Party Like It’s 1989 – Turn Your Computer into a Fax Machine!

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.

6 Comments

  • haha…great post damian. but you forgot about the best one – turning a Roomba into a Real Dog.

    maybe this is a doof question. but whenever i need to send a fax, rare as it is, i just use the one in the school office. even though it’s for personal reasons, as long as it doesn’t leave hk they don’t seem to mind. why don’t you do that?

  • Yeah, I’ve done (and do) that as well. The simplest answer is that sometimes, it’s just not convenient for me to get to a fax machine at work, due either to my physical proximity to one (there must be more, but I only know the location of one on our 72-acre campus, so if I’m not near it on my prep, I can’t access it) or to how busy I am during my prep period. With this setup, I can fax when I get home from school or on weekends if I need to. Also, Fate has dictated that I will always have an important document to fax over either Spring or Winter Break, as I have for the last few years, either for medical insurance or grad school stuff – it’s my own personal albatross.

    But you’re right, if convenient access is there, this isn’t a problem.

  • Thanks for the information, I didn’t know you could do this with Drop.io.

    A couple things to add. First: CutePDF is great, but if you need to combine multiple documents into a single PDF, get PDFCreator. Much more versatile.

    Second, apparently you can also do this with Box.net (I have one of their paid accounts for five bucks a month, don’t know if this is possible with a free account). Any document you can upload can also be faxed via eFax. I haven’t tested this service enough to know how reliable it is, but it’s worked for me so far.

    Third: anyone know a dependable and free way to RECEIVE faxes? Periodically I need to do this, and I’ve used K7.net to set up a phone number where someone can send a fax, but their service is sometimes unavailable, and if you don’t use it once a month they kill your number.

  • Oops… wait. I just checked the Drop.io page you linked to (should have done that before commenting) and I see they’ll let you receive a fax as well. Very handy.

  • PDFCreator looks cool, Nathan; thanks for the heads-up.

    PDFill is another cool free suite of PDF tools I use, including split, merge, reorder, etc.

    I still have yet to find a free PDF editor – I downloaded Bluebeam’s 30-day trial software, and really liked it, but didn’t feel that I’d use it enough to justify paying for the full release. Anyone know of a free/inexpensive util for editing PDFs like Word docs? I’ve tried Zamzar for converting files from PDF to DOC and back, but it’s not as clean as I’d like.

    Also, in this talk of all things PDF, I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a shout-out to Foxit, makers of a brilliant, lightweight PDF reader.

  • […] Turn Your Computer into a Fax Machine-Apace of Change This article explains how to use your PC as a means to fax documents to businesses that still use that medium of communication. This author guides you through the steps to send a PDF or other file to a fax machine. […]

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