Installing Norton AntiSpam isn't nuisance-free. Once the software copies to your hard disk, Norton updates itself and asks you to reboot. You'll also have to activate the program within two weeks, or Norton AntiSpam will stop working. Activation is a painless process but a hassle nonetheless. After you reboot and launch Outlook or Outlook Express, Norton AntiSpam asks if you want it to set itself up as a toolbar inside the program. It's good that the app asks, but we expected Norton AntiSpam to integrate more efficiently with Outlook.
From there, Norton AntiSpam works like MailFrontier Desktop does, shunting suspect spam into a separate folder and letting you flag missed spam or legit messages by clicking toolbar buttons within Outlook or Outlook Express. In theory, the app learns what is spam and what is not. At its default setting, Norton AntiSpam trapped slightly less than 90 percent of the junk, with about 10 percent false positives in informal tests. That made it less effective than MailFrontier Desktop, which trapped more than 90 percent and had fewer false positives. Worse, Norton AntiSpam 2005 was extremely sluggish. On several different test beds, it took about a minute to move a single piece of spam from our Inbox to the Norton folder. Often we couldn't do anything else with our test system until Norton AntiSpam had finished. (Symantec's technical support was unable to explain this behavior.) Simply deleting the junk would have been faster.
Norton AntiSpam 2005 comes packed with features, such as built-in banner-ad and pop-up blockers. You can also control how the spam filter handles HTML mail, images, and e-mail containing Web forms and scripts. The program can filter out e-mail in more than two dozen languages, from Abkhazian to Zulu. You can also use it to scan your online Yahoo Mail for spam, though in our limited tests it trapped about a third of the junk while blocking about half of the legit messages. Your mileage may vary.
If you want live tech support for Norton AntiSpam 2005, Symantec will charge $30 per incident. You can also e-mail questions for free once you've worked your way through the (largely useless) Symantec knowledge base. But while Symantec's autorespond e-mail promised an answer in four or five business days, we waited several more days for a response. For software with serious performance problems, that's too long to wait.