Miscellaneous Ramblings

Miscellaneous Ramblings Review

FaxCenter for OS X: All the Fax Software You May Ever Need

Charles Moore - 2006.11.06 - Tip Jar


FaxCenter 1.5 Fax Software For OS X

FaxCenter could be all the fax software you'll ever need - and a worthy OS X replacement for old Classic favorite GlobalFax

In my early days of computer use, fax capability was a big part of the picture. I got my first Mac in 1992, but the Internet didn't arrive here in the outer boonies until late 1997, so fax messages became my principal means of communicating with editors and filing stories (along with snail-mailed floppies), obtaining research materials needed quickly, and so forth.


My computer-based faxing tool of choice was the superb GlobalFax software that shipped with the equally excellent Global Village modems, of which I had several - both TelePort external units and PowerPort PC Card modems (after I got a PowerBook 5300 in 1996). Apple also used GlobalFax internal modems in a wide variety of machines, both desktop and laptop, the last ones (I think) being installed in the Pismo PowerBook of 2000, although I invite correction on this point if hardware modems made it into the first generation Titanium PowerBooks

Anyway, GlobalFax, which was last updated around 1996/97, continued to work happily in my WallStreet and Pismo PowerBooks under OS 9.x. However, it doesn't work with the modems in my iBook and 17" PowerBook G4, so along with the shift to OS X I was obliged to give up using good old GlobalFax for the modest amount of faxing that I still do.

I'm not a fan of the rather prosaic fax capability built into OS X from version 10.3 forward, (which doesn't save a copy of sent faxes), nor do I much like the third-party FaxSTF that Apple used to bundle with PowerPC Macs. Another third-party commercial software fax program called Page Sender is reportedly very good, but I haven't had the opportunity to check it out firsthand.

GlobalFax was so good that I couldn't imagine why other software developers haven't just copied its feature set and built on it - or even better, bought or licensed the rights to GlobalFax from whoever currently owns them and port it to OS X.

I still have GlobalFax installed on my Pismo PowerBook, which has a Global Village OEM modem, but I have to boot into Mac OS 9.2.2 to use it, since the software isn't supported by Classic Mode. GlobalFax is intuitive to use, has lots of convenient features, and works well. It's rock solid dependable, gives you a progress readout and confirmation of successful transmissions, and a record of faxes sent.

Faxing Still Important

My fax usage dropped by about 99.9% after I got Internet access, but there are still times when nothing else will (at least conveniently) do, such as sending or receiving copies of documents for which scanned electronic files are not available or acceptable, or for security reasons. Fax is a lot more secure than email.

That's one reason why I think Apple is big time premature in dropping internal modems with recent Macs - particularly MacBooks. Even if you have the fastest broadband connection to the Internet or prefer to use WiFi, there are times when most of us will need to send or receive a fax. Sure, you can buy Apple's USB modem (or a standalone fax machine), but either is extra hassle and complication, especially on the road, where nothing beats being able to send/receive faxes directly from/to your hard drive by plugging into the nearest phone jack.


Ben Mackin has been selling a nice little shareware OS X utility for sending and receiving faxes, based on the efax source code since the early days of OS X. It was originally called Cocoa efax and later renamed FaxCenter. Originally a student project, a simple front end, the program has evolved into much more, able to send and receive faxes in multiple formats, can scan and send, send quicknotes, attach cover sheets, and much more - a stable and useful application that Ben says will work with almost any fax modem, internal or external.

So is FaxCenter a satisfactory OS X substitute for GlobalFax?

FaxCenter features include:

  • Send and receive faxes, both to single and multiple destinations
  • Scan a file and send it directly from one application
  • Fax quicknotes
  • Attach cover sheets, custom or standard
  • Search the OS X Address Book for fax numbers
  • Make repeated tries when the receiving machine is busy
  • Send faxes from any application with Print option
  • Advanced anti-spamming technology
  • Drag and drop faxing

FaxCenter menuUsing FaxCenter requires the BSD subsystem, which is not installed automatically as part of the OS X installation process. It's an optional install on the Mac OS X installation CD.

FaxCenter has an attractive Cocoa interface, and installs a convenient "menulet" in the menu bar with selections for controlling the program's most frequently used functions.


The FaxCenter Preferences facilitate configuration of many different settings.

For drag and drop faxing, select a file in one of the required formats (such as TIFF, GIF, JPEG, EPS, or PDF) and drag and drop it onto the FaxCenter icon in the Dock. Then follow the usual procedure for fax sending as required.


You can queue faxes in FaxCenter by repeating the above process. Faxes will then be sent in sequence. Failed faxes will remain and can be resent manually at a later time. Faxing may be suspended or aborted at any time. Resetting the modem completely aborts a send and readies the computer for another fax.

FaxCenter allows blocking of all faxes with no identifier (commonly done by spam faxers) or, through Advanced settings, of faxes from particular sources. The first setting is for blocking faxes from people with blank station IDs. Or in the Advanced Spamblocker settings, enter the station ID of the source of regularly received unwanted faxes. The station ID can be found in the log, and cut and pasted into the listing.

Send a FaxThere are three modes for sending faxes; regular send and QuickNote, as well as sending directly from a document using the Print option. The regular send dialog has a button for searching the OS X Address Book, and a pulldown menu for recent numbers faxed. You can also set the quality of the fax sent (98 or 196 DPI with a "Further Sharpen Fax" option as well).

Any document that can be printed can also be faxed, whatever the application that created it.

If you have Mac OS X 10.2.4 or later (is anyone actually still using earlier versions?):

  1. Open the document you would like to fax
  2. Choose Print from the File menu
  3. Select required settings in print options
  4. Click the right hand of the two bottom buttons (which will be marked with a PDF icon).
  5. Select "fax this Document"
  6. If Address Book is not needed, enter the destination phone number directly as indicated, or select a number from Recently Used list
  7. If Address Book is required, enter the destination name (as in the Address Book entry) or some part of the name. Click Search Address Book. If matching entries are found, number of matching entries will be indicated. Click and hold down the destination entry field to inspect entries and select one. Destination name will be replaced by destination number.
  8. Select preferred option for cover pages.
  9. Click Send

fax statusIf you have Mac OS X 10.1.5 or earlier:

  1. Open document to fax (for example a Word or AppleWorks document)
  2. Choose Print from the File Menu
  3. Click the Preview button.
  4. Preview will then open the file. Now choose "Save as PDF..." from the File menu, and save your PDF file.
  5. Switch to FaxCenter, and click on the Send fax button
  6. Choose the file you just saved (the PDF file) by pressing the "add" button.
  7. Type in the person's number.
  8. Click send

fax statusTo send one fax to several numbers (multiple destinations), enter a series of numbers in the destination ("Send fax To") field, each separated by a semicolon - for instance 555-1234; 555-1235; 555-1236; 555-1237. FaxCenter retries any number found to be busy before moving on.

Sending faxes with FaxCenter is generally pretty intuitive, especially if you've used fax software before, and it beats the pants off the built-in OS X fax function.

The same goes for receiving faxes. I have only one incoming line, which has to serve both for voice telephone and Internet access, so setting fax software to to automatically receive incoming faxes has never been a feature that was useful to me, although both GlobalFax and FaxCenter can be configured to do this if it suits your needs.

More important to my requirements is the facility to manually command the fax software to receive an incoming fax that has been identified by picking up the telephone. In GlobalFax, this is implemented by pressing command-shift-6, and in FaxCenter with a menu selection, both of which work very well, with the nod for convenience going to FaxCenter (so long as the program is kept up and running in the background). The only issue I encountered it is that the receive progress bar doesn't work, although the incoming fax is received and deposited in the configured target folder as a PDF file.

Having faxes saved as PDF files is great - and much more convenient and versatile than GlobalFax's proprietary file format, which can only be opened by that program (although exporting faxes as TIFF documents is supported by GlobalFax, but that's not nearly as convenient or desirable a solution).

Received faxes are identified by time and date. You can use the "name received files as" preference to select the preferred format.

Receive speed defaults to 14,400. FaxCenter will automatically downgrade the speed if it needs to. This will only have to be changed if problems occur sending to older fax machines.

At a modest $10, FaxCenter could be and probably will be all the fax software most of us ever need, and I'm delighted to discover that it will essentially do everything I used to do with GlobalFax, which means one less reason to keep reaching back to the classic Mac OS.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.2 or later,
  • Modem
  • FaxCenter 1.0.3 for MacOS X 10.1.5 or earlier is also available

System support: PPC

It's not a Universal Binary yet, but it should work on Intel Macs using Rosetta emulation.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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