Windows Vista : Sending and Receiving Faxes (part 1)

12/27/2012 2:03:06 AM
Perhaps I’m dating myself, but I still remember when the fax machine (or the facsimile machine, as it was called back then) was the hottest thing around, the new kid on the telecommunications block. How amazing it seemed that we could send a letter or memo or even a picture through the phone lines and have it emerge seconds later across town or even across the country. Sure, the fax that came slithering out the other end was a little fuzzier than the original, and certainly a lot slimier, but it sure beat using the post office.

The faxing fad has come and gone, and with so many other ways to share documents nowadays (email, the Web, SharePoint sites, and so on), faxing is becoming increasingly rare. But reports of the demise of the fax have been greatly exaggerated, which is why Windows Vista continues to provide fax services. The latest incarnation is Windows Fax and Scan, and that name tells you quite a bit about the current state of the faxing world. That is, that although faxing itself stubbornly refuses to leave the business stage, fax machines were for the most part given the hook years ago. After all, what’s the point of having a dedicated fax machine when, with the right software, you can perform precisely the same task using a document scanner?

Starting Windows Fax and Scan

To launch Windows Fax and Scan, select Start, All Programs, Windows Fax and Scan. (Alternatively, select Start, Control Panel, Printers to open the Printers window, and then double-click the Fax icon.) In the Windows Fax and Scan window, click Fax to display the folders shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Windows Fax and Scan is your home base for Windows Vista faxing.

Note first that Fax and Scan looks a lot like Windows Mail—it has a message list, a preview pane, and a folder tree that includes the following five branches:

IncomingThis folder displays information about the fax that you’re currently receiving. For example, during fax reception, the Status column displays In progress and the Extended Status column displays Answered and then Receiving.
InboxThis folder stores the incoming faxes that you’ve received successfully.
DraftsThis folder stores copies of saved faxes that you’re composing but haven’t sent yet.
OutboxThis folder stores data about the fax that you’re currently sending. For example, during the send operation, the Status column displays In progress, and the Extended Status column displays Transmitting.
Sent ItemsThis folder stores a copy of each fax that you’ve sent successfully.

After you first start Windows Fax and Scan, there are two chores you need to perform before going on to more useful pursuits: create a fax account and tell the program a bit about yourself. The next two sections take you through these mundane-but-necessary tasks.

Creating a Fax Account

Before you can do anything useful with Windows Fax and Scan, you have to create a fax account, which the program uses to store your incoming and outgoing faxes. Here are the steps to follow:

Select Tools, Fax Accounts to open the Fax Accounts dialog box.

Click Add to launch the Fax Setup Wizard.

You have two choices right off the bat:

Connect to a Fax Modem— Click this option to use a fax modem attached to your computer. Type a name for the fax modem and then click Next.

Connect to a Fax Server on My Network— Click this option to use a network fax server. Type the fax server’s network address and then click Next.

The wizard next asks how you want to receive faxes:

Answer Automatically— Click this option to configure Fax and Scan to automatically answer incoming calls after five rings. After you click this option, enter your UAC credentials.

Notify Me— Click this option to configure Fax and Scan to display a message when it detects an incoming call. After you click this option, enter your UAC credentials.

I’ll Choose Later; I Want to Create a Fax Now— Click this option if you prefer to set up the receive options later or if you don’t have UAC credentials.

The Fax Accounts dialog box now displays your account. Click Close.

Entering Some Personal Data

When you send a fax with a cover page, Windows Fax and Scan includes fields for your name, fax number, business phone number, and home phone number. If you don’t want your recipients to see blanks in these fields, follow these steps to add this personal data to your fax account:

Select Tools, Sender Information to see the Sender Information dialog box.

Type your full name.

Type your fax number.

Type your work phone.

Fill in the other fields as needed.

Click OK.

Sending a Fax

To fax something to a friend or colleague (or, heck, even a total stranger), Windows Vista gives you two ways to proceed:

  • You can fax a simple note by sending just a cover page.

  • You can fax a more complex document either by sending it to the Windows Vista Fax “printer” or by including a file attachment with a fax.

Specifying Send Options

Before getting to the specifics of sending a fax, let’s take a quick look at the various options that the Fax and Scan service provides for sending. To see these options, follow these steps:

Select Tools, Fax Settings and then enter your UAC credentials to display the Fax Settings dialog box.

Display the General tab.

If you have multiple fax modems installed on your computer, click Select Fax Device to choose the fax modem you want to use to send faxes.

Make sure that the Allow the Device to Send Faxes check box is activated.

Click More Options to open the More Options dialog box.

Edit the TSID setting and then click OK.


Windows Vista assigns a name to your fax machine. This is known in the trade as the TSIDTransmitting Subscriber Identification (or sometimes Transmitting Station Identifier). When the other person receives your fax, your TSID is displayed at the top of each page. If the other person is receiving on a computer, the TSID appears in the TSID line (or some similar field, depending on the program the recipient is using). Unfortunately, the default TSID in Windows Vista is Fax, which redefines the word uninspiring. To fix this, edit the TSID as described in step 6. For example, it’s common to change it to a name—such as your company name, your department name, or your own name—followed by your fax number.

Display the Advanced tab to see the following options:

Include Banner in Sent FaxesWhen this option is activated, Fax and Scan includes a text banner across the top edge of each page of the outgoing fax. This text includes your TSID, page number, and the recipient’s fax number.
Number of AttemptsThis value determines the number of times the Fax service attempts to send a fax if it encounters a busy signal or some other error.
Dial Again AfterThis value determines the number of minutes the Fax service waits between retries.
Discount Rates: Start AtYou’ll learn later on that you can tell Fax and Scan to send a fax “when discount rates apply,” which means when your phone rates are discounted (such as after midnight). Use the Start At spin box to specify the start time for your discounted phone rates.
Discount Rates: End AtUse this spin box to specify the end time for your discounted phone rates.

Click OK.

Sending a Cover Page Fax

Let’s start with the simple cover page route, which the follow steps describe:

Select File, New, Fax, or click the New Fax button. Fax and Scan displays the New Fax window.

Use the Cover Page list to select the cover page you want to use. You have four default choices:

confidentThis cover page includes the word confidential, so use it for faxes that contain sensitive data.
fyiThis cover page includes the phrase FOR YOUR INFORMATION, so use it for faxes where you don’t require a response or action.
urgentThis cover page includes the word urgent in large (52-point) type, so use it for faxes that require immediate attention or action.
genericThis cover page does not contain any special text, so it’s useful for regular fax messages.

Use the To box to type the recipient’s fax number.


If the recipient is in your Contacts folder and you have the Fax field filled in (in either the Work or the Home tab), click To, select the recipient, click To, and then click OK. If the person’s name appears in the To box in red type, it means Fax and Scan can’t find a fax number. Double-click the recipient to open the contact properties sheet, fill in the Fax number in either the Work or Home tab, and then click OK.

Type a subject for the fax.

Use the Cover Page Notes text box to type the message you want to appear on the cover page.

Select Tools, Options.

Choose when you want the fax sent:

NowSends the fax right away
When Discount Rates ApplySends the fax as soon as possible after your discount rates begin (as you specified in the previous section)
At This TimeSends the fax at the time you specify use the spin box

In the Priority group, use the Send Fax As list to set the fax priority to High, Normal, or Low.

Click OK.

When you’re ready to ship the fax, click Send.

Faxing a Document

The other (and probably more common) method of sending a fax is to send a document directly from an application. You don’t need applications with special features to do this, either. That’s because Windows Vista comes with a fax printer driver, except that this driver doesn’t send a document to the printer. Instead, it renders the document as a fax and sends it to your modem.

To try this, follow these steps:

Create the document that you want to ship.

Select the program’s File, Print command to get to the Print dialog box.

Select Fax as the printer and then click Print. The New Fax window appears.

Follow the steps outlined in the previous section to set the fax options. With this method, you don’t have to bother with a cover page. If you’d still like to include one, use the Cover Page list to select the cover page you prefer.

Fax and Scan gives you two other ways to fax a document:

  • Faxing a document as an attachment— The New Fax window looks much like an email message window, so it should come as no surprise that you can “attach” a document to a fax message. Follow the steps from the previous section to configure the fax, and then select Insert, File Attachment (or click the Attach toolbar button). Use the Insert Attachment dialog box to select your document, and then click Attach.

  • Faxing a hard-copy document— If the document is a hard copy, you can still fax it by scanning it. In Windows Fax and Scan, select File, New, Fax from Scanner. Place the document in the scanner and then click OK to launch the scanning process. An alternative method is to create a new fax as described in the previous section, and then select Insert, Pages from Scanner.

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