Fax Forward

Favorite Features

All fax machines today incorporate certain must-have features, such as auto redial for busy numbers and speed dial, which allows you to preprogram the fax numbers you send to the most. Other features vary according to the model, and you'll need to analyze them to make sure the fax machine you buy is right for your needs.

Any fax machine you purchase should have an automatic feeder, freeing you to do other things once you place the document in the machine. Look for a machine that can hold at least 20 pages at a time. If you tend to send faxes that are larger than letter-sized, make sure the feeder will also smoothly feed different-sized paper. Keep in mind that most feeders will not be able to hold as many of these sheets as it can letter-sized ones. Adjust your capacity requirements accordingly.

Multiple paper trays that accommodate various sizes can be really handy if you expect to receive nonletter-sized sheets often. If you receive legal-sized faxes, a tray for legal-sized paper will allow the pages to be printed as they appear, without shrinking them to letter-size or spreading them over two pages. If you don't see a need for extra paper trays, an automatic reduction feature will reduce the size of incoming faxes to fit on available paper stock. The print may end up small, but all the information will be on one page.

More advanced features that utilize memory are also available. Fax memory is a big time-saver, allowing the machine to store a copy of your fax before it is sent or printed. A number of memory features can be particularly useful for a homebased entrepreneur:

*Quick scan allows you to scan your fax into memory before sending it. Once it's scanned, you can walk away with the document because the machine will no longer need it.

*Out-of-paper reception helps when you're not there. If you run out of paper, ink or toner, incoming faxes can be stored in memory, then printed when the problem is corrected.

*Dual access essentially allows the machine to receive and send faxes at the same time.

And by all means, do yourself a favor and buy a fax machine that outputs pages face down, not face up. Otherwise you'll be eternally frustrated having to reshuffle the pages of every fax you receive into the proper order.

These features tend to greatly increase the price, however, so be reasonably sure of your need for them.

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