Hello, central? – Symantec’s WinFax Pro 8.0 and SmithMicro Software’s HotFax MessageCenter fax software – Software Review – Product Announcement – Evaluation

Charles Gajeway

WinFax Pro 8.0

RATING: *** 1/2

HotFax Mesage Center


Despite the success of voice modems, getting software to work properly with these devices has been a hassle. Two new products–SmithMicro’s HotFax MessageCenter and Symantec WinFax Pro 8.0–hope to give you the full benefit of your voice modem.

SmithMicro’s HotFax installed smoothly and offered a number of interesting remote communications features, including support for paging, message filtering, and fax forwarding as well as the ability to attach voice-mail files to Internet e-mail. By following HotFax’s setup wizard, we created a basic configuration with generic voice messages. This useful feature let us quickly arrange a working voice-mail system that we could then customize to our own special needs. Although the program gave us various ways to record and play back voice messages, we were disappointed to find no clear way of recording top-quality outgoing messages.

We tested a beta, or prerelease, version of WinFax Pro 8.0, but Symantec’s product didn’t suffer from any installation problems. WinFax led us through a series of tabbed dialog boxes, which reduced a potentially confusing technical experience into a series of simple choices. Warranted, WinFax is an enormous program. Recognizing this, Symantec’s installation wizard provided us with options for saving to a smaller hard disk.

WinFax’s voice-mail feature included another wizard that helped us add and configure voice mailboxes as well as set up a faxon-demand system. This is a nasty manual procedure in other programs, but the wizard walked us through each step. The program also let us use our sound card to record top-quality outgoing messages. Once installed, we found that WinFax gave us many more options than HotFax.

HotFax recorded and logged our incoming messages smoothly. The program’s low-quality option produced sufficiently clear messages that didn’t take up an unreasonable amount of disk space. We didn’t find that the clarity of the higher-quality playback option justified the larger file sizes. HotFax also quickly recognized incoming faxes and received nearly all of them at 14.4Kbps.

We ran into trouble, however, when we tried to use HotFax to send a fax from Microsoft Word. SmithMicro’s technical support line told us how to download a replacement printer driver from the Internet, which allowed us to send a fax directly from an application. However, it still wouldn’t allow us to attach documents to a cover page created from within the HotFax application. When we tried, we encountered error messages.

On the other hand, not only did WinFax deftly handle sending faxes from our applications, but a new feature also allowed us to attach documents to an outgoing fax on the fly. Usually we’d first have to convert and save it to fax format. Once the faxes had gone off, another new WinFax feature let us verify what was actually ineluded in a fax by toggling between document listings, thumbnail overviews, and actual views.

In contrast to WinFax, HotFax disconnected in the middle of many of our outbound faxes. In addition, our system froze often with HotFax, particularly if it tried to resend a fax while we were using another program feature.

When the dust settled, WinFax emerged as a clear winner by doing more and being easier to use. HotFax’s performance problems and less robust feature set makes it hard to recommend.

WinFax Pro 8.0

Publisher: Symantec, 541-334-6054, 800-441-7234, www.symantec.com

Est. Street Price: $100

Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher, 16MB of RAM, 28MB of hard-disk space, data/fax/voice modem

HotFax Message Center

Publisher: SmithMicro Software, 714-362-2345, www.smithmicro.com

Est. Street Price: $100

Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher, 8MB of RAM, 16MB of hard-disk space, data/fax/voice modem

COPYRIGHT 1997 Freedom Technology Media Group

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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