Sort Once review:

Sort Once

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Offers easy Web access to POP accounts; synchronizes multiple desktop clients; provides integrated antispam and antivirus filters.

The Bad Pricey; sends some legit messages to the Bulk Mail folder; unresponsive phone support.

The Bottom Line Try Sort Once only if you need Web access to your mail and want to use multiple desktop e-mail clients. Otherwise, save your cash and register for Yahoo Mail instead.

6.0 Overall

Now that free Web e-mailers such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail charge for some services, for-pay competitors are making their move. Enter Sort Once, an all-in-one mail service that blends Web-based mail features, including the convenience of anywhere access, for example, with a desktop e-mail client's tools, such as organizational folders. Despite its smart toolset, Sort Once doesn't quite justify its price: 72 smackers a year, compared to marginal fees for specific services from Yahoo and Hotmail. Save your money and stick with Yahoo Mail. Now that free Web e-mailers such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail charge for some services, for-pay competitors are making their move. Enter Sort Once, an all-in-one mail service that blends Web-based mail features, including the convenience of anywhere access, for example, with a desktop e-mail client's tools, such as organizational folders. Despite its smart toolset, Sort Once doesn't quite justify its price: 72 smackers a year, compared to marginal fees for specific services from Yahoo and Hotmail. Save your money and stick with Yahoo Mail.

Clear configuration
Signing up with Sort Once takes about 10 minutes; just hand over your name, address, and credit card number, then pick a username and a password. Sort Once's clear, step-by-step online directions help you configure Outlook Express, Outlook, Netscape Messenger, and Eudora to work with Sort Once.

While Hotmail charges you to retrieve messages from one POP account, Sort Once lets you grab mail from as many as five at no extra charge. And unlike Yahoo, which now levies a fee to pull Web mail into your desktop e-mail client, Sort Once integrates with any client capable of handling the IMAP protocol--that is, most of them. Of course, you still have to pay for Sort Once up front, which is not the case with free Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. And what is Sort Once's claim to fame? That's got to be its IMAP protocol, which remembers what you've done with any message, whether you filed it to a folder or deleted it entirely, so that your mail stays synchronized and up-to-date, no matter how many desktop clients you use to access it.

Beware the Bulk Mail folder
Although blending Web and desktop e-mail access is Sort Once's raison d'être, the service provides additional compelling tools. For example, you can set up autoresponders to answer incoming mail while you're on vacation; Yahoo includes this feature, but Hotmail does not. Sort Once's minimalist spam-filtering system sniffs out junk mail according to the product's own list of known offenders and drops it into a Bulk Mail folder. Unfortunately, you can't add spammers' addresses yourself, which makes the filtering less effective than that of dedicated antispam utilities, such as SpamKiller. More distressing, some of our legitimate messages were placed in Bulk Mail, where they could have been easily overlooked.

Spring for a Sort Once Enhanced account, which costs $8 per month or $96 per year, and you'll also get antivirus protection, based on technology from RAV AntiVirus. In our tests, Sort Once blocked a variation of the Klez virus, as did Yahoo Mail, while Hotmail let the nasty code sneak through. Sort Once also offers an obscenity filter that looks for messages with dirty words, then either dumps messages containing them into the Bulk Mail folder or deletes them.

Answering-machine support
If you have trouble getting at your e-mail, you can call anytime (it's a toll call) or e-mail Sort Once's support desk. However, we called twice--the first time on a weekend, the next on a workday--and reached only an answering machine. Sort Once never returned our call. Not acceptable.

Sort Once is really worthwhile only if you use multiple e-mail clients and need to access mail with a browser. Do you pull mail from just one computer and want Web mail, too? Hotmail and Yahoo Mail services do the trick for less.

Sort Once automatically shunts spam to the Bulk Mail folder, but sometimes it makes mistakes. The top two messages are legit.

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