Computers: Fax program recognised for its character: Converting incoming messages to text has saved Christopher Gilbert hours of toil

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The Independent Online
There are several sellers of good fax software for PC-compatible computers, but Delrina's Winfax Pro at pounds 65 including VAT comes closest to providing the complete package. The recently released version 4 has made great strides on the usability front.

Installation of the software is straightforward and Winfax Pro - not to be confused with Winfax Lite, the cut-down version included with many fax-modems - automatically recognises and configures your hardware. Several goodies are included in the package, some more useful than others.

A vast collection of cartoon cover pages is no laughing matter - at least not for the recipient whose machine is tied up printing them - but the optical character recognition (OCR) software has saved me hours of toil.

There used to be nothing more galling for someone trying to produce a publication than to receive the material as a fax; retyping was required on a grand scale. But with Winfax Pro and OCR, the problem is solved. The fax is received, WinFax is asked to recognise it and duly converts it into text in front of your eyes.

In my experience, the OCR program is about 90 per cent accurate and corrections can be made quickly and without undue fuss. If the incoming fax is handwritten or in some odd typeface, do not expect such a high rate of success. It is worth mentioning that recognition speed is considerably enhanced if your system has a decent amount of main memory (ram) - at least 8 megabytes.

For users on the move, Winfax also offers the option of sending a fax via electronic mail. Delrina has just announced a new Fax Mailbox service which would be of particular interest to business users.

The advantages of computer fax-modems are increasing all the time: quality is better than stand- alone fax machines, multiple faxes can be sent to different people without difficulty and the modem gives access to on-line information services like Compuserve. (Of course, if the information, whether text or a graphic, is not in electronic form, it requires a scanner and the pain and time of scanning it into electronic format.)

Even so, faxing from the computer can still be a trying business - and even Winfax Pro occasionally fails to make the connection. But considering the multiplicity of standards and products on the market, Winfax Pro deserves great credit for getting it right most of the time. I have only scratched the surface of what the program has to offer, but if you are looking for a simple solution to your faxing problems at an attractive price, look no further.

WINFAX PRO 4

System: PC-compatible/Windows.

Requirements:

Hardware: internal or

external fax-modem; 4

megabytes of main memory;

10 megabytes hard disk

storage.

Software: Windows 3.1.

Publisher: Delrina UK; 081 207 3163.

Availability: Delrina, mail order, superstores.

Street price: pounds 65 (including VAT).

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