Nuke That Spam!

Mailwasher is a simple yet elegant email "preprocessor" that helps manage torrents of email and can even turn the tables on pernicious spammers -- sweet revenge!

Today's SearchDay isn't about search, but I believe it will hit a responsive chord with most of you. I get tons of email -- literally hundreds of messages a day -- and it's a major source of information overload. My email program, Eudora, helps me manage the good stuff I want to read and reply to, but I still have to spend lots of time scanning and deleting obnoxious spam.

Until recently. I'm now using a freeware program called Mailwasher that's literally saving me an hour or more each day.

I've tried all manner of "solutions" to my email overload problem: spam filters, complex "rules" that route messages to specific folders, even changing email addresses. The problem I've had with all of these approaches is that they work for a while, but ultimately require so much work to maintain their effectiveness that they become a time burden in themselves.

Mailwasher is different. The program is deliberately very simple -- it simply downloads the header information of your email, leaving the body of the message on your ISP's server, which means it is very fast. If you want to delete a message without downloading, just tick a checkbox next to its header and you'll never see it again.

Mailwasher's real power lies with its spam management features. If you recognize something as blatant spam, in addition to deleting it you also have the option to "bounce" the email. This isn't simply replying with a "take my name off your email list" message that virtually insures you'll get even more spam.

Rather, bouncing fabricates an "unknown user" message and returns the mail as undeliverable. Mailwasher sends the bounce back via your ISP's postmaster, so it looks exactly like it has come from your ISP and not from you at your address.

It also adds the spammer's email address to your own personal blacklist. Over time, even the stupidest spammers tend to cull these "undeliverable" email addresses from their mailing lists, even if it's a perfectly valid address for the people you want to receive mail from.

The more you use it, Mailwasher also gets better at recognizing and flagging possible spam, using a combination of your own blacklist and those maintained by anti-spam organizations such as ORDB, VISI and SpamCop.

It's important to note that Mailwasher works independently of you email program, and won't affect or interfere with it in any way. It is simply a preprocessor that takes care of problems that most email programs should, but don't handle on their own.

Though free, Mailwasher creator Nick Bolton appreciates monetary "tips" that allow you to register the program and turn off a scrolling nag message.

Mailwasher runs on the WinX platform, requires 4MB of RAM, and works with any POP3 email client.


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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.