It is surprising how many people spend several hundred pounds on a desktop fax machine, without ever realising that they already have one. Virtually any PC with a modem attached can send and receive faxes, and there's nothing more to buy if you have Windows 95. This week we show you how to enable the facility and send a fax, next week we'll be looking at bells, whistles and add-ons.

As usual there are one or two small points to bear in mind. Unlike a dedicated fax machine, which works all the time you will have to leave your PC switched on, with the fax software running, if you want to receive incoming faxes automatically, though there are ways around that. Moreover, unless you also have a scanner or digital camera, you are limited to sending text documents or images that have been created on the PC, or imported as files but again that needn't be a problem.

On the plus side there's the advantage of plain-paper operation as you use your PC printer to make hard copies of incoming faxes. That's if you decide to print them out, there's no reason why you should when you can view them perfectly well on the monitor screen, and file them on disc for safe keeping, saving paper and further reducing running costs. Faxing from a PC is faster and more efficient, and it can be cheaper too, but more about that later on.

For home and small business users there is absolutely no reason to buy fax software. Apart from the freebie program that is included with Windows 95, most PCs fitted with a modem, and modems sold separately, usually come with a suite of software. You can also fax directly from word processor programs, such as Word, Word Pro and even WordPad, which is included with Windows 95. You'll find templates and ready-made cover sheets in New on the File menu in Word and many other advanced word processors. Voice modems -- i.e., models designed to handle speech, as well as data -- also come with sophisticated answering machine utilities, (that's the topic of an up-coming Boot Camp). 

If you're wondering why you haven't come across any fax programs on your PC that's probably because none were loaded when Windows or the modem was installed, or you simply haven't been looking in the right place. If Microsoft Fax is installed on your machine it can be found by clicking on the Start button, then Programs and Accessories. If it is not there open Control Panel and click on the Add/Remove Programs icon. Select the Windows Setup tab and check the box marked Microsoft Fax. You will then be asked if you want to add all of the components, click Yes and follow the instructions. This normally involves loading the Windows 95 CD-ROM, so make sure you have it to hand. The fax handling utility on older versions of Windows 95 is contained within Microsoft Exchange; on later releases it is called Windows Messaging. The functionality is generally the same however.

Once Microsoft Fax is installed you have a number of options for sending documents. If you just want to send a few lines of text the simplest method is to open Exchange and then the Inbox folder. On later versions of Windows 95 click on the InBox icon or Programs + Accessories + Fax, then select the Compose New Fax icon and this will start a Wizard program. In all cases you will be asked to enter the recipients fax telephone number, with the option to add it to an address book, followed by a choice of themed cover pages (Urgent, Confidential, etc.) Clicking Next presents you with a text window, where you can write your message. When you have finished click on Finish and the fax will be sent. To make your faxes look a bit more professional, with a customised cover page, choose the Cover Page Editor. You can include your company name and details, plus those of the recipient along with any other information you deem important.

You can also send faxes from Windows Inbox, click on the Compose menu and select New Fax and it will take you to the MS Fax Wizard. For longer or more detailed documents it is usually more convenient to fax from your word processor, it doesn't have to be Microsoft Word, other programs have built in faxing facilities or Send and Print commands, that will automatically start MS Fax. Write the message, or open the file if you've already written it. If you're not bothering with a cover page remember to include all relevant details -- such as your name and fax number in the header. In Microsoft Word 97 you can either click on Send To in the File menu and choose Fax Recipient, this opens another Wizard, giving you a selection of ready prepared cover pages (Professional Contemporary or Elegant). Alternatively Click on Print on the File menu, and choose Microsoft Fax from the Printer Name drop-down menu and once again you'll be led into the Microsoft Fax Wizard.

Receiving an incoming fax is equally straightforward. You can elect to answer fax calls manually, in which case double click on the Inbox icon on your desktop and minimise the window. When the phone rings -- and you are expecting a fax -- click on the fax machine icon that appears in the system tray on the Taskbar, it's next to the time display. This opens a dialogue box, and click on the Answer Now button. To enable automatic answer (if you didn't already do so during installation), open Exchange or Messaging and when the Inbox window appears click on Tools, then Microsoft Faxes and Options. Select the Modem tab then click on the Properties button. In the box marked answer mode there's the option to select auto answer, and choose the number of rings.




Fax page that is sent before the fax message, giving details of the sender recipient, date and time


Short for MOdulator DEModulator, a device that converts digital data into audible tones, that can be sent down ordinary telephone lines


Simple helper program that automatically starts when you begin a task



In Word 97 there's a useful unpublished facility called Random Word. Every so often you might want to create a block of text quickly, to test out your faxing or E-mail facilities, or produce dummy text to check a page layout. You can of course copy and paste text from another document but Random Word is far quicker.  Simply type in the following: =rand() and press Return. Word will then generate three paragraphs, each containing the sentence 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog', five times. You can alter the number of paragraphs and sentences by inserting numbers into the brackets. For example,  =rand(6,8)

generates a text block of 6 paragraphs, each containing 8 sentences.

Search PCTopTips 



Boot Camp Index















Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.