fax email gateway services

Dear Lazyweb,

The fax machine we have in the office is a piece of shit. Not only is it slow, but I noticed the other day that the cartridge doesn't contain toner, it contains, basically, carbon paper on which everything that the thing has ever printed is easily readable. Wow, that's secure.

There seem to be a zillion services out there that let you send and receive faxes via an email gateway. So many that they clog the googles. Are any of them any good? Do you use one?

I'm hoping for something like: sign up with a service that gives us a new telephone number such that when someone faxes something there, it shows up in my inbox as a PDF or JPEG or something. And likewise, a web page or email address that lets me attach an image that will be delivered to someone else's telephone number.

(Suggestions that involve buying modems and running software locally will be summarily ignored.)

Update: Hey, what do you know: Macs have this shit built in, and it actually just works, out of the box! You just plug the internal modem into a phone line and it'll dump incoming faxes in a folder, print them, and/or email them. And sending faxes is on the Print menu. It's almost like the future.

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35 Responses:

    • keimel says:

      But isn't K7 inbound only? They seem to recommend 'faxaway' for outgoing, and 'faxaway' also supports inbound as well.

      I use K7, but didn't recommend to JWZ as it's only one direction.

  1. muftak says:

    http://www.gradwell.com are quite good, they are UK based, but do US numbers in most area codes too. Costs 20p per page to send a fax, and £3 a month to receive faxes, so you might find cheaper.

  2. aakin says:

    We use eFax for a convention that we run, with a remote office. It works very well for our needs. It also allows scriptable outbound faxes via shell pipes to mail, and takes a very large set of document formats. I have incoming faxes emailed to me as PDF's, and incoming voicemails emailed to me as .wavs (both go to the same number, for us).

  3. fo0bar says:

    efax.com has been around for a long time. Looks like the paid services offer everything you want (send/receive PDF/TIFF via email). I used the free service a few years ago and it was useless, don't even bother with that (proprietary format, required crap software to download).


    • dr_memory says:

      Actually, the file format for their free service is just multi-page TIFF. You can ignore all of their crappy software and just use XV or Preview.app to read the faxes.

    • aris1234 says:

      I use efax in the UK - they still offer a free service here which works fine - i'm happy with it. As a bonus (i'm not sure if it the same in the US) the fax line also acts as a voice mailbox for human callers.

  4. skreidle says:

    +1 on eFax. I've used the free version, which does require local software to read the docs, but it works well, so I'd assume the premium version is better--certainly more capable.

  5. kraquehaus says:

    I use MaxEmail and have been for many many years. They do exactly what you are asking for in addition to also providing voicemail that gets emailed to you.

    I have only needed to deal with faxes maybe once every other year, but every time it seems to have worked just as sold.

    • zarex says:

      Seconded. We use MaxEmail exclusively for our corporate environment, and carry several accounts. It does exactly what jwz wants, and I'd recommend it wholeheartedly. It's cheap too.

      As a bonus, it does the same thing for voicemail (emails you messages) at no added cost. I use that number when I give out my number to people/companies I don't really want to talk to in realtime.

      • kraquehaus says:

        I have one business card with my cell phone on it, and another with my MaxEmail number on it.

        I love getting voicemail as emails.

  6. solarbird says:

    Christ, I hate fax "technology." The "best," by which I mean, "dumbest," thing about the carbon-sheet-roll - at least on my craptastic fax machine - is that the machine advances the roll even if nothing is being printed on that line, so most of the roll isn't even used. So now I am rewriting the roll o' carbon sheet and reusing it to see what happens. So far it's working out just fine - I get occasional dropped bits but nothing that matters.

  7. danomite55 says:

    We've used Protus Fax for years: http://www.protus.com/index.asp?pg=3

    Incoming faxes come through as multi-page PDFs. Outgoing faxes can be sent using pretty much any file format, and you just email something like 15551234567@protusfax.com. No complaints with this service.

  8. logodaedaly says:

    We use j2.com — as long as you don't care about having a local number, it's free. A local number is about $15 a month — in that case, I think send2fax.com would be cheaper.

    For j2, the faxes come as TIFF files in your email. Free voicemail (mp3 files), too.

  9. sweh says:

    http://www.faxbeep.com/ is a site that discusses the various internet fax services around. I haven't dealt with any, myself, but I've seen high recommendations for http://www.faxaway.com/ which is $1/month maintenance charge, incoming faxes free, outgoing faxes at various rates (11c/min to the USA).

    • christowang says:

      I tried a bunch of services 2 months because I was annoyed at everything about traditional faxing. The waste of ink/paper and the faxes at 2 am that woke me up.

      I tried everyone I could find that offered a free trial. eFax and MyFax just sucked. Both would have delay's or sometimes didn't send/receive faxes at all.

      I went with TrustFax.com and I'm loving it. Toll Free Number, works great and the Interface isn't painful to use.

      When someone faxes me I get a PDF email immediatly and you can send via the web interface or email.

  10. dr_memory says:

    I'm hoping for something like: sign up with a service that gives us a new telephone number such that when someone faxes something there, it shows up in my inbox as a PDF or JPEG or something. And likewise, a web page or email address that lets me attach an image that will be delivered to someone else's telephone number.

    eFax does exactly that. If you don't care about having a number local to any particular area code, it's free. I've had my number for ~4 years now, and they haven't yanked it despite receiving on average 1 fax per year.

    They do spam ads to the addresses of their free accounts, but the load is below my irritation threshold. (About one per month.) YMMV -- they offer paid and 'business' services as well.

    • herbie says:

      If you don't care about having a number local to any particular area code, it's free.

      What about the "And likewise, a web page or email address that lets me attach an image that will be delivered to someone else's telephone number."?

  11. _nicolai_ says:

    We're using efax (www.efax.com). We send some hundreds of faxes a day automatically from our commercial applications, some tens more from other applications, and receive some tens of faxes a day to various phone numbers.
    Sending interface, for us, is an email-to-fax gateway since we only send plain text. They claim you can attach files including PDF, so I suppose you could scan arbitrary paper or construct images and send that. Receiving interface is that someone faxes a phone number, and it arrives at one or more email addresses (different per fax number) attached as a TIFF containing several images (MacOS Preview handles this, of course other software does too).
    Works for us for several (maybe 4?) years now, we've thrown out most of our dead-tree-emitting fax machines for receiving. We're a 150-person ecommerce company. You mustn't have an email system that drops messages, they don't keep a copy to resend. Not keeping a copy of my faxes for external agents to snoop through later is a feature in my book.

  12. tjcrowley says:

    Another eFax user here. It's not half bad, but it's also the only thing I looked at.

  13. netik says:

    We have lots of users on EFax here at work, you can even install it as a printer driver, so it's pretty good.

    You have a scanner there? You'll need it if you want to send paper documents.

  14. thelonious says:

    Whatever you do, just do NOT use smartfax.com. Their service was beyond horrible and customer service was even worse

  15. altamira16 says:

    I used eFax a while back. It worked okay.

  16. divelog says:

    Don't you guys have a pbx? We just had our provider add a virtual fax line that emails an address. I don't even want to know what they charged us though.

  17. roborative says:

    We have used InterFax's (http://www.interfax.net) web services API as well as their email-based service and found both very good. A nice bonus is that you can encrypt your content sent via email.

  18. awooster says:

    Check out the "Print & Fax" preference pane in System Preferences in OS X.

    Also see: http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/faxing/

  19. bellacrow says:

    I work on the Sun campus, we use accessline.com, I get to also fwd my accessline to any phone I want.

  20. darkengobot says:


    I've used it on a Mac. Utterly efficient, so long as you like faxes in you in-box.

    Nothing wrong with it, but with flexibility comes cost. It's not horrible, and for the price, a good value. For usefulness regarding physical faxes? I bought a $60 fax from Office Depot and manually accept faxes. Annoying, but less complicated to explain to out-of-town clients.

    eFax is worth every penny you pay for it. Clear enough?

  21. hadlock says:

    I used to work at a major chain office supply store. The most amusing thing is when folks return their used carbon cartridge trying to get a discount on a ream of recycled paper. These people came from small to medium sized mortgage companies who regularly fax credit reports and mortgage applications, which have a rediculous amount of personal information on them. And they're handing all this to a college student making slightly less than $8/hour.