The best killers are the silent ones. Deersoft's $30 SpamAssassin Pro is the ninja of spam snuffers; it gets in, does the job, and gets out, leaving a trail of dead spam behind it. Like Sunbelt Software's iHateSpam, SpamAssassin works from within Outlook, but it's both easier and more effective than Sunbelt's product. However, SpamAssassin works only with Outlook 2000 or 2002. Still, if your in-box is filling up with junk, hire SpamAssassin as your e-mail hit man. There is an open-source version of SpamAssassin available, though compiling the code for Windows is a very technical process that's only for tech diehards.
On January 6, 2003, McAfee bought Deersoft and announced plans to merge SpamAssassin Pro with McAfee's own Spam Killer product later in this year.
Installing software doesn't get much simpler than with SpamAssassin Pro. Download a 200K installer from the Deersoft site, then launch that executable to fetch the program's 2.5MB setup file. Follow the prompts from Deersoft's install wizard and reboot. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes, if all goes smoothly.
To get SpamAssassin, you must download a small utility from Deersoft, which quickly fetches the actual program and installs it on your hard drive.
SpamAssassin installs a toolbar that sits below Outlook's standard icons and lets you scan entire folders, change settings, and block or allow particular senders or recipients from within Outlook. The best news? Once you install the software, it works quietly in the background, and you never have to think about it again.
Deersoft's SpamAssassin Pro works inside Outlook 2000 or 2002, silently snuffing out spam. The only evidence that it's there is an additional toolbar below Outlook's standard row of icons.
When Windows reloads, launch Outlook and check your mail. SpamAssassin Pro scans each message as it comes in, performing a sophisticated analysis of the sender, message content, and layout, then automatically sends the bad stuff to your designated junk-mail folder.
SpamAssassin doesn't give you many mail controls, but it can filter messages by the language they're written in, so you can block all those annoying Esperanto spams.
SpamAssassin's simplicity comes at a price: a lack of sophisticated controls. You can add names to a whitelist or a blacklist, or block e-mail by any of 63 languages, including Esperanto and Rhaeto-romance, but that's about it. Unlike iHateSpam, there's no way to set how aggressive you want your spam filters to be. It also lacks the neat reporting feature found in McAfee's standalone SpamKiller program that lets you send complaints to the spammer's ISP or issue bogus bounce messages back down the wire.
Deersoft claims that SpamAssassin Pro eliminates from 90 to 98 percent of spam. In our tests, it caught about 85 percent of the junk we threw at it, making it slightly better than iHateSpam and slightly worse than SpamKiller. (Your mileage may vary.)
SpamAssassin's Settings dialog gives you an up-to-the-moment report on how many messages it has scanned and which were flagged as spam.
SpamAssassin produced a fairly high number of false positives--e-mail that's flagged as junk but isn't. Fortunately, that problem is easy to fix: simply select the message from inside your junk-mail folder and click Allow Sender. The message is whisked back to your in-box, and the sender's address is added to your whitelist so that future messages don't get blocked. You can also do the opposite--take junk that found its way to your in-box and click Block Sender to add that address to your blacklist. But given that the vast majority of spam uses bogus return addresses, the latter is not likely to do you much good.
Support is minimal: you can read an online FAQ and send e-mail, but there's no phone or live chat support. We sent a question to Deersoft via e-mail and received a correct reply in about two hours--pretty darned fast. But the program is so simple and straightforward that you're not likely to need much help.
Need help with SpamAssassin? You'll have to visit the Deersoft site and e-mail your question to the company. Deersoft doesn't offer support via phone or live chat.
One nit-pick: uninstalling SpamAssassin is slightly more complicated than it should be. Deersoft doesn't offer its own uninstall utility, and we had to manually remove the toolbar from Outlook after we used Windows' uninstaller. However, Deersoft says that it is aware of the problem and is working on a fix.