Yes, faxes are still a thing.
I find myself dealing with this on an occasional basis. There are some industries — mainly healthcare and legal — that still use faxes as a primary means of doing business. Seems like old, outdated technology to me, but apparently, I’m not going to change some entrenched institution’s mind.
You don’t need new hardware. In fact, you don’t need a Windows PC — any computer and web browser will do.
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Sending a FAX from your PC
An online service such as FaxZero will send faxes from your PC without a fax machine. It’s free but includes branding on the cover page; a small fee allows customization. It requires only a web browser and an internet connection. For paper documents, scanning or smartphone apps create images for faxing.
I’ve long since dumped any concept of an actual fax machine — truly old and outdated technology these days — and have switched entirely to online services.
To send a fax, I use FAXZero. As the “Zero” implies, you can even send your faxes for free. The fax’s cover page includes some FAXZero branding and advertising; for a very small charge, you can remove that and use your own cover page or use no cover page at all.
The beauty is that all you need is a web browser and internet connection. Just visit the FAXZero website and upload your document to send.
As simple as that.
Dealing with paper
That, of course, implies you have your document in digital form. Nowadays, that’s typically the case. You can upload your saved document directly, or save it as a PDF and upload that, and you’re good to go.
But what if you only have a paper document?
There are two solutions these days, and I’ve used both.
Scanner: As you might expect, being as paper-free as I can be, I have a scanner1 that comes in quite handy for this purpose. Simply scan the document, save it as a PDF, and you’re good to go.
Smartphone: This is relatively new but amazingly convenient. Not only are most smartphone cameras of sufficient quality, but there are a number of apps that not only take the photo, but identify the document, trim the edges, and correct the distortion resulting from not taking the photo at exactly the right angle. Some will also let you save multi-image/multi-page documents in PDF form for easy upload.
Depending on the capabilities of your scanner or smartphone, you may need to assemble several individual images into a single document to be faxed. I find it most convenient to do this in a word processor like Microsoft Word. Just paste the images in, make sure they’re sized to take up as much of the page as possible (with minimal margins), and save to PDF.
A word about signatures
The single biggest reason we might need to fall back to actual paper is if the recipient insists on a physical signature. Some will allow you to just type your name; some will not.
Some won’t notice if you have an image of your signature that you copy/paste into the document.2
Some, however, will insist on the real, old-fashioned thing. So, we dutifully print the document, sign it, and then scan the result back in. Seems wasteful, but it is what it is.
A word about receiving a fax
While there are services out there that will assign you a phone number on which you can receive a fax, that’s outside the scope of this article.
As average computer users, we’re better served by asking the sender to send a PDF or other document via email. If a sender is incapable of doing something other than sending an actual fax in this day and age, I’d seriously question their technical chops.
If you must send a fax (I’d explore other options first), then a service like FAXZero is the way to go. There’s just no need for you to invest in additional hardware or additional confusing software.
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