Symantec enters handheld faxing market

WinFax has long been the slickest, easiest-to-use fax program for Windows desktops. Now Symantec Corp. has moved to capture the handheld faxing market as well with its recent release of Mobile WinFax 1.0.

Mobile WinFax works with virtually all of 3Com Corp.'s Palm series of handhelds, as long as they use Palm OS 2.0 or later and have at least 512K of on-board memory. Installation is simple. You simply install the program to your desktop system and then use HotSync to transfer it to the handheld. A fax-management program will be installed on your desktop system and the Mobile WinFax software automatically will be installed on your Palm device. If you want to save space on your handheld device, you can choose not to install the fax viewer and/or the component for directly sending and receiving faxes via the handheld's modem.

Mobile WinFax's concise interface offers three initial choices: Create a New Fax, Display Faxes and Send/Receive Faxes. Tap on the Create a New Fax option and a data entry window pops open. This is, of course, the toughest part of the whole operation. You can use the Palm's character recognition to enter characters or you can employ the pop-up keyboard. Either way, just entering the recipient's name and number can be a chore. Fortunately, if you've entered names and fax numbers in your desktop personal information manager or the Palm Desktop and HotSynced with your Palm device, all you need to do is look up the recipient in the Mobile WinFax phonebook.

Next, select the Cover tab and enter the message you want to send. If you don't want to use the very basic cover page that's included, you can download additional cover pages during a HotSync operation with the desktop system. And if you've designed custom cover pages in the desktop edition of WinFax Pro, you also can download those to the Palm device, although not all fields supported by WinFax Pro are supported by Mobile WinFax.

Next, if you want to attach a memo or file from the palm device or from your desktop, select the Attach tab and specify the file. If you're specifying a file on the desktop, the attachment will be made and the fax sent the next time you HotSync with your desktop system. You also can add attachments from the desktop for sending directly from the Palm device, but that operation involves additional steps for HotSyncing and storing the file on the device.

Finally, you can specify any of three methods of dispatching the fax. You can send it directly by attached modem, send it to the outbox or put it in the queue to be sent from the desktop program after your next HotSync operation.

Because of the challenge of data entry on handheld computers, many users will be more interested in Mobile WinFax as a means of receiving and viewing faxes than as a tool for creating and sending them. The program enables Palm users to either receive faxes directly via modem or to download faxes received by a desktop system.

The desktop software provided by Mobile WinFax is decidedly bare bones. There's an outbox, a send log, a library of attachments and a library of cover pages. That's it. There are no tools for editing and sending faxes or for creating custom cover pages. For those capabilities, you'll have to turn to WinFax Pro.

In short, Mobile WinFax is best thought of as one piece of your total faxing solution. You'll need other WinFax tools on the desktop to achieve more than very basic faxing capabilities on the road. And most users are only going to want to create and send faxes from the handheld unit when there is no other option. Many users, however, will find Mobile WinFax a very attractive solution for remotely receiving and viewing faxes without having to lug around a laptop computer.

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Mobile WinFax 1.0

Symantec Corp.

(800) 441-7234

www.symantec.com

Price and Availability

Available on the open market for $49.95.

Remarks

Mobile WinFax 1.0 brings fax send and receive capabilities to 3Com's Palm line of handheld computers. The program enables users to create faxes and send them either from the device via modem or from the desktop after HotSync operations. But the program is even more useful for receiving and viewing faxes.

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