Although this probably sounds about as appealing to most of us as turning our cars into horse-drawn carriages, the reality of business communication today is that the fax is alive and well. Until the rest of the business world catches up with email, scanned documents, digital signatures, and the like, you’ll likely find yourself faxing forms to a health insurance provider, government agency, or some similar organization at least a few times this year. I refuse to purchase a machine that I would use so infrequently, but getting to Staples to send faxes is inconvenient for me (and not cheap, either). A little digging around on the web has turned up the tools necessary to meet most people’s basic faxing needs (for free, of course).
File-hosting site Drop.io just added a “fax this” option – you can send any DOC or PDF file you store there directly to a fax machine (sorry, no ODF support yet). It’s similar to the service that FaxZero provides, but Drop.io’s restrictions are much more lax: 20 page per fax limit w/no stated daily limit on faxes sent, as opposed to FaxZero’s 3 page fax max, twice per day (with an ad on the cover page, too). There is a process by which you can receive incoming faxes to your Drop.io account, too, but the process is a little more involved (but still free).
Whenever I have to email important documents (e.g., my resume), I always prefer to send a PDF (no real justification; it just feels right). CutePDF offers a free utility that installs itself as a printer option. Just hit “print” from your document, spreadsheet, web page, etc., and select “CutePDF” from the dropdown printer menu. Your document will “print” to a PDF file that you can now send to Drop.io to be faxed (of course, if you were using OpenOffice you could just hit “Print to PDF” and not even need CutePDF in the first place).
My recent purchase of a scanner (finally, I know), along with these free utilities, has significantly reduced, if not eliminated, the odds of me having to send another costly fax from my local Staples’ dodgy fax machine ever again. It’s the small victories in life that make it worth living.
Next time, we’ll explore jailbreaking your iPhone to use as a corded rotary landline.