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Avoid spam - junk emails - in Mail

Despite the fact that some of the biggest spammers have been shut down in recent years, spam, or junk email, continues to thrive and as soon as one person is taken down another ones takes their place. Spam is a continuing problem and for some people it can be overwhelming. Junk email can account for 90% of the incoming messages for some unlucky people, so what can be done about it? One way of dealing with spam is to pass your pass your messages through a filter and any that are obviously junk emails are moved either to the trash or to a junk folder. Mail contains junk email filters, but there are also third party plug-ins that you may prefer too. Let's take a look at the options available to you.

Start Mail, go to Preferences on the Mail menu and select the Junk Mail tab. Tick the option labelled Enable junk mail filtering. You can chose to mark suspected spam as junk mail and leave it in the inbox or, and this is the best option for most people, choose to move it to the junkj mailbox. This is basically a folder that's added to the left panel in Mail. You can select the Junk mailbox at any time to see what's in there and either delete the spam or drag messages out of there into your ordinary inbox if a mistake has been made and a message isn't spam after all.

In the lower half of the preferences dialog are some rules that enable Mail to recognise valid messages. You should tick these boxes because they allow messages from anyone in your Address Book, Previous Recipients (people you have sent emails to), and messages that contain your name.

There's an option at the bottom that determines whether rules created on the Rules tab of the Mail Preferences dialog are applied before or after the spam filter is applied. The default is to apply your rules before the spam filters run and this gives you the opporunity to deal with emails using rules you create. If you tick the box, the spam filter could move a message to the Junk mailbox by mistake before a rule you created is applied to it. So the default option is the safest, but if it's not working for you, try ticking the box to Filter junk mail before applying my rules.

Advanced spam filtering

There's an option to perform custom actions when junk mail arrives and this gives you the opportunity to view and edit the spam filters, and to add your own to them. Select the option and then click the Advanced button at the bottom of the preferences dialog.

You'll then see the junk mail rules. The current rules are OK, but you might want to add more of your own if some junk is getting through. Click the plus button on the last item in the top list of rules. You can then set the conditions. For example, select Subject in the first part of the rule, contains in the second part and then enter some word that identifies the junk in the text box. You can add as many rules as you need.

Third party junk mail filters

If you are still having a problem with spam getting through and your inbox is cluttered with junk emails, you should try a third party tool like the SpamSieve plug-in for Mail. It is not free, but it is a lot more powerful and flexible than Mail's built in spam filtering system. You can have whitelists and blacklists of email addresses, it can be trained and it learns to recognise spam, it reads your Address Book so none of your friends are blocked, colours show how spammy each message is, and so on. Setting it up isn't quite so straightforward as the built in spam filter, but there is a comprehensive manual at the website.

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