Software helps you sort out fax, phone problems

Question: Please advise whether there is a simple and economical method for receiving fax messages on a fax modem which shares a single line with voice messages. Although I rely primarily on e-mail, I occasionally want to receive a fax message; this is too infrequent to justify a dedicated telephone line.

I tried setting my fax modem to kick in after four or five rings but that’s inconvenient. I also subscribed to the TELUS Smart Ring service (several months ago) but that was unsatisfactory. I also made some inquiries for fax mailbox services, including Videotron, my Internet service provider, but these are either not available or too expensive. I have also inquired at some computer stores without success.

My OS is Windows 95. I use Office 97 with Outlook 98 for e-mail. I am currently using MS FaxWizard to send faxes, but I realize it is a poor fax program and is not well designed to receive faxes. – HVP

Answer: Winfax Pro from Symantec can be used for both sending and receiving faxes using a fax modem, but the program can’t tell if the call is voice or fax until the call is actually answered. At that stage, there’s not much that can be done with a voice call. It can’t be passed back to an answering machine or voice-mail service.

Winfax Pro works with distinctive ring technology as well, presuming your modem supports it. A distinctive ring service, provided by the phone company (like TELUS’ SmartRing service) , supports two phone numbers on one line. To illustrate, if your main number is 555-3366 and someone calls that number, you phone rings normally. A distinctive ring service adds a second number to you line, say 555-3367. When that number is dialed, the phone rings differently, maybe with longer or shorter rings. This is useful to differentiate between your personal and business calls, or you could also use it for voice and fax calls. I used this feature in my office. My fax machine answers the distinctive ring calls because I give that number out as my fax line number. Of course, I can’t use my phone for voice calls when a fax is being sent or received.

You can set Winfax Pro to either automatic or manual reception. If you only receive faxes occasionally, you could disable automatic reception and rely on the manual reception features. In this case, when you do pick up the phone and hear the fax tones, you can select “Manual Receive Now”. Of course, this “manual receive” strategy won’t work if you’re not at your desk.

If you don’t want to spend the money on the software I’ve mentioned, you might want to consider eFax. It’s a fax mailbox service that’s free, but there are drawbacks. eFax provides you with the ability to receive faxes via e-mail. The company assigns you a personal fax number and when that number receives a fax, eFax compresses the fax and sends it to you as an e-mail attachment, which you can then view with a free downloadable fax viewer program.

So what’s the catch? The fax number assigned to you is located in the U.S. Midwest, so anyone faxing you will have to call long distance. You also have to view an ad for a few seconds before you can see your fax. You also cannot send a fax through the service. You can sign up or get more information at