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  PC-Net's PC News - February, 2000
Don Watkins

4 Ways to Turn Your PC Into a Message Center

By Don Watkins



February 2000--I must admit the thought of using my $2,000 computer to replace my $49 answering machine is not one I relish, but I have to admit that there are times this may be handy. With the right hardware and software your computer can act as a general message center, handling email, voice messages, phone calls, and faxes. This month, we'll look at four products that make this happen.

What you will need
The first requirement is that you have a voice-capable fax modem. Not all fax modems provide voice functions, so check the documentation that came with your modem or computer system. Voice is becoming a common feature, but there are plenty of modems that don't offer voice functions.

Next, check the software specifications. I had a client who had trouble with one of the programs described here, Talkworks Pro. Nothing he did could get it working. The software maker's technical support department finally told him that his modem didn't work with their software. Talkworks Pro is the only product of those reviewed below that has such specific modem requirements, but it's best to check with the vendor to be sure.

1. Talkworks Pro
Symantec's Talkworks Pro is a full-featured fax, answering machine, fax-on-demand, and call tracking application. Symatec has a list of modems that have been tested to work with its software.

[Subsequent to this article Symantec discontinued this product but you may still be able to find it but do be aware that the vendor has discontinued support].

2. Hot Fax Message Center
Hot Fax Message Center can send a message to your pager when you receive a voice message or fax. Users can also send voice messages or faxes via the Internet to any user with a fax machine or a computer with a sound card. More information and a link to a trial version of this program can be found here.

3. Faxtalk Communicator
Faxtalk Communicator from Thought Communications supports many different voice chips, including those from Rockwell, US Robotics/3Com, PCTel, Motorolla, and Cirrus Logic. The program automatically detects which chip your modem uses and installs the proper software. Fax-on-demand is also supported, as well as distinctive ring detection and pager notification. More information and a demo version are available here.

4. Communicate Pro
Communicate Pro puts on your desktop a display that resembles a telephone, complete with keypad, LED display, and even a handset. No, you can't pick up the handset from the screen, but you may be tempted to try, as it looks quite real. The program can create multiple greetings and voice mailboxes. Need your voice mail on the road and worried that others may try to gain access? No problem--you can protect your mailboxes with passwords. The program automatically routes voice messages, faxes, and email into the appropriate inboxes. You can download a demo version here.

Until next month, stay connected!



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