Bains Software's SpamSweep 1.6.1 is a simple-to-use stand-alone spam-filtering application. Unlike SpamSieve ( Macworld rated 5 out of 5 mice ) and Personal Antispam ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), SpamSweep doesn't integrate with your e-mail client. Instead, you run it alongside your e-mail app, and set your e-mail app to not check e-mail automatically. SpamSweep will process your e-mail, then send the good messages on to your e-mail client.
SpamSweep works with Apple's Mail ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), Qualcomm's Eudora ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), Gyaz Square's GyazMail ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), Bare Bones Software's Mailsmith ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), Microsoft's Entourage ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), CTM Development's PowerMail ( Macworld rated 2.5 out of 5 mice ), and Mozilla's Thunderbird ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), and it supports both POP and IMAP e-mail accounts. Because it's a stand-alone app, installation is simple--just drag the program into your Applications folder and launch it. An assistant will then try to import account information from your e-mail accounts. If this fails, you'll have to enter the information yourself. This isn't hard, though you'll probably need to toggle between your e-mail client and SpamSweep to get all the settings correct.
Once SpamSweep is running, you check and filter your e-mail through either a button on the program's toolbar, an entry in its menu bar extra (located on the right side of the main menu bar) or via a configurable global hot key. The program will then filter spam and ham (an expression widely used for "good mail"), and you can correct any mistakes by selecting a message and clicking an Is Good or Is Spam button on the toolbar. Once the program has filtered your mail, you tap the Download Mail button to deliver it to your e-mail client (and open the client).
The stand-alone nature of SpamSweep is both a benefit (simple installation) and a drawback, in that you'll have to interact with two programs to handle your e-mail: one to filter, and another to read and respond.
With two programs in use, there's also a small risk that you may miss a legitimate message that was tagged as spam but that you didn't notice in the SpamSweep interface. The program will keep spam messages for three days before deleting them for good, but if you exceed that window, the message is gone forever. (There's a similar risk with the other antispam apps, of course, but they deliver spam messages directly to your e-mail client, where you can check for false positives at your leisure before deleting the spam.) As with the other antispam programs, SpamSweep uses a blacklist, a whitelist, and a Bayesian filter to identify spam and ham messages. Unlike the other programs, however, you don't have direct access to any of these resources--you can't see them, nor can you add or remove entries from the lists or Bayesian filters.
You can, however, create rules to classify inbound e-mail as ham (a popular generic reference to valid e-mail) or spam according to your own criteria. Click the Create Rule button on the toolbar, and you can add criteria, such as From-Contains-Dad and Subject-Contains-Loan Payback, and then specify whether such messages are spam, ham, or trash (this last option trains the filter to treat such a message as valid but to as delete it instead of delivering it). Documentation is included, but it's not particularly thorough--it doesn't, for example, explain all of the preferences settings, or how to set up rules. After I gave SpamSweep a few days of training, it did a very good job of trapping spam--it performed as well as Personal Antispam and just a notch below SpamSieve. There were very few false positives, and only a handful of spam messages made it through the filters on a typical day.
Macworld's buying advice
If you're looking for an easy-to-use antispam program, and don't mind using two applications to handle your e-mail, SpamSweep 1.6.1 is a reasonable alternative. If you prefer a more integrated approach or you'd like more control over the filters used to sort your e-mail, you'll want to look elsewhere.
[Rob Griffiths is a Macworld senior editor.]