Outlook 2003 tool filters spam

The spam filter is a useful tool but requires vigilance for ultimate effectiveness.

Spam is still a problem, and is becoming more and more intrusive every day.

There are numerous solutions, some of them server-based, and some client-based. Outlook 2003 comes on its own with a rudimentary spam filter that you can configure by using menu options in the Outlook client.

For example, when a user gets a spam e-mail, he should add the sender of the e-mail to the Junk senders list. Do this by right clicking on the message, and selecting junk mail on the context menu that appears. From Junk Mail select "add to Junk Senders list."

This sender is now identified as a sender of junk mail, and Outlook will look at incoming mail to determine if any of the new mail comes from someone on the Junk Senders list. But the user has to do more.

Go to Tools/Rules Wizard, which will open the Wizard to let users add rules about what to do with the junk mail that comes in. For example, I have a rule in my Rules Wizard called Junk Senders that specifies that if a message comes in from people on the Junk Senders list (or the Adult Content Senders list), send that message to a folder I have installed called Junk. From there, I can review those messages from time to time to see whether or not there are any that I want to keep. Usually that's not the case, so I can just delete the contents of the Junk file.

You can also send these messages to the Deleted Items folder, where they'll get deleted at the end of the session, assuming the user has checked that box on the Tools/Options menu under the other tab.

The problem with this is that it paints with a pretty broad brush, and from experience, I can tell you that sometimes it identifies junk mail from people I correspond with. It will put those message headers in the inbox in a different color font, (grey for junk, red for adult) that you can specify and turn on by going to Tools/Organize/Junk mail, but you still have to go through and check to make sure a message from your friend Joe didn't get identified incorrectly.

There is a new update on the spam filter from Microsoft that may make things a bit easier. You can access the update here.

The Web page has a plethora of instructions on how to download and install the product, depending on whether you installed from a server or a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. In any case, Microsoft says that the update provides a better definition of messages that are considered junk, so that it should make it a bit easier to weed out unwanted messages.

By the way, make sure that your users know that they have to be vigilant if any filters of this type are to be effective. They have to keep adding to the junk senders and adult content senders list, or else those messages will just keep appearing in their inboxes.

David Gabel has been testing and writing about computers for more than 25 years.

This was first published in March 2004

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