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Despite the obvious advantages of eFax Plus, we found it a tad inferior to traditional fax programs such as WinFax Pro and HotFax, which provide more faxing tools, including built-in optical character recognition (OCR) and superior cover-page designers. In addition, eFax Plus slaps you with a monthly $9.95 fee--that's a hefty $119.40 per year--plus a $10 sign-up fee and transmission costs of 10 cents a page within the United States. (Alaska's rate is higher, as are international rates.) Ouch. Then again, if you'd rather not fuss with a fax modem, this service is reliable and worth a look.
It's a breeze to sign up for eFax Plus. Simply go to the eFax home page, click the Sign Up icon, enter your personal information--name, e-mail address, credit card number, and so on--and you're on your way. The next step is to download the 3.2MB eFax Messenger Plus applet for Windows (Messenger for Macs is 683K), which provides much but not all of the functionality of the better fax apps, such as WinFax Pro. Once sign-up is complete, eFax assigns you a phone number for receiving faxes. Ideally, you'll want a number in your area code (our choice was 303), but you'll have to settle for what's available. For instance, our assigned number was in the 801 area code.
Naturally, eFax Plus's best feature is that it eschews the fax modem, a notoriously finicky piece of hardware that often fails to connect with its counterpart at the other end of the line. Indeed, our eFax send/receive tests didn't suffer from the occasional dropped connections and handshaking errors that sometimes plagued the other fax apps. In addition, you can use eFax from any Web-enabled computer, as long as it lets you download the small eFax viewer applet.
Despite eFax's capable work, the Messenger Plus applet fails to impress. Although this bare-bones Windows applet does a fine job with basic tasks such as viewing and annotating faxes (for example, adding footnotes), it lacks its competitors' finesse. WinFax Pro, for instance, offers an easy-to-use wizard that steps you through the tricky process of creating cover pages. Messenger Plus doesn't even have a cover-page designer. And both WinFax and HotFax 5.0 use OCR to convert faxes to editable text. eFax doesn't.
On the plus side, eFax Messenger Plus boasts an excellent feature that every fax program should copy: it inserts a Send command into the menu bar of every Windows app, which eliminates the tedious task of changing printer drivers to "print" a document to your fax modem. And eFax's e-mail support was timely (it replied within a few hours) and accurate when responding to our queries.
Overall, eFax Plus is expensive and not as feature rich as we'd like. However, it's a fine option if you use a broadband Internet connection and would rather not fuss with a fax modem.