It only took 19 years for faxing to become a built-in Mac OS feature. Sure, some Macs came with add-on faxing software like FaxSTF, but the new faxing feature in Panther is Apple’s first attempt at home-grown faxing software.

Using the Mac as a fax machine is a terrific idea, for a lot of reasons. It saves all kinds of money on paper and fax cartridges, and may even spare you the expense of buying a physical fax machine. Faxing from the Mac also eliminates the silly and costly ritual of printing out something just so that you can feed it into a fax machine. And because your fax originates directly from the heart of Mac OS X instead of being scanned by a crummy 200-dpi fax-machine scanner, it blesses your recipient with a great-looking document.

Here’s the basic idea: When faxes come in, you can read them on the screen, opt to have them printed automatically, or even have them emailed to you so that you can get them wherever you are in the world. (Try that with a regular fax machine.) And sending a fax is even easier on a Mac than on a real fax machine: You just use the regular FilePrint command, exactly like you’re making a printout of the onscreen document.

There are only two downsides of using a Mac as a fax machine:

  • The Mac needs its own phone line. Otherwise, your Mac, answering each incoming call, will give friends and relatives a screaming earful when they try to call to express their love.

    Of course, you can avoid that prerequisite by using your Mac exclusively for

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