Hack 49 Print to Fax on Windows

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Treat fax machines like remote printers instead of remote copiers.

Faxing a document traditionally involves two fax machines: one that scans your document and one that prints your document. If the document in question is already stored on a computer, it makes more sense to print the document from the computer to the target fax machine. This yields a much higher-quality fax, and it is much more convenient. On a Windows machine with a fax modem, you can install a Fax printer that behaves like any other system printer.

Faxes tend to look bad because the process of scanning a document adds noise, skews text, and generally degrades the appearance. Artwork and photographs suffer the most corruption. Printing a document to the target fax machine, on the other hand, dispenses with scanning. Text looks sharp, and images are preserved with dithering.

Windows XP and Windows 2000 will create a Fax printer when you install a fax-capable modem (Start Setting Control Panel Phone and Modem Options Modems Add . . . ). Using Acrobat or your authoring program, print your document to this Fax printer and a wizard will open. This fax wizard asks for the recipient's phone number and enables you to fill in a cover page. Upon completion, your modem will dial out to the destination fax machine and send your document.

A useful series of Windows fax articles is available from http://labmice.techtarget.com/windows2000/printing/fax.htm.

If you fax PDFs frequently, consider adding a Print to Fax item to the PDF right-click context menu.

Windows XP and 2000:

  1. In the Windows File Explorer menu, select Tools Folder Options . . . and click the File Types tab. Select the PDF file type and click the Advanced button.

  2. Click the New . . . button and a New Action dialog appears. Give the new action the name Print to Fax.

  3. Give the action an application to open by clicking the Browse . . . button and selecting Acrobat.exe, which lives somewhere such as C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 6.0\Acrobat\. Or, use Reader (AcroRd32.exe) instead of Acrobat.

  4. Add arguments after Acrobat.exe or AcroRd32.exe like so:

    "C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 6.0\Acrobat\Acrobat.exe" /t "%1" Fax

  5. Click OK, OK, OK and you should be done with the configuration.

To integrate fax features into your network, use HylaFAX. Visit http://www.hylafax.org and http://www.ifax.com, and consult the fa.hylafax newsgroup.