Scanner to Fax on broadband January 12, 2008Posted by oktyabr in software, web, Windows.
The other day I did a stupid thing. I accidentally locked the keys to vehicle in the ignition with it running. And no, I didn’t have a spare! A call to a local locksmith fixed it in about 30 seconds for which I was billed a nice US$65! Luckily the locksmith said that I *might* be able to get it reimbursed through my insurance company. Why yes! They were happy to reimburse me! All I had to do was slap a 41 cent stamp on an envelope and drop the invoice in the mail or I could fax the invoice to them! Sweet! FAX! Instant gratification! How hard could it be?
Well, I haven’t used a fax machine (of my own) in many years and I haven’t had dialup internet in many years also. Still, in this day and age of technological wonders, when someone with a little perseverance and a good search engine can pretty much accomplish anything ‘net related for FREE.
A fairly quick search lead me to believe all I had to do was scan my documents, open the resulting image in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, select “Print” and then select “Fax” as my printer (?) Deeper searches turned up lots of posts about NEEDING a fax modem (do they even still sell those these days?!?) and, of course, a phone line, or more exactly, a dial tone. So what to do? Well, if you are like me and maybe only need to fax something once every decade or so you can actually accomplish this for free. If you need more access to your virtual fax machine you might end up spending anywhere from US$10/month and up, depending on your specific needs… In the case of SOHO application where fax might be used a good deal you might actually want to consider installing that old dialup modem, even if you have broadband. Anyway, in my specific case I have NO landline at all. All my phone calls are made over cell… which is another option in fact, but one I’ll save for another day 😉
So, what you need becomes a relatively simple step-by-step process. NOTE: The following is for windows XP Pro. I understand that Vista has a much improved fax interface but I have no experience with it. I am certain that the following steps can be translated to Mac and linux too… just a matter of figuring out what software you need to use for your platform.
1) There are many services that will fax for you, a few of them for free. One of the best I found, for very limited use anyway, appears to be http://faxzero.com/
faxzero allows you to send a fax anywhere in Canada or the United States for free. The free account is supported with a very basic advertisement on the receiver’s end and you are limited to one document, up to three pages, twice in one day. They confirm both the sending of the fax and the success (or failure) by separate emails so you will, of course, need a valid email account. The other restriction is that you are limited to documents in Microsoft Word .doc format or .pdf where a lot of the for-pay fax services allow you to send native .tiff as well. In my case all I have is a scanner and I need to send a scanned copy of the invoice from the locksmith so I need to know how to convert my scanner’s native .tiff file to .doc or .pdf …
Footnote: It’s also useful to mention that faxzero will also let you just type/copy-and-paste plain text into a box provided on the website instead of uploading a .doc or pdf.
2) Anyone who has read this blog a bit knows I’m not entirely fond of Microsoft or it’s products so let me say that I don’t have Word, don’t want Word and even if I had another software capable of saving in Word format I think I would rather not use it but consider that my personal preference and let’s move on! Luckily, for me, faxzero also accepts .pdf. Adobe <> Microsoft? Eh, that’s for a different post. It’s the one I chose and a bunch of searching turned up several applications that could do the job, most of them commercial or shareware. The one I settled on however is entirely free or in reference to the small paypal button on the website, perhaps more appropriately classified as “donationware”. This software is the free pdf “printer” from Bullzip.com.
Basically this software installs as a printer in windows and allows you to select it as an option when you select a printer to print your scanned image from Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. The process should be similar under other OS’s as well. Below is a link to help you find the information you need to set up your Windows XP for “faxing”, in the case that some other ingredient is missing in your case: