Qurb (pronounced "curb") is the only spam fighter we've seen that stops 100 percent of junk e-mail straight out of the box. Impressive? You bet. But because Qurb relies almost entirely on a whitelist, a list of approved senders, the app also quarantines legitimate mail not yet on your whitelist. While the number of false positives decreases as you use the software, Qurb still blocked more than 10 percent of our real mail after two weeks of testing. Nonetheless, if you don't get a lot of mail from strangers or you don't mind scanning Qurb's quarantine folder looking for legit e-mail, Qurb is a remarkably effective spam solution. Plus, this $25 Outlook plug-in is available as an unlimited free trial version, if you don't mind sorting through the Qurb folder from time to time. Otherwise, McAfee SpamKiller remains the easiest to manage and best all-around Microsoft Outlook spam solution on the market.
Installing Qurb is fast and painless. Simply download a 172K file that fetches the program from Qurb's site, then click through the installation wizard. The next time you launch Outlook, Qurb will scan your contact list, Inbox, and most of your mail folders (skipping any with the word junk or spam in the title) to build its Approved Senders list. It creates a Qurb folder for quarantining suspect mail, then adds a short pull-down menu and two buttons (Approved and Blocked) to your Toolbar. The whole process took us less than five minutes.
Qurb quarantines messages that come from anyone who's not on your list of approved senders, so it will catch the legit stuff along with the junk.
When you receive new e-mail, Qurb automatically places messages from your approved senders into your Inbox and the rest into the Qurb folder for your review. Should you find spam in your Inbox (we didn't), highlight the message and click the Block button to consign it to your Qurb folder. When Qurb flags a legit message (which it did a lot--about 30 percent of the time), click the Approved button to move all mail from that sender into your Inbox. Qurb also adds that person--along with everyone else in the message's To field--to your whitelist.
Qurb's effectiveness depends on how fastidious you are about your e-mail maintenance. For example, if you open spam sitting in your Inbox, Qurb will add those addresses to your whitelist. If you've sent yourself a message recently, Qurb will add your name to its whitelist--which, at first, seems fine; however, any spammer spoofing your name, or using it in the From field, will also be able to get through.
Qurb's feature set is fairly minimal. You can tell the software to scan more e-mail folders to look for approved senders, or you can add them yourself. If you receive automated mail (such as CNET's Software newsletter), you'll have to add the domain to your list of approved senders manually. It's not hard, but it's also not documented, so we had to ask tech support how to do it.
For additional spam protection, Qurb can send a confirmation request to anyone not on its whitelist; recipients must reply before Qurb will send their mail to your Inbox.
You can also tell the program to send a confirmation request to everyone not on your whitelist. Like MailFrontier Matador for Outlook, the suspect e-mail sits in your Qurb folder until the senders reply; afterward, Qurb releases the e-mail and adds the senders to your list. Because most spam is sent by machines, not humans, this provides an additional layer of protection--especially if you don't want to spend time combing the Qurb folder for legit messages. At first, this feature didn't work on our Windows 98 system, though the technicians at Qurb quickly squashed the bug once we brought it to their attention.
In our tests, Qurb allowed exactly zero spam to reach our Inbox, better than any spam stopper we've ever seen. The downside? The first day we used it, Qurb also blocked 96 percent of our legitimate mail. After two weeks of adding names and addresses to our whitelist, Qurb was still blocking 1 out of every 10 legit messages. Over time, we expect this percentage to decline even further, depending on how much mail you routinely receive from strangers. Still, it does mean you'll need to scan the Qurb folder every day or risk losing mail you might actually want.
Software that's essentially free usually doesn't offer much in the way of tech support, and Qurb is no exception. Your options are limited to an online tutorial, a FAQ, a user forum (which was sparsely populated at press time), and a form for sending e-mail questions. Qurb promises 24-hour turnaround on e-mail questions, but its performance was inconsistent. We sent a total of four queries; Qurb answered two of them within four hours--about as good as e-mail support generally gets--but the company never responded to the other two questions.
Got a problem with Qurb? You'll need to send Qurb an e-mail message or ask a fellow user on the site's online support forums.