Norton AntiSpam 2004 Review

This is the main screen of Norton AntiSpam 2004.

If you had told me several years ago that unsolicited advertisement emails would become such a problem that a whole new breed of software would be created just to combat it, I probably either would have laughed or balked. In all the years I've been using electronic mail, never has such an epidemic of unsolicited emails been such a problem as it is today. It's come to such a point that our California government is working on legislation in order to ban it entirely.

Thus, like the antivirus software spurned on by viruses before it, antispam programs are becoming more and more popular these days, in order to keep our inboxes from spilling over. There is a wide variety of antispam software on the market to combat this ever-growing problem. While some are free, many cost a fee, making me wonder, "Do I want to pay for this software, or just save money by clicking the Delete button repeatedly?" The folks at Symantec hope so, with their recently released Norton AntiSpam 2004. It's also this very question I'll try to answer in this review.

Installation

We installed Norton AntiSpam on several computers, and only had a problem on one of them. After some tweaking, however, we got it to install just fine. Installing the program is a painless process, and takes little intervention from the user. Once the program is installed, and the computer is rebooted, Norton AntiSpam runs its own pop up blocker, and scans your email program's address book to look for permitted email addresses. We tested AntiSpam with Outlook Express, and it imported our address book without a hitch.

The email programs that Norton AntiSpam directly supports include Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, and can support other programs such as Netscape Mail to a lesser extent. Once the program is installed, you'll barely even know its running, as it doesn't take much memory and requires little intervention when not in use. Overall, installing Norton AntiSpam was easy and painless.

Usage

Norton AntiSpam 2004 includes a very effective ad blocker.

Using Norton AntiSpam does take some user intervention, but the more you use it, and therefore train it, the less intervention it will need. When you first run your supported email client, AntiSpam will automatically detect it and install its own folder for spam to go into. It will also begin searching for spam right away. Like all antispam programs, it doesn't get everything at first, but with your help, it will learn.

Norton AntiSpam learns by paying attention to what you flag as spam. This is done by either right-clicking upon the email and selecting "This is Spam" from the sub-menu, or selecting that same option from the newly installed toolbar.

If you wish to sharpen your spamming sword even further, Norton AntiSpam gives you all the options you could want. First, there arw three basic filters (Low, Medium, and High) that determine the general settings the scanner will use. You can also add more email addresses to either the Allowed or Blocked lists. There's also a place to create your own custom rules for use in unsupported email programs, which deserves mention.

This is the rules screen, where you can create custom rules.

Creating a custom rule is very easy, and can be effective most of the time. For example, it asks you to look for a certain word, so I put in "vicodin." I then told it to scan the entire message for the word, flag it as spam, and place it into the spam folder. This can work most of the time, but now spammers are getting savvy, using "v1cod1n", for example, to pass by such rules, so spam might still get through on occasion.

Norton AntiSpam also includes effective pop-up and ad blockers. These are also highly customizable, allowing you to tailor the program to block exactly which ads, or ads from specific sites, that you don't want to see. To block specific ads, you can drag them to the "Ad Trashcan". You can also block ads from specific websites from the "Advanced" screen.

Overall, using Norton AntiSpam 2004 is very easy and intuitive. Training the program to find more spam is easy, and takes almost no time. The more you train it, the less you'll interact with it, which is the entire point of a program such as this.

Effectiveness

You can easily gauge the effectiveness of the spam blocker from the Statistics screen.

While no antispam program is 100% effective, Norton AntiSpam 2004 does a great job filtering out spam. It discovered spam in the inbox of Outlook Express immediately after installation, and effective blocked other spam messages we received. Again, it wasn't 100% effective, but it looked to be about 75% at the time of this writing, which is nothing to sneeze at. You can judge the effectiveness of the program yourself from the Statistics screen in the main program window.

In terms of blocking ads and pop-ups, Norton AntiSpam did an excellent job at both internet ads and pop-ups. In fact, it was so effective, that I never needed to use the aforementioned "Ad Trashcan" because it did such a good job on its own.

Overall, in my tests, I found that Norton AntiSpam 2004 is a very effective ad blocker and a fairly effective spam stopper. It's hard to fault the actual program in this regard, however, because spammers are getting increasingly savvy in order to bypass these very programs. Unlike viruses, which are continually found, analyzed, and protected against by the programs' creators, fighting spam takes a more active role from the user. I think that if the user of AntiSpam took an aggressive role in blocking their spam, the program will continually improve in its effectiveness.

Conclusion

Overall, I've been very pleased with Norton AntiSpam 2004. It's excellent and blocking internet ads and pop-ups, and it's becoming more effective at blocking spam. The program is very easy to use, very effective overall, and doesn't get in the way of general computer usage. I'd easily recommend it to anyone tired of having their inbox filled with ads they didn't ask for. It also goes one step further by blocking ads from the internet as well. Overall, if you can't stand advertising on the internet, Norton AntiSpam is the program for you. I'd say it's worth the price of admission just to keep your inbox less cluttered.

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