DISCUSSION: Block Sender / Mark Spam Functionality
Idea shared by Andrea Rogers - May 2 at 3:12 PM
In Progress
Employee Post
With the removal of Bayesian filtering in SmarterMail, we are discussing the best method for users to manage spam and unwanted emails in their mailbox. There are many threads relating to the Block Sender and Mark Spam functionality throughout this Community, so we are creating this thread to centralize the discussion and ensure we are meeting your needs. After reviewing the suggestions throughout the Community, here's what we think will work to meet the needs of most users.

Proposed Changes:

  • Mark Spam and Mark Not Spam will no longer be available. Instead, in all email folders, users will have the ability to mark an email as junk or not junk:
    • Mark as Junk will essentially replace the Block Sender functionality. It would move any selected email to the Junk Email Folder and would add those senders' email addresses to the content filter currently named "Internal Blocked Senders". This filter would likely be renamed to "Move to Junk Email" to more aptly describe its purpose, but would otherwise remain as it is today to send all future messages from those senders to the Junk Email folder. 
    • Mark not Junk will essentially combine the Unblock Sender and Mark Not Spam functionality. It would move any selected email to the Inbox and would add those senders' email addresses to the user's Trusted Senders email address list.
    • Mark as Junk would check for the email address in Trusted Senders and remove it from there, if applicable. Mark not Junk would check for the email address in the Move to Junk Email filter and remove it from there, if applicable. Both of these options will have confirmation modals that will ensure the user understands its use and does not accidentally block or unblock emails. 
  • We will add an option in the email header and content pane's right-click context menu for Create Filter. This button would act as a shortcut to the content filter creation page, where all email addresses from the selected emails would be added as a filter Condition. This would allow the user to quickly create a content filter that meets their unique needs for the selected email addresses.  

Community Feedback:

Below is some of the common feedback from threads throughout the Community with an explanation for our decision to implement the feature or decline the suggestion:

The feature should not be named "Block Sender" if it does not BLOCK the sender.

We agree, and we propose changing the name from Block Sender to Mark as Junk to more aptly describe the behavior. Keep in mind that the decision to change the block action from 'Delete Message' to 'Move to Junk Email' was put in place in SmarterMail 16.x due to feedback from many administrators. The Delete Message content filter action that was in place for previous versions stops the email from reaching the spool, which permanently deletes the message and prevents its recovery. As a failsafe for user error, this won't be used in the block sender / mark as junk action from the Email section. That action will only be available for content filters manually created by users. 
In addition, the behavior to send messages to the Junk Email folder follows suit with other common email services, which move messages that are marked as spam to the spam/junk folder. Using Mark as Junk, the emails will effectively be blocked from reaching your Inbox. (For those worried about the junk email folder filling up, we have solutions available for folder auto-clean at the system, domain and user level.)

We need the ability to block and DELETE at the same time.
Allow users to choose the action for Mark as Junk (previously Block Sender).

With a name of "Block Sender" I can understand why users would expect emails to not reach their mailbox at all. This point, along with the removal of Bayesian filtering, has prompted us to change the name of this feature. That said, messages that are marked as junk will be immediately removed from the Inbox and sent to the Junk Email folder. They will never be permanently deleted from the mailbox. This follows suit with other common email services, which move messages that are marked as spam to the spam/junk folder. 
For those worried about users getting rid of valid email, blocked email can be recovered from the Junk Email folder or message archiving, if that's enabled. The confirmation modal should also help to clearly explain to users what will occur. 
That said, at this time, we are not inclined to allow users to modify the action of the block action. Flexibility within the product is almost always welcome; however, it's not always necessary and can often result in bloatware of settings or functionality. This feedback is part of what has prompted the plan to create a new email option for "Create Filter". This new feature will allow us to keep one standard behavior for Mark as Junk / Mark not Junk, while still allowing users the flexibility of quickly creating their own filters. 

Allow users a quicker solution for creating their own filters.

This feedback is part of what has prompted the plan to create a new email option for "Create Filter". This new feature will allow us to keep one standard behavior for Mark as Junk / Mark not Junk, while still allowing users the flexibility of quickly creating their own filters. For example, if a user would prefer to permanently delete a message from an email address or move it to a different folder, they could quickly and easily create a filter to do so.


Add Mark Spam button to the toolbar. 

(Tentatively declined, barring discussion)
From a design standpoint, this type of addition to the toolbar can quickly become a slippery slope, resulting in a very crowded toolbar. What one user uses often, another might not ever touch. On the other hand, some might prefer having Print or View Header readily available instead. We, unfortunately, can't accommodate every users' requests for which options they use most often. As it is, the Mark as Junk button would be quickly accessible from the content pane's right-click menu or nested only once within the [...] button.

Add "Don't show this again" option to the Mark as Junk / Mark not Junk confirmation modal.

(Tentatively declined, barring discussion)
Given the large number of reports that users have unintentionally blocked messages from valid senders, we feel it's necessary to show the confirmation modal to ensure users understand that messages they mark as junk will no longer be sent to their Inbox. 

Ongoing Discussion:

We would like to continue this discussion in the replies. Please let us know the items that you care most strongly about. Do you have any concerns with our proposed solution? Which requests would you consider must-haves? What else can we do to make managing unwanted messages in your Inbox effective and easy? 
The floor is yours.  

Andrea Rogers
Communications Specialist
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278


16 Replies

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A. I vote for contextual Junk Not Junk button.
B. As for blocking the sender, add Sweep like this and lump control and user rule customization all in one menu:
Any chance IMAP users will be able to interact with the spam filters by moving messages to the spam folder?  We have a very small percentage of webmail users.
kevind Replied
The Proposed Changes listed above are well thought out and would be a nice improvement to SmarterMail. The actions/options you described are how most email platforms work, would be easy to use, and will keep the user out of trouble. If the user doesn't want to receive messages from X, they should unsubscribe as blocking legitimate senders wastes system resources. And blocking spammers is useless because they never re-use the same email address.
If you really want to take it up a notch, then when the user chooses Mark as Junk, record some info about the message (IP address, sender, which DNS-BLs were triggered, etc.) and store it in a table. This would be useful information for the admin to review periodically. For example, to confirm which blacklists are working, so you could increase the score.
As far as what was mentioned for IMAP users, our user base is mixed, we have people who prefer webmail, other users use POP strictly and a growing amount of users that favor IMAP because it makes email propagate the same way through all their devices.
So the issue with reporting spam with POP and IMAP is that the user has no recourse for it unless they log directly into the web interface, I can tell you, it inconviences the user and they get aggrevated that they have to do it. I have lots of users that do not like change or don't adapt to it well. So why not add a function in SM, that the user can submit the email to and SM will trap those emails. Something like spam@whateverdomain.com, or some special account you can setup per domain. Give the users something they can submit to. So if you submit something in, have SM analyze the header information and grab the necessary items from the header like the IP and email address, then add that to a blocked sender's list for that user that submitted the email. You could still even utilize the Internal Blocked Senders list that's already there. That way no matter what type of account the user is using, this could be something universal not matter what you are using, webmail, POP, IMAP, etc. or device. The reversal could also be done with emails sent to spam, but have an account notspam@whateverdomain.com and have it do the opposite with the header info, but this time put it in the Trusted Senders list for that user.
With the method I decsribed above it wouldn't matter that the user only used webmail or liked IMAP in their Outlook, they could submit spam and have email addresses whitelisted easily per domain no matter what device or email client they used.
Would also be neat, maybe.. If there could be some sort of a system level action when a message is marked as spam. Such as forwarding the message to a specified address or as an attachment. Or writing the .eml file to a specific directory IE ham / spam automatically.


Andrea Rogers Replied
Employee Post
Thank you all for your feedback! We have completed our plan for managing unwanted emails in your mailbox, and these changes will make this process easy, accurate and customizable for each user's unique needs.
People always say to deliver bad news first, so I'll get that out of the way before jumping into our improvements to webmail. We've considered the request once again for spam reporting via IMAP, and I'm sorry to report that we won't be implementing this at this time. Please understand... With the removal of Bayesian filtering, SmarterMail itself no longer contains traditional mark as spam functionality. In addition, each email client treats spam differently. Some clients offer Move to Junk, some offer Block Sender, others offer Mark as Spam. We don't know which commands the plethora of email clients available will send for their mark as spam, block sender or move to junk functionality, or even if these clients will behave similarly. We can't make the assumption that a user who moves a message into their client's junk/spam folder knows that all future messages from that user will be blocked. At this time, those using IMAP will need to manage unwanted messages using the functionality available in their preferred client. 
Now, onto the better news that you've all been waiting and asking for... Here's a highlight of the changes coming to SmarterMail:
  • Internal Blocked Senders filter will be removed from Content Filtering and a Blocked Senders card will be added to the user's Spam Filtering instead. On this Blocked Senders card, users can select the action they would like to take for blocked senders: Move to Junk Email Folder, Move to Deleted Items folder, or Delete Message. When a user blocks a sender from their Inbox, the selected messages will follow their preferred action, and all future messages from that sender will as well.  Many of you requested the ability to customize this option per user. Others requested the ability to completely block the message from hitting the user's mailbox. This option will accomplish both of those requests.
  • Along with a Block Sender option, users will have an option for Trust Sender. If a valid email was sent to the Junk Email folder, the user can click Trust Sender to send that message to their Inbox and add the sender to the Trusted Senders list. All of their future messages will bypass spam filtering and be sent to the Inbox as well.
  • We're also adding a tag to the email header to show whether a message was sent from a Blocked or Trusted Sender. At a glance, users will have the security of knowing that an email is from a valid source, and they will be able to see whether the Trusted Sender is from their contact list, Global Address List, or the domain Trusted Senders list. If they're viewing their Junk or Deleted Items folder, they'll also be able to see at a glance which senders have been blocked. If this was done in error, they'll have a quick solution for unblocking that sender and moving the message back to the Inbox. 
  • A Create Filter option will be added to the email menus for a quick shortcut to the content filter section. This option will be available for individual messages, and it will pre-fill a filter with the From Address, To Address, and Subject of that specific email. Because the user will be taken to the content filter section, they can customize that filter to meet their needs. 
  • Accompanying the Create Filter option, Add Sender to Filter will also be added to the email menus. This will allow a user to select one or multiple emails, and add the sender of those emails will be added to an existing filter that contains the From Address condition. This feature was added to provide more flexibility to users and a quick solution for managing messages from specific senders.
  • Also planned for SmarterMail 17.x, users will have the ability to run content filters on demand. When a user creates a content filter for managing messages from a specific sender, they can then run the content filter against the Inbox, and all previous emails meeting those requirements will be handled to their preference. 
We believe these changes will make clearing out unwanted messages and preventing new ones from reaching the mailbox a much easier and accurate process, and we hope that these changes are a welcomed addition. (I am personally looking forward to some of these new features and changes.) And as always, we really do appreciate all the feedback we've received here, so I'd like to thank you for participating in this thread.
Thank you,

Andrea Rogers
Communications Specialist
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278


kevind Replied
A little confused. So will there still be a "Mark as Junk" button?
If yes, you might want to update the dialog box below (taken from this Confirmation Popup Needed thread which is locked)
  • Change title from Block Sender to "Mark as Junk" to match the button the user just pressed
  • Update the paragraph to reflect new action listed above
  • Put "Block" button to left of Cancel button for consistency with other dialog boxes (OK is usually before Cancel).
  • Maybe change "Block" to "OK" since it really doesn't block, but move the message to Junk.
  • Keep the buttons close together, not in opposite corners 
Just making an extra effort here as this feature has caused a lot of confusion for our users as well as other people in this forum. See: https://portal.smartertools.com/community/a87133/block-sender-is-an-outdated-feature-that-permanently-deletes-messages.aspx
How will this affect those of us who currently pipe ham / spam into our external SpamAssassin servers?  We need to maintain this functionality to properly train SA.
John Marx Replied
Truly dumb question (not really as the only dumb question is one you don't ask).... 
If SpamAssassin is truly the "fix" for many of the answers why can't we integrate out of the box with SmarterMail? If this helps solve the problem, saves customers money, etc. then this seems something more important that a lot of the other features.
mail Replied
Hi Joe (Wolf)
Please be so kind to let us know how you manage to send your users that daily report listing any messages that was automatically sent to their Junk E-Mail folder in the previous 24 hours.
Many thanks,
igorinuk Replied
With the removal of Bayesian filtering in SmarterMail, we are discussing the best method for users to manage spam and unwanted emails in their mailbox.
The way solid companies work is: They discuss such changes first, then implement and test a new solution and only after that they disable (not remove) the old feature like Bayesian filtering (with ability to enable it if customers still want it).
It is not the first case when SmarterMail team acts impulsive. It reminds the case with the "Show Password" button. It was removed, then returned back.
I hope SmarterMail will return Bayesian filtering back too. Otherwise it is just not fair to force us (customers) to pay for Cyren when we could filter spam for free. Do you guys have some agreement with Cyren?
I agree, this isn't the first time this has happened where a feature was taken away without taking a poll first from your paying customers. The part I find odd, we make suggestions and they need enough community upvotes to have something considered to be added to the software, then it's still ignored anyway. I've seen it numerous times where a good idea is left to just die in a thread somewhere.
Truth to tell though, I'm not really sure how well the built in spamassassin on SM worked anyway. We use a combination of external spamassassin and message sniffer to police spam on our server. The main concern I have since the built in spam filtering got taken out, if you use a setup like ours, how does that change how message sniffer works? We bought ours directly through ARM. So we don't use the built in method that SM provides.
Ok my fault for the error on spamassassin. I will admit when I'm wrong, it was bayesian that was removed. But I have seen posts in the past that no one from SM responded on. I'm not here to start a flame war, but good ideas from the community have been over looked before, maybe that is changing now and that is a good thing.
igorinuk Replied
Bayesian was removed because it no longer had any value. It provided ABSOLUTELY no results.
It is not true. It worked. We upgraded to SmarterMail version with the removed Bayesian filtering and immediately got multiple support tickets with spam related complaints. A typical mailbox now get 40 to 60 additional spam emails a day!
We need Bayesian Filtering back. You can turn it off by default, it is ok. But we should have a possibility to turn it back on if we wish. Feel free to add some red Warning text like "It is a legacy feature blah-blah", but do not remove it.
And PLEASE allow us to download minor versions of SmarterMail, not just the latest version.
igorinuk Replied
In 2016 I asked 2 questions related to Bayesian filtering:
kevind replied that one issue is discussed from 2014 and another from 2015:
Now in 2018 SmarterTools just removed Bayesian filter instead of improving it.
SmarterTools had these options:
1. Improve Bayesian filtering.
2. Leave it as it was, but add a warning.
3. Make it open source.
4. Remove.
Why remove? Why destroy something at all? If you do not want to improve it yourself, then make it open source and let community to improve it.
All we miss is that when Bayesian filtering was removed, the spam/ham directories in SM stopped working as well. We used these folders to help train remote SpamAssassin filters and some other systems.


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