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Faxing in Panther

by Wei-Meng Lee
11/26/2003

What About Fax STF?

You may find that in your Applications folder there is a folder named Fax STF (or something like this). The Fax STF is a fax software that allows you to send and receive faxes. The strange thing is that Apple only bundles the Fax STF fax software on some models that it sells. Certain models, like the 12" G4 PowerBook, come with Fax STF. However I could not find it on my eMac.

Nevertheless, you could always send and receive faxes using Panther's built-in support for fax.

Panther breathes new life to your Mac's modem. Even though you may no longer use it for dialup Internet connectivity, your modem can now become a built-in fax machine. Group 3 faxing support is built into the latest version of Mac OS X, and there is no need to install (or purchase) any other fax software.

Sending a Fax

You can invoke the fax functionality in any application in Mac OS X Panther as long as it supports the Print function. For example, if you want to fax a web page in Safari, you simply go to the File -> Print menu item. In the Print dialog window select the Fax... button (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Faxing in Panther is available as long as the application supports the Print function.

Clicking on the Fax... button will reveal another dialog window to allow you to specify the recipient information (or you can conveniently get the recipient information from your Address book). You can select the modem to use for the faxing (such as the internal modem or a Bluetooth modem). You can include a cover page as well as specify other options such as page layout, fax quality, etc. (see Figure 2).


Figure 2. Entering the recipient information as well as specifying the various options.

You have the option to preview the pages before you actually fax them. Figure 3 shows my fax preview:


Figure 3. Previewing the fax before sending.

Selecting the Soft Proof option at the bottom of the fax preview allows you to view how your fax will look like on the recipient's side. Figure 4 shows the fax preview with and without the soft proof option selected.


Figure 4. Using Soft Proof to view the fax to be sent.

When you are ready to send the fax, click on the Fax button at the bottom of the fax preview.

You can see the status of the fax being sent by selecting the Internal Modem application from the Dock (alternatively, you can select Internal Modem from your Home Directory/Library/Printers/ folder). Figure 5 shows my fax status:


Figure 5. Checking the status of the fax sending.

Attaching a Signature to Your Document for Faxing

Another good use of this built-in fax support in Panther is when you need to edit and return a document to someone else. For me, I usually need to sign and fax back a writer's agreement to the various publishers. Instead of printing out a physical copy of the fax to sign and then fax back, I can attach a scanned copy of my signature to the electronic document. Figure 6 shows attaching a signature to a Word document so that I can fax it straightaway.


Figure 6. Attaching a signature to a Word document.

Receiving Fax

Receiving fax in Panther is a no-brainer. In fact, it is so easy that I do not realize it when a new fax arrives. But before I discuss that, let's perform some simple set ups to enable our Mac to receive faxes.

Go to System Preferences and select the Print & Fax icon under the Hardware category (see Figure 7).


Figure 7. Configuring fax service in System Preferences.

Click on the Faxing tab and check the "Receive faxes on this computer" checkbox. There are a few options on this page. You can configure the modem to automatically receive your fax after a few rings. Also, you have the choice to save the faxes into your own designated folder, or you can configure it to email to someone. Best of all, you can also redirect it to the printer directly (see Figure 8).


Figure 8. Configuring Panther to receive incoming faxes.

I personally like the choice to save received faxes into a folder, rather than wasting paper printing junk faxes. However, I realized that Panther does not alert you when a fax is received, and that the internal modem gave me no hints at all that a connection is being established (I tried this on the eMac and the Power Book G4). When an incoming fax is received, it will be saved in PDF format. You can use Preview or Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the fax (see Figure 9).


Figure 9. Viewing the received fax.

Notification for an Incoming Fax

One way to get around the notification problem is to configure the email option in the fax software. However, this is not always a feasible method of finding out about incoming transmissions because you have to be connected to the Internet for it to work. So, I use a file monitoring software such as FileMonitor from P&L Software (http://www.plsys.co.uk/filemonitor.htm) to detect changes in the incoming fax directory. FileMonitor is a freeware utility that observes changes in files on your system. It can also be used to keep track of changes in directories. So all I need to do is set up FileMonitor to monitor the directory configured for receiving faxes (see Figure 10).


Figure 10. Monitoring a directory for incoming faxes.

When an incoming fax is received, a notification window is displayed (see Figure 11) since the fax is saved in the directory. You have the option to set how often FileMonitor checks for changes in your directory as well as change the display time of the notification window.


Figure 11. Displaying the notification window.

Summary

With built-in fax support, you can now bring your entire office along with you when you travel with your Mac! Best of all, you can print from almost any application. It's just another of those 150 new features that make Panther a joy to use.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) http://weimenglee.blogspot.com is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions http://www.developerlearningsolutions.com, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.


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