Taking Mail’s Junk Filter for Granted


At work, my primary workstation is an aging, but completely effective Macintosh G4. I also carry around a Blackberry handheld for remote e-mail, calendar and Web.

On weekends and in the evening, the ratio of spam messages to “known good” e-mails is tremendous. I often had wondered why spammers thought the best time to reach me was on the weekend or in the evening, as upward of 80% of my messages to the Blackberry, or accessed through the company’s Outlook Webmail seemed to be of the spam variety in these “off peak hours” times.

This week, it hit me. While at the office, logged into Mail.app on the Mac, a tremendous amount of junk mail sent to my account is correctly automatically filtered to the Junk folder. When I am not logged into Mail.app, the messages sneak through – whether to the Blackberry or to the Outlook Webmail. That I saw an abundance of spam when outside of the office was directly due to the fact I was outside of the office in the first place, and not because it was convenient for the spammers themselves.

I haven’t given much thought to Apple’s junk status filter in Mail.app for some time, but now that I finally had the light bulb go off, telling me how well it works, I am going to become merciless to spam. I am marking every spam message that sneaks through the filter as Junk, and training Mail.app to get even better at what it already does an excellent job for.

Thank goodness for Mail.app’s Junk filter. It’s so good, and yet I hadn’t even noticed.



I’m having a problem with my junk mail filter lately. The mail I get from a couple of sites such as Costco continue to break thru the filter no matter HOW often I mark them as ‘junk’. Anyone know why?


Mac’s filter sucks. Lets way too much through. But it’s better than nothing.

One question. How can I filter mail on my iPhone?

Matt Simpson

I can’t be the only one that thinks the spam filter in Apple Mail is a freaking joke, can I? I used to get false negatives every day before I finally got fed up and installed SpamSieve.

I found that the Apple one was slower and required a lot more training, and even after all that training spam would still get through to my inbox.

I get anywhere from 20 to 40 spam messages a day, similar to John Davis above, but if I see one get through SpamSieve to my inbox in a week then that’s a bad week.


I never got much spam until some sicko windows luser got a worm in his inbox.

I tried Gmail recently, but I only sent 1 email from it as a test. When I logged in the next day there were 100’s of spam mails in the spam folder. So, it seems that Gmail give out your email address to anyone right? No thanks, I’ll stick with Yahoo.

John Davis

I agree. The junk filter in mail is excellent. I regularly get 30/40 a day and only about once a week does something find its way through.

John Davis


One account I have in Mail.app never used to get spam at all. Now it does, although I’ve never posted the address anywhere on the web and only ever given it to family and friends. Oh, well, I suppose it only takes one Windows-using acquaintence to get infected, and the malware on their machine will vaccuum up any mail addresses stored on it …

To get to the point, I find the spam I’m currently getting is all image spam, and it goes right through Mail.app’s spam filter. Presumably, “latent semantic analysis” — the method Mail.app’s built-in filter uses — is not very good with image spam. Maybe a bayesian spam filter, like SpamSieve or Bogofilter, would do better. But I’m not sure I want to pay up for SpamSieve, and getting Bogofilter compiled and running on OS X sound a little hit-and-miss from what I’ve read. At the moment I’m using a manual filter to deal with image spam as described here:


But that is a bit of a kludge and is going to result in false positives. It’s a nuisance. It seems Mail.app’s filter can’t cope with image spam, and that’s now so prevalent.


gmail and Yahoo! mail both have great spam filters–I read .Mac, gmail and Yahoo mail on my blackberry and get very little spam forwarded. But like Galley above, I get very little spam on my .Mac account–that’s because I don’t use it to buy stuff (except iTunes or the Apple store). Most of my spam goes to gmail or Yahoo (which I have had forever) and gets filtered out


Maybe I’m lucky, but I have yet to receive any spam on my .Mac account.


I agree with the above “Gmail’s spam filter is the best.” If I can recall correctly… Over the last 3 months and about 4,500 spam messages later only about 3 showed up in my inbox. It’s quite sick actually. I’m not a fan boy by no means but can you really beat that for a free webmail provider? Gmail all the way man.

Kris Jones

I’ve always found JunkMatcher to be a valuable addition to Mail:app’s own filtering. It’s extremely accurate from the moment its plug-in and rules are installed. In particular, it’s good at catching those messages that now come in the form of a TIFF or JPEG file.

JunkMatcher also changes the Message drop-down menu in the menu bar to include an option to “Train as Ham” those messages that you don’t want filtered into the Junk mailbox. Overall it’s saved me considerable time in training Mail:app’s own filters and setting up my own rules.


GMail’s spam filter is the best.

It has let 2 spam messages through, and correctly marked about 6000 messages. No valid messages have been marked as spam.

Louis Gray

Nathaniel, at the office we have an enterprise-level spam filter which catches a ton of it, but it’s not perfect. Each day, I get a note that hundreds of e-mails were blocked, and I have the option to review them to see if a real message was inadvertently caught. For those that pass that filter, Mail.app does its best for the rest.


Why not get a modern email setup with IMAP and server-side filtering, so that you miss the spam regardless of how you access mail? Between constantly updated SpamAssassin and a few custom rules, I only get a handful of spams a day on an account that has been active and publicised on web, newsgroups, etc for almost 15 years.

You also get the added bonus of everything being organized before even logging in, and knowing that it will be organized regardless of what program or method you’re using to check mail.


I used to just use webmail to login to my personal email account during work – but I spent so much time sifting through junk emails that I couldn’t take it anymore.

So now I just leave my Mac on at home with Mail.App open so that it filters my email. And since I have IMAP set up, those junk mail messages are filtered away by the time I login to webmail. Bye bye junk mail! Hello Mail.App!

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