Installing Norton AntiSpam from CD is straightforward. Symantec now requires you to activate Norton AntiSpam by going online and retrieving a key code, ostensibly to protect against installing bootlegged copies of AntiSpam. The process is painless. Once loaded, the next step is to import your address book(s).
AntiSpam 2004 operates more seamlessly than SpamKiller 5.0. For instance, AntiSpam 2004 automatically installs itself inside your e-mail client; you don't have to change server settings or reconfigure your software. And, if you're using multiple identities--for example, if you share your Windows XP computer--Norton installs itself in each identity, something SpamKiller won't do.
Norton AntiSpam's control panel makes changing filter settings a breeze.
Within your e-mail client, you'll find a new drop-down menu with four simple commands. When you check mail, Norton sorts messages inside your e-mail client and stashes suspected junk in a separate folder with the phrase "[Norton AntiSpam]" inserted in the subject line. When you encounter spam Norton missed, highlight it and select "This is spam" from the drop-down menu; the messages are shuttled into the junk folder and the sender is sent to your Blocked list. When Norton stops something it shouldn't, you follow the same process, but the menu option changes to "This is not spam" and the address is added to your Allowed list. Unlike with SpamKiller, you can process multiple messages at the same time.
Norton AntiSpam 2004 offers few features, but they're essential ones. Like many filters, Norton AntiSpam learns as it goes, automatically scanning outgoing messages to learn what each user considers junk. A handy control panel lets you manually add names to the Allowed or Blocked sender lists, create e-mail filters, or toggle pop-up and ad blocking on or off. You can also set AntiSpam to act as a whitelist that blocks all mail from people not in your address book. Norton filters your MSN mail, provided you use Outlook 2003 to read it, and the fee-based version of Yahoo Mail, as long as you use a POP e-mail client to check it.
Norton's control panel lets you adjust filtering strength to low, medium, or high. (Medium worked just fine for us.)
Out of the box, Norton AntiSpam 2004 stopped 85 percent of our spam, and within two days, it was up to 95 percent. Even better, the program made almost no mistakes, blocking legitimate e-mail less than 3 percent of the time. This performance is even more impressive when you consider that the software was operating at its default setting of Moderate. Other spam-filtering technologies--particularly, challenge/response systems such as Qurb or EarthLink's SpamBlocker--stop more of the junk, but none do it with so little collateral damage.
As Norton's statistics page reveals, the filter trapped a little more than 95 percent of all the junk it encountered in a two-week period.
Norton's lackluster support is the only fly in this soufflé. Like with McAfee, you must pay $30 per incident for live tech support. The support lines are open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Unlike McAfee, Symantec offers no interactive chat, but McAfee's worked so poorly that this may be a blessing in disguise. Norton's online knowledge base seemed flaky; for example, some pages had graphical elements that did not always display properly on different systems. The sort-of-good news? We sent an e-mail query to support and got a helpful response in slightly less than 48 hours--a tolerable wait.
Unless you're willing to pony up $30 a pop, your best support option is Symantec's online knowledge base.