Pick and Choose Your E-Mail

ChoiceMail 2.0 spam-blocking software does its job, but not without some complications.

If youre a power e-mail user and want to gain fine-grained control over the mail that enters your in-box, ChoiceMail 2.0 ($39.95 direct) probably has the features you want. But you will need to overcome its complexity and possible awkward moments with some correspondents.

Of the many solutions to the spam problem, ChoiceMail is perhaps the most famous of the challenge/response variety. The products main weapon, a challenge it sends in answer to a message from a non-approved sender, explains that the recipient is using ChoiceMail and provides a link to a Web site that requests the senders name and reason for e-mailing. You receive this information and can approve the sender, just that one message, or neither. Spammers are unlikely to read the challenge message or take the time to respond, so their mail is stopped. (This also blocks nearly all worm messages.) Because spammers typically use fictional addresses, ChoiceMail is smart enough to discard error messages caused by challenges.

Some people find challenge messages disturbing and fail to respond appropriately, so ChoiceMail leaves the option of using the technique up to you. If you opt not to, you can still use ChoiceMail as a holding area for unrecognized e-mail and approve or deny senders without involving them in the process.