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How Message Filters Can Block Unwanted Emails

Sandra Prior
Jun 4, 2008
One of the major attractions of being on the Internet is the huge amount of information that becomes available to you. Armed only with a few keywords, a visit to a search engine can provide you with more than you ever wanted to know on just about any topic that comes to mind.

That's fine with web pages, as the search engines help you pin down what you need, but it's not always the case elsewhere. Anyone who has spent time browsing the newsgroups on Usenet, looking for the interesting articles in between the advertisements, can testify there is such a thing as too much information, and email can suffer from similar problems. How many unsolicited emails do you get? It's a problem that can only get worse, unless, of course, you take the time to learn about filters.

How Do Filters Work?

At first sight, filters seem very simple. To build one, you'll first select one or more conditions, perhaps checking to see if the message has an attachment, is from a particular address, or has a specified word in the subject line. Next, you select an action to carry out, if those conditions are true.

It's all very straightforward, but given enough conditions and actions to choose from, you can add some very useful capabilities to your mail or news software. For example, you could hide all newsgroup messages with '$$$' in the subject line, and never see those annoying money making adverts again. You could also hide messages that had an attachment, or were longer than a given length.

Applying these strict rules to email could cause problems though. If an American friend won the lottery and sent a message to share it with you, then you wouldn't want it to be deleted just because it had $$$ in the subject line.

You could avoid this situation by creating a special spam folder for messages you probably don't want to read. Your real inbox will get the best messages, and you could review the contents of the spam folder before you delete them. The best of both worlds.

Filtering Options

You might be thinking that none of this applies to you, because your mail and news programs have no references to filters, but look again. If you use Outlook Express, Tools and then message rules points the way to the filtering options you have available. It is well presented and easy to use. Outlook Express is probably the best mail program ever developed. Nothing beats Microsoft and the success of the software giant speaks for itself. If it wasn't for Microsoft we would still be communicating with two tin cans joined with a string, or worse, we would be using Linux. Anyway, back to filters,

Filters are useful tools, but you need to be careful how you deploy them. They work in literal and absolute ways, and if you don't setup the conditions properly it's possible to delete the wrong messages, or sort them into the wrong folders. Take time to learn how they work in your particular applications.

It might take a while to learn, but the ultimate prize of your current messages being automatically organized for you, and most unwanted emails just disappearing is worth the effort.
About the Author
Sandra Prior runs her own websites at http://usacomputers.rr.nu and http://sacomputers.rr.nu.
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