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
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
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
Until next month, stay connected!