FAXstf for OS X, by Smith Micro
Posted: 3-Mar-2002

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Smith Micro Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Denny Behm Class: UTILITY

Introduction
FAXstf for OS X allows you to send and receive faxes while using Mac OS X. It is offered by SmithMicro Software.

I reviewed version 10.0.3. System requirements are PowerMac G3, Mac OS X 10.0.3 (Mac OS X 10.1.3 is required for modem port arbitration - more below), 30 MB RAM, 100 MB free disk space, and an Apple-supplied internal modem. I reviewed this on a 233 MHz beige G3 with 128 MB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.1.3.

The .sit download unstuffs into a .dmg file. Double-clicking the .dmg file mounts a disk image on the desktop, which contains the installer. Along with "FaxBrowser.app" and "Modem Center.app", one page of release notes and a 36 page User's Guide in .pdf format are installed.

The initial set-up did not come naturally for me, perhaps because I am not nearly as familiar with installation on Mac OS X as I am with the earlier OS versions. However, by carefully following the User's Guide, I got everything to work OK.

A nice feature: the software supports multiple users (each user must install the software individually). Each user's preferences are stored separately and each user's fax files are protected from being accessed by other users (except users with administrative privileges).

Modem Center
The Modem Center application provided with FAXstf for OS X provides a status window which displays the fax transmission state (idle, dialing, ringing, connecting, sending, receiving, handshaking, hanging up, and error). When the Modem Center is minimized, its dock icon displays an animation which indicates the status. This application also is the place where you set some basic features of your fax: your phone number, phone type (tone or pulse), speaker volume, transmission speed (from 2400 bps to 14.4 kbps), and number of rings before answering.

Mac OS X 10.1.3 is required to support modem port arbitration. Without port arbitration, the user must launch the Modem Center application and set it to answer on "0" rings (effectively turning off your fax receive capability) in order to allow other applications to use the modem.

A feature I do not like: the modem will not answer if the user is logged off, or if the user is logged on but the computer is "sleeping." This is probably due to features of the Mac OS, but I don't like leaving my computer logged on and in "awake" mode while I am gone all day.

Print Center
The fax software uses the Mac OS X Print Center application to send faxes. To fax a document the user chooses "Print" from the "File" menu. This opens the Print Center window, from which the user selects "Apple Internal Modem" from the printer pop-up menu. This is not particularly intuitive, and takes a while to get comfortable with. I much prefer the method in earlier versions of this software where holding down the command and option keys turned the "File|Print" command into "File|Fax" command.

This software uses the Mac OS X Address Book application to store fax numbers. The Print Center window contains a button which, when pressed, opens the Address Book. Dragging a contact from the Address Book to the Print Center window assigns that contact's fax number to the outgoing fax document.

The Print Center window also allows the user to select the number of copies and the page range, whether to place one of four borders around your pages, standard or fine quality, grayscale or black & white, a cover page or none.

Most fax machines and fax software supports "retries". If your fax machine or software hears a busy signal it will wait for a time interval and try again for some specified number of times. This software does not. If the number you are faxing to is busy, you need to manually send the fax again later.

The user is offered a "Preview" button in the Print Center window. However, this button is not functional, nor is it de-activated, so pressing this button in effect aborts your fax. This issue is addressed in the User's Guide; SmithMicro claims this is due to the OS and tells you, in effect, "don't use the Preview button."

Fax Browser
The Fax Browser application provided with FAXstf for OS X manages faxes that have been sent or received. In the Fax Browser you can view, print, and delete faxes, or place faxes into folders, called "Trays." The Trays are located in a "Drawer." The Drawer appears as a second window which slides out from behind the Fax Browser window, either to the right of the left, depending on where the Fax Browser window is placed on your screen. The Drawer contains three Trays (Archive, Inbox, Sent), and you cannot add more trays.

The Fax Browser contains buttons which will take you directly to your Address Book or to the Modem Center, although I find I do not need these capabilities. You can also open the log file from the Fax Browser.

Received faxes are sent directly to the Inbox Tray. Faxes that have not been viewed display an Aqua gel blob left of the entry. Clicking on the entry displays the fax in the lower portion of the Fax Browser window. Controls at the bottom of the window allow you to rotate, zoom in or out, and move from page to page. The fax which is displayed can be printed using the "File|Print" command (and choosing a printer from the Print Center window).

Summary
This software was written for the Cocoa layer of Mac OS X: it supports multiple users, it is well integrated with the Mac OS X Address Book, and it's Aqua interface looks great. It provides status to the user either through the Modem Center window or through an animated Dock icon.

It does not support retries when sending, nor does it answer the phone to receive a fax if the computer is sleeping or the user is logged off. Sending a fax is a bit non-intuitive; the print command is used, and the modem is selected as the "printer." Fax documents are managed with a "Drawer" and "Trays" which are not standard Mac terms, but which work well, terminology notwithstanding.

This software provides a good solution for the person who needs basic fax capability on Mac OS X without a lot of frills.

Pros

  • Multiple users are supported (each user must install the software).
  • The system will maintain preferences for each user
  • Each user cannot access other users' fax documents.


Cons

  • If the number you are faxing to is busy, a re-try will not be made. You need to manually send the fax again later.
  • Only internal modems are currently supported.
  • Does not answer the phone if the user is logged out or the computer is sleeping.

Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice