Mail, Thunderbird, and other email clients

32 comments

For some time now, the amount of junk mail clogging up my inbox has been ruinous, both in time and missed important communications. There are many methods and tricks for cutting down the junk mail load — the most extreme being setting up a new email address and closing down the old one. But that has some severe drawbacks, especially if you’ve used an address for some time.

In the long run, I will probably set up several Gmail accounts for managing different types of accounts. For example, on that I give for backing and other sensitive sites, another for subscriptions to newsletters, another for friends and family, and another for sites that are likely to sell my address to some massive database/ad-serving organization.

But in the short term, I’m taking a look at my default email client. Mail is okay, but there are assuredly third-party apps that work better. Currently, I’m testing Thunderbird against Mail. Thunderbird had a long and stories history, but once fell on hard times. But Mozilla now manages it and is making regular updates. The main attraction to Thunderbird, however, is it’s strong cross-platform support.

Cleaning up my mail system will take a while. I plan to report on what I find, from time to time. But I’m also looking for tips on how you’ve managed your junk mail. You might have solutions that many other Apple users can benefit from.

32 Comments

  1. Martin Fuggle

    Postbox is a Mac mail client based on Thunderbird and worth a look

    • Scott

      I agree...but unfortunately it seems to me that Postbox is being less and less supported or updated the longer I use it.

    • I like Postbox except for one very irritating bug -- half the time when I delete an email it immediately pops back up in my inbox.

  2. Your "long run" solution has worked well for me.

  3. Joey Venitio

    I have been trying protonmail.com It is an encrypted e-mail based out of Switzerland. It is decent, however, it has a triple click login.

  4. Iain

    I have gone down the route of separating my different activities by using different Gmail accounts so using one program to access them all works well until you start accessing your mail on multiple machines. I have 5 different email accounts that I use multiple times a day plus a number more that get accessed less frequently. I use different accounts so I can focus on a specific area of interest at a time without getting distracted by wildly different interests. To access emails I use iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro and 2 different iMacs (work & personal) and so I haven't gone down the Thunderbird/Mail/Outlook route as I never know which machine I will be using. On the computers I tend to use Chrome with a different window for each account so that tabs I open are relevant to that email account. I can easily have 30+ different tabs spread over 6 different windows. This works ok until I get to the third or higher windows, which do not get restored when I reboot a machine. On the email accounts that get the most marketing material I do use the Gmail tabs (Primary/Social/Promotions etc) but found I was missing important messages when I used this on my work email. My search for the best solution goes on... So I'm looking forward to see what you find at well! Good luck!

  5. Sue Nicholson

    Used Thunderbird for years and get very little junk mail - one a week, if that.

  6. Every morning I have a minimum of 20 junk mail. Most have a post underneath for you to unsubscribe but this seems to draw even more junk. By unsubscribing it appears that I am showing the company that it is a live email address so more "CRAP" arrives.

    • I have Rules in Apple Mail. I review them, clean up "Previous recipients" regularly, send the "junk" to junk, the offensive straight to TRASH which I have auto empty when I shut down my computer. I agree UNSUBSCRIBE asks for more junk. Recently I started getting pornography--WHY? No clue. If I get "junk" from a traceable corporation. I buy their stock, call them, contact shareholder relations and try to find the President of the company. Talking to "decision" makers helps them clean up their trash. I also promise to do that company's marketing.

  7. Bev in TX

    "But Mozilla now manages it and is making regular updates." If you go to mozilla.org, you won't see any links to Thunderbird from their main web page -- it's all about Firefox. Mozilla is not making enhancements to Thunderbird anymore -- they are just maintaining it. Other folks do add extensions, but that doesn't port it to platforms, such as iPads. https://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2012/07/06/thunderbird-stability-and-community-innovation/

  8. Scott H.

    For several years now I've used several email accounts from gmail and others depending on what the account is for. I manage all in Thunderbird, using IMAP on the 'critical' email accounts and pop on the rest. Between each email provider having spam filters, and then Thunderbird's spam filters, I rarely see spam except when I clear out the spam folders. If you need to be mobile between different machines Thunderbird can be set up to run on a thumb drive. Good luck in tackling it.

  9. Tony L

    Check out SpamSieve. It works through Mail and filters out all my spam. You can configure it to send junk to a "spam" folder or directly to the trash.

    • Jeremy Taylor

      I use SpamSieve, which I find very effective.

    • onarock

      thanx for this

    • I use Spam Sieve and though it takes a couple of weeks to train it. Find it very effectives. I have to check my spam mailbox before trashing it. Since some of my Genuine emails get put into spam. But, all you have to do is go to the TopMenu pull down "Message" and select "SpamSieve CHANGE", "SpamSieve TRAIN" As Good" or "SpamSieve TRAIN AS SPAM". Couldn't be simpler. If you see an email with a female name you don't know train as SPAM since it's probably a Porn Site.

  10. david murphy

    i am pretty much satisfied with a program called ad block.since i downloaded itive been prettey much clutter free

  11. Helena

    The amount of spam or junk that hits one's inbox is not only depending on one's personal behavior in giving out one's email addresses, but much more so on one's email provider. When the email provider has a powerful spam filter, spam will not be a problem. Instead of NSA(G)-mail I can only recommend to switch to ZOHO mail. They have a sophisticated filtering algorithm that works like a charm. The user will train the filter and report fraudulent email to the provider. Slowly but surely the stream of junk will cease. The most secure version of email consists of email accounts that are from different providers and serve different tasks - one mail account for personal mail, one account for 'junk' mail and one for official business and so forth. Mac 'Mail' has its downsides, but is usually more than sufficient for personal use. Thunderbird works as well, but its GUI is less attractive to me. Absent identity theft, the main factor for spam lies within the choice of the provider and personal habits. Any email clients utilizing IMAP are at the end of the chain - they are the proverbial messenger.

  12. Robert Weller

    The most effective way is to use a paid service like Sanebox. It intercepts new mail and lets you decided whether to see them again. It also can be used to get rid of mail you have previously thought you wanted to see by putting it in a black hole.

    • Will Files

      I've had pretty good luck with SpamArrest.com. It's a paid service but seems to be worth the fee.

  13. The first thing I did on T-bird was to utilize the spam filter at as high a setting as I thought I could stand. SpamSieve just didn't seem to work anymore, so I had to do something. (I have a spam assassin filter on all of my email addresses. I'm not always happy with them, as they seem to believe that any email from a political party they don't like is automatically spam while the emails from their apparent favorite is sent right through. I had to fix that at the C-Panel.) Then I separated my emails into 13 accounts. I have one for magazine subscriptions, one for all the other social networking, one for clients only, one for friends who insist on sending me stupid cat videos, one for political stuff, etc. Each of these has a different spam setting. I deleted one of the email addresses that was the most problematic. Fortunately it wasn't my main one, but was sort of the catch-all address I had put on so many forms back when we were naive and innocent about the internet. I am vigorous about unsubscribing from things that I know are legitimate. I don't hit unsubscribe if I think it's a spammer. Next - I had a "spam saturday morning" -- I gathered all the IP addresses from the most egregious spammers (these are the ones who must be using the *@xxx.com method.) Interestingly, a great deal of these messages were coming from the same set of IP addresses. I went into my C-Panel and listed all of these IP addresses - in some cases a whole range of them -- in my block list. Within days my spam dropped to a manageable amount. Some days I will go into one of my alternate email addresses, do a command-all on all the messages and just delete the whole lot of them. My situation may be very different than some. I was getting 3,000 spam emails a day at the beginning of all this. When I had Entourage, I was using SpamSieve and was able to block things off as they came in. I had to manually create my own chokepoint, but so far, so good. My greatest problem is that I have had my main email address since 1997. (Yeah, I'm THAT old on the internet!!) And since it's my business name, and thousands of my clients have it, it's tough to change. I think the only way to get rid of spam completely is to a) keep changing your email address; b) never send any email to anyone; c) get off them there interwebs all together; or d) just stay on top of it and have a regularly scheduled spam-cleanup day.

  14. Deb

    I use unroll.me. It's easy to use and it works. It's also free.

    • Thanks I'll try that.

  15. Tracey Capen

    Lots of good information. I'll start organizing it into another post.

  16. Anne

    Use the ability of Gmail to sort the inbox in four categories. I use Social for friends and Facebook messages. Forum is for Disqus and Pinterest. Promotions is for advertising that I have chosen to keep (or I can't seem to get rid of). Everything else goes to the main box. Gmail's spam filter seems OK. Maybe you have a much larger volume than I do.

  17. I've been using Spamsieve, which can be "trained" to recognise spam, for several years and find it's pretty effective. What it doesn't seem able to recognise are the "Hello I am the first vice president of Hoaxco and am offering you the opportunity of helping me transfer $100sos zillions ............." messages.

  18. Jim Goodrich

    Like you, getting onto junk/spam/phishing lists had me receiving between 1-200 emails a day & the job of filtering for Apple's MAIL or Thunderbird was too much. I've virtually resolved my problem to near zero (0) with the following steps for the desktop/2 ipads and cell phones: 1. went from pop3 to IMAP with all accounts. 2. Using junk filters of the Accounts to place junk filtered by (Google, Cox, et al) in the junk box of each. 3. turned off the 'visibility of the junk directories in ea. mail source (so mail can't see the directory contents to download it) Mail only checks directories of those it can see on the server. The commercial filtering puts it into junk or spam, which I can check on the server from time to time. (no extra cost for security programs to do that filtering as the ISP handles it. Now IMAP is controlling everything for all my units other than archived and I spend very little time with junk

    • bridget

      ...except you have to check the main online account at least weekly to be sure that important messages haven't been labeled as spam. I do the same, but, since some of my email accts are foreign, even my own messages to groups are marked as spam. Filtering online and locally does tackle most of the junk mail problem. Thunderbird does learn and remember which messages I mark as spam, but I still have to go online to block those from getting through in the first place.

  19. bridget

    Apple Mail is awful. No, it's hideous. It's very limited, and can't set up multiple filters/"rules" [Apple has to be 'different', renaming filters as rules, same things] as well as Thunderbird and other mail clients. I have 8+ email accounts located around the world, each for a different purpose, and remailers. I regularly use 3. I set up filters to automatically send all mail to my primary account inbox or subfolder. They're labeled with colors. I use spam filters, and create my own. It's easy. I have a lot of messages stored in TBird. Best feature is that all is stored as plain text. I can search using TextWrangler, or TBird's own powerful search feature [command+shift_F]. If an incoming or outgoing mail server is having problems, I can easily switch servers and get my email. It's also easy to receive a message, and reply with a different email address. This may be too complicated for some users who can't be bothered to RTFM online.

  20. You never mentioned what you were using. On my Apple Pro Tower OS10.11.4, I use SpamSieve and it works just fine. I was getting 85 to 125 hits a day on my iPhone and since there's no Quality "Anti-Spam SW" for iphone, I just eliminated Mail on it. Probably the same for my iPad Mini.

  21. ManoaHi

    Perhaps it is just me, but why is it that the mail client is supposed to filter spam? Shouldn't the spam filtering be happening before it ever gets to the mail client?

  22. Jonathan M Hunter

    Your Apple email address and ICloud allow up to 5 alias's. Why would you use Gmail? In addition it seems I have tried multiple email clients on Windows, Mac and IOS platforms. My current preference is Outlook. It performs extremely well for multiple accounts. Give it a try. Also, Inbox for Gmail works great on OS and IOS.

  23. Colin

    My ISP, Plusnet, is in global terms a minnow but probably fairly widely used in the UK. Its e-mail is incompatible with Mail on anything as up to date as Yosemite or El Capitan. Consequently I discourages of my Plusnet e-mail address, although The Forum Newsletter seems to go there, and use it with Thunderbird. That helps significantly to reduce my load of junk mail. In Mail I have my iCloud, gmail and one other address . This enables me to be selective about what I need to look at.