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-- by Lori L. Bloomer
If you think the race for PC fax software is over-with Windows 95 the winner-think again. Version 8.0 of WinFax PRO could well change your mind.
WinFax PRO 7.5 introduced Internet fax, which uses the Internet to transmit or receive faxes; version 8.0 goes one better by setting up an Internet fax account for you. At press time, the account provider, NetCentric, planned to offer WinFax PRO users 30 free days of use with a 15-cent-per-minute charge for use after that.
The program lets you send faxes to selected recipients via the Internet. A real-time monitor shows the status of your fax, confirming that each page was received. In my tests, I found Internet fax to be smooth, more than twice as fast as standard fax transmissions and more efficient. It doesn't tie up a pair of phone lines for prolonged periods, while the transmission tends to be cleaner because the source is digital and not a scanned page. A busy signal won't bump your fax-the Internet fax server just keeps retrying, and if you happen to send to the wrong place, you can cancel your transmission once it reaches the fax server.
The WinFax PRO 8.0 controller takes up residence on the Start menu on installation. From its pop-up menu, you can send, receive and manage faxes. Additionally, Symantec has added more context-sensitive, right-mouse click menus to the new version.
WinFax PRO now supports dual-modem use for people with two phone lines and many faxes to send. You can spread the fax load across both lines, set each to fax separate jobs or designate one line as send-exclusive, letting the other be interrupted for incoming calls.
Network clients can access shared modems over their LAN using WinFax PRO-any network OS that uses IPX, NetBEUI or Microsoft Networking to communicate can be used. Once each workstation is defined within the WinFax network server (sold separately for $120), each user can send and receive faxes via the networked modem. WinFax PRO supports Net SatisFAXtion, a large-scale corporate fax solution. Urgent faxes can take priority even in the middle of a group fax broadcast-a real boon for networked users.
The program's Send screen let me schedule recurring faxes and choose from multiple credit card dialing sequences. Although beta bugs prevented me from completely testing it, a company spokesperson said the program will send many popular Windows 95 file formats, such as Word 95, WordPerfect 7.0 and Excel 95, in a single step. It will also let you add frequently faxed documents to the Attachments Library, where they can be resent with a double-click.
New letterhead support lets you merge a predesigned logo with your fax, without needing hard-copy printouts. You can mix styles, using letterhead on your first page and normal layout for subsequent pages.
A few versions ago, WinFax PRO restricted you to one set of dialing parameters, a distinct disadvantage for mobile users who require different dialing procedures for hotel, home, office and on-the-road faxing. Developers have overcome that problem. The program now supports an unlimited number of locations and will pick up location information from other TAPI-compliant applications. Fax Pager remains in this version, allowing WinFax PRO to page you every time it receives a fax.
WinFax's Recurring option lets you automatically repeat fax sends on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. The program can update the file with each faxing, and can schedule fax sends for specific times to take advantage of off-peak long distance rates. Incoming messages can also be auto-forwarded.
Working with the phone book is an intuitive process, thanks to the single-window tabbed entry screen. WinFax PRO phone books can now reside in separate folders, allowing you to access the phone books used by Microsoft Exchange or any MAPI-compliant application, as well as those from earlier versions of WinFax PRO. The program also imports ASCII, dBASE III/IV and Lotus Organizer 1.x data into phone books.
However, the program isn't perfect. I found WinFax PRO's performance slow (unless it was the only program running) on my test machine, a 200MHz Pentium with 32MB of EDO RAM. The release version's code will be tightened up, but in beta, performance was less than optimal. The cover page editor imports graphics and elements easily, but makes reorganizing these elements on the page far more difficult than expected, given the rest of the program's excellence. The new Cover Page Wizard will be included in the shipping version, however, offering a more straightforward way to design your cover pages.
WinFax PRO 8.0 offers enough features to make you think twice about dismissing standalone fax software from your communications arsenal, and it's certainly good enough, even in beta, to belong on our Recommended List.