Fight spam and win

The headline for this post, “Fight spam and win,” is the motto of InBoxer, a spam filter for Outlook. After using it for five months, I’m a believer. InBoxer is amazingly accurate in blocking spam while not interfering with legitimate e-mail. Unlike some spam filters that block specific domains or addresses, InBoxer is a so-called Bayesian filter that couples statistical mathematics with language technology to analyze the words contained in a message and decide whether it should be blocked. It does not depend on any pre-defined rules. Rather, it learns as it goes, starting upon installation with an initial analysis of the messages in your inbox and then continuing to learn based on decisions you make about the messages you receive. Significantly, InBoxer never deletes a message. If it is confident a message is spam, it moves it to an Outlook folder it creates titled “InBoxer-blocked.” If it is uncertain, it moves the message to a folder titled “InBoxer-review.”

Besides these two folders, InBoxer adds two buttons to the Outlook toolbar — block and keep. If you find a message in your inbox that InBoxer should have detected as spam, click the block button, and InBoxer “learns” from that action. Likewise, in the InBoxer-review folder, you can review the messages and tell InBoxer which to review and which to keep. If you are unsure about InBoxer’s accuracy, you can also review the InBoxer-blocked folder, but in five months I’ve never seen InBoxer block a message it shouldn’t have. To the contrary, as promised, the more I’ve used it, the more accurate it gets.

As an added measure of confidence, you can tell InBoxer to trust specified senders and domains, or have it learn to recognize every address in your contacts list.

InBoxer has made e-mail usable again for me. Its accuracy rate is enormously high. As I said, I’ve never found a message in the blocked folder that shouldn’t have been there. I have found messages in the review folder that I wanted to save, but in almost every case these were commercial messages that I had opted to receive — such as airline special offers — but that closely resembled spam.

If you use Outlook and are having difficulty managing spam, I highly recommend this product. You can download it and try it free for three weeks. If you decide to buy it, it is $27.95.