Leading fax package adds features for phones and mailboxes

Because the fax qualities remain outstanding in Version 7.5, I'm going to concentrate
on its two new features: TalkWorks telephony software and Internet faxing.

TalkWorks was available in previous versions as a cost-added option. Originally it
supported few modems, but simultaneous voice-data modems now are common on new PCs. Plug
one of these into a single phone line, and you'll have a fax/telephone answering machine
with multiple mailboxes, eavesdropping capability and call screening. This could be dandy
for small field offices.

TalkWorks supports speed dial and automatic redial on a busy signal. You can even place
someone on hold with a selected .wav file playing in background. The software routed voice
calls flawlessly to computer answering, and the fax calls went properly to WinFax Pro.

But there is a problem with the answering machine mode. TalkWorks has a sensitivity
setting for detecting silence after a caller has hung up. In practice, my modem would
terminate a call 5 to 10 seconds after answering, no matter which setting I chose or
whether the person was speaking or not.

With the silence detection shut off, the answering machine would keep recording long
after the person had hung up. I left a message describing this problem on Delrina parent
company Symantec's Internet discussion group. My message was answered several days later
with a request for more information.

The Internet faxing feature was a bigger problem. It works like this: For 15 cents per
minute within the continental United States, WinFax will route faxes securely over the
Internet to off-Net fax machines, through an alliance between Symantec and NetCentric
Corp. International faxes also can be sent this way.

Fifteen cents per minute isn't such a good rate for agencies, considering that FTS 2000
long-distance service within the United States runs about 7 cents per minute. But for
agency outposts in other countries, or for international faxing, the NetCentric pricing
model might make economic sense.

You must have a LAN or dial-up Internet connection to the WinFax PC, plus an account
with NetCentric established using the Internet Fax Setup wizard. Once these connections
are in place, Internet faxing works the same as sending any other fax within WinFax Pro.

You can choose to send all long-distance faxes via the Internet or use the Internet
only when specified.

My primary complaint about this feature is the extra time it takes to connect to a
service provider and then to a NetCentric server. Depending on how busy things are, this
can happen rapidly or not at all.

My first attempt was successful, but only after three retries. WinFax pings the
NetCentric servers four times. If no answer is received, a dialog box pops up reporting
failure and offering a choice of retrying, not retrying or canceling. It took about 14
minutes to send a one-page fax with a cover sheet. With direct dialing, it took two or
three minutes.

A second Internet fax attempt late in the evening took four minutes.

Another problem: If I selected the Don't Retry option in the dialog box, WinFax Pro
caused a Microsoft Windows general protection fault. This happened each time I selected
the option.

Over a weekend, I left a message on Symantec's Internet discussion group describing
this problem. The following Monday I received an acknowledgment but no answer. I then made
four attempts by phone. On three occasions, the line was busy, and when my call was
answered, I waited in the hold queue for 20 minutes before giving up.

WinFax 7.5 is a versatile and full-featured faxing platform. The problems are minor
relative to the package's main mission.

William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Ocean Shores, Wash.

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