Pros Decade Edition
By Jim Bray
PC faxing software has come a long way, as witnessed by the tenth incarnation
of Symantecs WinFax Pro.
The new version of the old standby tries to blend old-style
faxing with new-style e-mail the technology that threatens to eventually
push WinFax out of the way.
How things change in a few years! I remember spending two grand on a
stand-alone fax machine, and putting up with nasty and curly thermal paper.
Now, the fax itself may be heading to the same tar pit as the teletype!
I've used WinFax Pro since Version 4 and, on the whole, the products
evolution especially in improved usability has been quite
dramatic. Most of the enhancements in Version Number 10 are more subtle,
however, with a couple of exceptions.
The fax by e-mail feature, for instance, is important because
it doesn't require the recipient to have a fax machine at all just
Setting the product up for e-mailing is quite easy, though I had some
problems getting it to work right off the bat. WinFax is supposed to cuddle
a wide variety of e-mail programs, including the one I use, and faxes
are theoretically transmitted as self executing file attachments (the
fax recipient should only have to double click on the attachment and the
fax will open).
Unfortunately, while it appeared to work perfectly up to the time it
was meant to leave my machine, WinFax refused to send the e-mails. This
could be due to the rather unique e-mail server configuration
in my home office, however.
Symantec has also learned a nifty trick from those e-mail filters that
let you direct spam straight to your trash folder. A new junk fax
filter lets you store the sender identifier or caller ID (if you
subscribe to that feature and your modem supports it). Subsequent offending
faxes from those parties are directed away from your inbox.
The product also has a new years resolution. This particular
resolution is supposed to let you fax with near photographic quality,
as opposed to the usually crummy way pictures fax. This is a wonderful
improvement and it works quite well. I faxed a color bitmap photo of my
son and the black and white representation it transmitted was as good
as I could expect, given the genetic makeup of the source material.
I'll still take an e-mail attachment, but not everyone has e-mail
WinFax setup program is better, too. When I upgraded the product,
the new version looked at my existing configuration and asked if I wanted
to use the same settings. I did, so it did.
The software also pokes around to see what PIM you use and, if it finds
one it recognizes, it makes the data appear in its phone books section.
It correctly found Outlook on my system, though (possibly since I keep
my folders remotely) it didn't find the actual information.
Fortunately, I didn't care about this. I have WinFax phone books that
I've been upgrading and re-importing for years and I store them separately
from my PIM.
Still, you'd think if the software was going to go part way it would
go all the way.
They've even given the taskbars WinFax Controller
icon that a clean new look.
Theres also supposed to be a drag and drop depot icon
that the software installs onto your desktop. This theoretically lets
you drag files directly into WinFax for instant faxing, rather
than having to load the associated software and WinFax print
the file. This feature wasn't enabled in my installation, however, probably
because I told it not to bother with the desktop icon.
I might have configured it differently if I'd known in advance that the
feature was available, which is a perfect lesson as to why it pays to
read the instruction manual first
You can also generate detailed reports about your fax traffic in both
directions, based on criteria you tell it, and you can print out the reports
for their maximum incrimination or intimidation potential.
Despite the problems I encountered with it, WinFax Pro performs well
at the day to day faxing tasks I have. Those duties are becoming fewer
every day, however, thanks to e-mail, and I envision the day when I such
a product won't be needed.
For now, however, WinFax is a helpful tool to have around.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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