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  PC-Net's PC News - January, 1999
 
Don Watkins

Just the FAX...

By Don Watkins

 
 
 

 

January 1999--Sending or receiving a fax is now an easy task, thanks to computers. This month, we'll examine a number of programs that make faxing easier and faster.

It used to be that you had to print a document then spend time feeding the document into a fax machine. That has all changed. Virtually any computer you purchase today will have a modem and that modem will have fax capabilities. You will need fax software, but it's not difficult to obtain or use. Often, it's as simple as printing to your fax modem instead of to a printer. We're slowly but surely moving to a true paperless office.

Windows 95 included an application called MS Fax. For some, that was all that was needed. MS Fax could be cumbersome to use and if Outlook was also installed the process was even more complex.

Windows 98 also includes MS Fax but you have to hunt for it on the Windows 98 distribution CD. U.S. users will find the file in \Tools\Oldwin95\Message\US\Awfax.exe. International users will find the file in \Tools\Oldwin95\Message\Intl\Awfax.exe. With Notepad open, the file titled Wms-fax.txt is in the same folder for information on how to install it, as well as the MS Messaging facility.

If you are looking for something that may be easier to use or have more functions, consider the following alternatives. This list is not inclusive, as there are a wide variety of options available on the market today. I often resort to using an older Windows 3.1 FAX program because it's simple to use and I need to get something out in a hurry.

Before we get to the list, I want to discuss Telephony Application Programming Interface (TAPI), which was introduced in Windows 95 and also is included in Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0. TAPI is the interface between a fax program and the fax modem. One of the primary reasons TAPI was developed was so that application programs no longer needed to maintain support for the many brands of modems available on the market. TAPI handles all the details. When the operating system recognizes the modem, any TAPI compliant program will automatically support the modem.

TAPI allows more than one application to share the modem port without having to manually open and close programs. In the Windows 3.1, if a fax program was configured to always wait for incoming faxes and a communications program wanted to use the port you had to manually close the fax program and then open it up again when the communications program was finished. With TAPI, when a user needs to initiate a dial-up networking connection you don't need to worry whether or not a fax program is already running. This works as long as the fax program is written for 32-bit operating system (Windows 95/98/NT). You'll still need to manually manage Windows 3.1 programs.

Some of the programs available on the market are:

WinFax Pro

In addition to sending and receiving single faxes, WinFax can be used for faxing the same items to a group of individuals in a single operation (often referred to as broadcast faxing). WinFax Pro supports using one or two modems at once. One could be configured for sending and one could be configured for receiving. Of course, two phone lines are required for this configuration.

Hot Fax

This package doesn't have the power WinFax does, but it's also easier to configure and use. Hot Fax supports a single modem.

Total Fax

This package includes a variety of options, such as supporting as many modems as your computer can handle and faxing in color if the recipient is using a computer. Stand-alone fax machines will process the fax in black-and-white.

ProComm Plus Version 4.7

This package combines a number of programs: Faxing, web browsing, email, remote access, and more. This may be overkill for you, but if you're looking for one package that does it all, ProComm Plus is definitely worth checking out.

Some folks have asked me what fax program(s) I use. For the quick stuff where I need to fax a note or something I have scanned in, I use the 16-bit version of ProComm Plus. Yes, it's an older program, but it does what I need and I'm used to it. I should probably switch to Version 4.7 and remove one more application from my system. For heavy duty faxing, I use WinFax Pro because it can handle that without a problem.

Until next month, happy faxing. Often, it's as much of an art as a science, but it's much easier than it used to be.

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