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Free Faxing and Collaboration Tools

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When you're juggling multiple projects, the free fax and collaboration services described in this article will help you keep track of your tasks. You can use these free online communications services to organize project by project, schedule tasks, delegate to other people, stay in touch by fax or e-mail, and include multiple companies or vendors into a single project.
Eileen Mullin is Vice President of Web Projects for Human Resources at Merrill Lynch. This article is excerpted from her new book, Free Commerce: The Ultimate Guide to E-business on a Budget (Prentice Hall PTR, 2001, ISBN 0-13-033767-6).
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Free Faxing Tools

Even in this age of e-mail, the lowly, sometimes illegible fax remains a mainstay. It is critical for moving around documents that have strayed far from their original computer file, or that contain signatures or other hard-to-reproduce diagrams (as long as they're not in color, of course). If you have access to e-mail and a Web browser, though, you can create a pretty good facsimile of this facsimile machine. Table 1 compares the pros and cons of the free fax services discussed in the following sections.

Table 1 Comparison of Free Fax Services

 

FaxWave

eFax

Pros

Provides your own free personal fax number.

Free voice mail services are also provided.

Cons

Local numbers are not available in all areas.

Local numbers are not available in all areas; viewer is required.

Advertising display on faxes

Yes.

Yes.

Sends/receive faxes

Sends only.

Sends only; receives faxes for a fee.


FaxWave

With CallWave's FaxWave, you have your own free personal fax number that you can print on your business cards or share with your clients and friends, just like any other phone number. You receive faxes in your e-mail inbox as attachments that you can view or print in a flash using a Windows-based imaging application.

What's the catch? Each fax you receive appears with advertising on it. Also, the fax number assigned to you is unlikely to be in your area code, so you need to decide whether having a local fax number is necessary for your business. If your FaxWave account is inactive for a 60-day period, CallWave can delete your telephone number and reassign it to another user. On the plus side, you can receive faxes with FaxWave, even when you're traveling. You also have the ability to immediately forward faxes to others via e-mail.

FaxWave lets you receive faxes only; not send them.

Getting Started

When you sign up with FaxWave, you can choose from one of several phone numbers that are generated for you. The service then forwards your faxes to your e-mail with a file attachment. You need a program such as Windows Imaging (see Figure 1), an application installed on most Windows 95 and Windows 98 machines, to view FaxWave faxes.

Figure 1 You need an imaging application to view the faxes you receive with FaxWave.

During the site's registration process, you are asked to supply personal information—including your age, occupation category, and annual income—that is used to target the advertising you see. CallWave also sends you several follow-up questionnaires throughout the year, and requires you to answer at least one per year to maintain your FaxWave account.

Big spender: No premium services.

URL: http://www.faxwave.com/

Contact: info@callwave.com

eFax

With eFax.com's free fax service, you can sign up for a fax number that automatically routes inbound faxes right to your e-mail. You receive an e-mail message with your digitized fax as an attachment. You have to use the service's free Microviewer software to read or print your fax.

When you open a fax attachment, eFax's Microviewer displays the fax, along with a small ad window that runs at the top of the window. The company claims that its format's compression will produce fax files up to 50 percent smaller than other electronic fax file formats, thus taking up less space in your e-mail inbox and hard disk. The Microviewer is e-mailed to you when you sign up, and you can return to the eFax site to download it at any time.

One nice feature is that if you delete or misplace a fax you received, you can return to the eFax site within three days and download it again; after that point, it's automatically deleted from eFax's server.

Area codes are assigned randomly from numbers available across the U.S., so some senders have to fax long distance. Like other free online fax services, you don't have the ability to choose a fax number in your local area code unless you pay for a premium service with a monthly fee.

The Microviewer software is available for both Mac and Windows users. You can use eFax if you have a Unix box or use Linux or WebTV, but the faxes you receive are in a TIFF format that doesn't utilize the service's password-protection or compression features.

The free eFax service does not include capabilities for sending faxes. When you sign up, you are asked whether you want to activate eFax's free voice mail services, which include sending, saving, and forwarding electronic copies of your voice mail messages. Voice mails are also played through the Microviewer (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 eFax's voice mail messages are played online via the Microviewer.

Getting Started

When you register, you receive a PIN number to view your account information on the eFax.com site. You can use your PIN number to password-protect the faxes you receive and to view an activity log of faxes sent to you during the previous three days, which is handy for managing your information and for confirming that faxes were sent.

Required information includes

  • Full name

  • E-mail address

  • Computer platform

  • E-mail software

  • Zip code

  • Country

Big spender: eFax Plus provides toll-free fax numbers, e-mail-based fax sending, fax preview, and online fax storage with access from multiple e-mail accounts or a fax machine for $4.95 a month, plus a 10-cent charge per-page and per-minute of send time. The site has an easy-to-read chart showing its various services, their features, and pricing.

URL: http://www.efax.com/

Contact: http://www.efax.com/contactus/

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