A newsletter reader wrote this week, "Any way to filter out announcements from (domain name deleted) and its multitudinous affiliates? They drive me nuts!!!!!"
I have deleted the company's name from the message, but let's just say that it is a well-known company that serves the genealogy marketplace.
The quick answer is, "Yes, and it's easy to do." You can decide what kind of mail you consider as junk, and you can decide what you want to do with it - all without even looking at your e-mail inbox.
Almost all e-mail programs have the capability to create filters. You use these filters to define the kinds of e-mail you want the program to handle for you. These filters will examine every incoming e-mail message, looking for the criteria that you defined. If an incoming message matches your criteria, an action that you also specified will be taken. For instance, here is an English-language description of several filters that I have created in my e-mail program:
- When any message arrives from (offending_company.com), immediately move it to the Trash. This way, I never see the message.
- When a message arrives from that crazy person in Texas, immediately move it to the Trash. This way, I never see the message.
- When a message arrives from the automated mailer on my web server, move it to the "Web Server Messages" folder. I can see those if I open that folder, but most of the time I can ignore them. (The web server sends lots of e-mails; most of them are simple status messages about the server.)
- When a message arrives from the automated mailer on my web server that has the word "Alert" in the subject line, forward it to my cell phone's e-mail address. This way, I will receive the message immediately, wherever I am. I want to see all "Alert" messages.
- When a message arrives from my daughter, forward it to my cell phone's e-mail address. This way, I will receive the message immediately, wherever I am.
I have other filters, too, but I think you get the idea from the above examples.
The exact method of setting up a filter varies from one e-mail program to another. Most have the capability of examining each incoming message's "from" address, subject line, or even the text within the message body. Almost all e-mail programs have the capability to move messages immediately to a specified folder, including the trash folder. A few programs have filters that will forward messages to another e-mail address. A few will even send replies, such as, "I received your message but am on vacation until Monday. I will read your message then."
Here are references on how to set up filters in all the more popular e-mail programs:
Eudora contains very powerful and flexible filters: http://www.eudora.com/techsupport/tutorials/mac_filters.html
Microsoft Outlook: http://www.uh.edu/infotech/php/template.php?nonsvc_id=247
Microsoft Outlook Express: http://www.seniortechcenter.org/reference_library/internet/email/filters_in_outlook_express.php
Yahoo Mail: http://www.utexas.edu/computer/spam/filters/hotmail.html
AOL: I don't use AOL but am told that the service has a spam filter and a rather strange method of using the address book to separate known senders from questionable senders. However, AOL's built-in software reportedly cannot create filters for numbers 3 through 5 in the earlier list. Luckily, there is a solution:
As of April 26, 2004 AOL supports access to their email from any email program that supports the IMAP protocol. Instructions for configuring email programs are at AOL keyword "open mail access." You can now use standard email programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and even Mac OS X Mail. All of those programs have good e-mail filters. For more, see http://members.aol.com/adamkb/aol/mailfaq/imap or in AOL use keyword "open mail access". Or go to help.channels.aol.com, choose "e-mail" under the "how to" menu and click on "open mail access." (I received this information second hand and cannot verify its accuracy.)
Mac OS X Mail: http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=151480
Each program's Help file also should contain information on filters.
In short, it is time to take control of your in-box! Luckily, that is easy to do with almost all of today's e-mail programs.