Now that I have a newborn in the house, the last thing I have time for is weeding through an email inbox filled with offers for 30% off at a store I bought one thing from three years ago, or daily newsletters from an online magazine touting ways to make my life more creative. I don’t have time to shower, let alone bake sweet potato muffins. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to make my email more of a tool and less hassle, with very little work from me.
Most email providers have an integrated spam filter, and many have additional plug-ins you can install that will use a variety of means to filter out what it deems to be spam. Unfortunately, junk messages often slip through while legitimate messages are relegated to your spam folder.
One great alternative to permanently ditch unwanted messages and filter out phishing emails and spam is www.unsubscribe.com which describes itself as an email firewall. It’s a free add-on that, once you download and install their free application, puts an “unsubscribe” button at the top of your inbox. Now instead of selecting all the messages that you want to get rid of and clicking delete, click the “unsubscribe” button to be permanently removed from the email list that generated the message. There’s even a Social Monitor feature that will show you the access that Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin third-party applications have to your personal data, along with an overview of their reputation, and another unsubscribe button so that you can quickly remove yourself from apps that may mine your personal information.
Gmail, Yahoo Mail and AOL Mail users can consider two great free applications that offer a more personalized spam filtering solution. Sadly, these are not yet available to hotmail account holders, like me (before you send me a “how can you call yourself a nerd” email, I also have a spam-free Gmail account that I guard like the tooth fairy’s home address).
First, BoxBe (www.boxbe.com) is a free email filter that helps you quickly create an approved “guest” list to your inbox. Those senders that are on the list get into your party no questions asked. Those that aren’t are sent a message asking them to confirm that they’re human. If a message is unverified, it will sit in your “Waiting List” until you approve the sender, or mark it as unwanted. Messages in your “Waiting List” are ranked from 1 to 10, with ten being very likely spam. You can set up auto-approval filters so that, for example, any messages with a junk rating of 3 or lower will get automatically sent to your inbox. Alternatively, you can choose to auto-delete those messages with a high junk rating.
Second, if your inbox is inundated by unwanted newsletters and mailings check out the service provided by www.unroll.me. Currently in beta, this site promises to find all the newsletters in your inbox and allow you to quickly and easily unsubscribe from newsletters and subscriptions you no longer want. Those you do still want will be kept organized in a daily overview format.
The final consideration is also the most drastic: ditch my primary email, consider it henceforth a spam email account, and create a new account that I vow to only give to family, friends, and trusted sources of information I really do want to read. This may not work for everyone, but in my case it did. The hotmail account that I created in 1998 is now officially relegated to the shopping sites and newsletters that have clogged it, despite my best efforts to keep it clean. All I need to do now is convince my friends and family to stop writing me there and switch to the new account. Until that happens consistently, I still have to cruise through it periodically.
If you’re drowning in a sea of junk mail and not ready to ditch your tried and true email address, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more ways to de-spam your inbox.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and electronics repair service for homes and businesses. Andrea established the company with her husband, Ryan, from a spare room in their home in Redding, California in March 2004. They have since expanded to locations throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maryland, and most recently South Dakota.
Nerds On Call provides repair and trouble-shooting for PCs and Macs, home and office networks, printers, iPods® and MP3 players, handheld devices and cell phones, home theaters and game systems. If it has an on/off button, Nerds On Call can probably fix it.
Andrea is the celebrated columnist of Nerd Chick Adventures, which speaks to the novice computer user and runs weekly in the Redding Record Searchlight. She regularly appears as a guest tech correspondent on ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, Good Morning Arizona and MORE Good Day Portland, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle, and gadgets. For more on Andrea Eldridge, fee free to contact her through our contact form.