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Installing fax software can be tricky, particularly if you want to import phone-book listings from an existing database or PIM, such as Microsoft Outlook. But WinFax Pro proves easy to configure. A series of introductory screens walks you through installation; you just click Next to accept the default configuration. In our tests, WinFax Pro accurately detected our fax modem and seamlessly imported our contacts from Microsoft Outlook. By comparison, competing fax programs either don't import directly from Outlook or make the process trickier than it needs to be.
Clean interface; extras galore
WinFax Pro's faxing interface, called Message Manager, is cogent and well structured. The left side of the screen prominently features a large column with icons for popular features, including Outbox, Receive Log, Send Log, Cover Pages, and Phonebooks. To send a fax, simply click the large Send button on the main toolbar and fill in the appropriate fields (recipient, number, and so on) before clicking the Send button again. You can send faxes the traditional way (via fax modem) or save toll charges by routing them via e-mail to your recipient's in-box.
But WinFax offers more than basic features, which distinguishes it from the rest of the fax pack. The program's ingenious extras make it a CNET's Editors' Choice. We were particularly impressed with WinFax's Photo Quality send option, which, in our tests, resulted in a dramatic improvement in the image clarity of sent faxes. (However, this feature also lengthens--in some cases, doubles--transmission time.)
Equally impressive are WinFax's optical character recognition (OCR) and spell-checking modules, which make it a breeze to quickly convert incoming faxes to editable text and check the converted documents for spelling errors. In our tests, the OCR proved reliable with only a few errors on standard business faxes. As for WinFax's competition, only HotFax offers OCR, and that's via a package, TextBridge OCR, that installs separately.
Not perfect, but good support
We encountered a significant glitch with WinFax Pro version 10.02, but it was quickly resolved, thanks to Symantec's comprehensive online support. Specifically, Microsoft Word 2000 wouldn't load once WinFax was installed, but Symantec's Web-based Support Genie stepped us through the troubleshooting process and located the solution quickly.
Another minor gripe: WinFax should integrate better with major Windows apps such as Word, Excel, and Internet Explorer. eFax Messenger Plus, by comparison, inserts a handy Send item in the menu list of these programs, making it easier to launch faxes from these apps without first changing printer drivers. Quibbles aside, however, WinFax Pro's powerful collection of faxing tools earns it top honors.