aim to eliminate spam and some are more effective than others. Mail, bundled with OS X, has built in spam filters that can automatically detect junk mail and ether mark it, move it to the Junk mailbox or delete it. Although utilities, services and Mail's spam filters are good, they are far from perfect and you will still receive some unwanted spam in your inbox.

The only way to guarantee that you never get any junk mail in your inbox is to use a whitelist. This is simply a list of the people that are allowed to send you email. Any message from anyone else is regarded as potential spam and is automatically moved to another mailbox, such as Junk. Whitelists work and if you add your friends, business contacts, and others, then only these people will be able to email you. Your inbox will be completely spam-free.

Of course, the situation will arise where someone not on the whitelist sends you a legitimate email. Their messages will be placed in the Junk folder along with the spam and they could be deleted with the rest of the unwanted email. For this reason you need to quicky scan the spam and look for legitimate messages before you empty the Junk folder. It doesn't take very long and you can add any legitimate senders to the whitelist so that they won't be classed as spam the next time they send an email message.

Create a whitelist
So how do you create a whitelist? This is easier than you might imagine and your Address Book is your whitelist. Mac OS X MailAny contact that you add to your Address Book is a legitimate sender that you want to receive email from and anyone that is not in it is a potential spammer.

What you need to do is to add all of your contacts to your address book and if you haven't done so already, you should start Mail and go through the messages in your inbox and add the senders you want to receive email from.

Click a message and select Message, Add sender to address book, or simply press Command+Shift+Y. (You can organise your Address book later and put contacts into groups like home and work, or whatever.)

Build a rule
Once you have created your whitelist, in other words, added everyone to your address book, you can create a rule to block unwanted email like spam and other junk. Select Mail, Preferences and click the Rules icon at the right-hand side of the dialog. Click the Add Rule button and give the rule a name, such as Spam Blocker or whatever you want to call it.

Mac OS X Mail rulesThere are several pop-up menus and the first can be left on any - it says "If any of the following conditions are met:". It is the line below that' important. Click the pop-up menu (it probably says From by default), and change it to Sender is not in my address book.

Below this it says "Perform the following actions:" and in the first pop-up menu you should select Move Message. On the right is the mailbox to move it to and here you can select any on the pop-up menu and a good one is Junk.

(The Junk folder is automatically created when you enable the anti spam filter in Mail, but you can add a mailbox at any time by clicking the plus symbol at the bottom of the Mailboxes panel in the Mail main window. You could create a mailbox called Unknown or Unsorted or something similar.)

When OK is clicked to close the dialog you'll be given the opportunity to apply the rule straight away to the email in your inbox. Go ahead, see what happens. You should find that email from anyone not in your address book is moved to the folder you specified.

From now on this rull will be applied to all incoming messages. Your inbox will remain spam free, but you will need to browse the Junk folder just to check that there aren't any legitimate messages in there simply because the sender is not in your address book. Just add them by pressing Command+Shift+Y and drag the message to your inbox.