General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

General Practice Section, Solo, Winter 1996

More on Faxes and Scanners

The price of fax machines and scanners varies widely, says computer consultant Kathy Knorr, from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Knorr is founder of the Center for Personal Computing in Highland Park, Illinois.

About $400 will purchase a combination paper-feed fax and telephone answering machine, which also can double as a copier in a pinch, Knorr says. The main differences between this fax and those that are much more expensive is print quality--it's legible but it doesn't look like it came off a laser printer--and speed.

New computers come with fax modems already installed, so if you only need to fax documents that are in your computer, you're set. However, Knorr cautions that fax documents you receive will take up a lot of space on your hard drive; you need to be diligent about dumping them. And, for others to have 24-hour access to your fax machine, you need to leave your computer on.

If you're considering the purchase of a scanner, shop carefully, Knorr says. Although scanners are great for importing graphics and photos, their performance with text documents can be unpredictable. The OCR software, which is what allows you to get into the document and edit it, may "read" some documents perfectly and utterly garble others. Scanners start at about $350, but Knorr suggests the price for a decent scanner is closer to $850. Don't buy one until you've seen what it can do.

In the meantime, if you have access to the Internet, your e-mail can double as a fax for in-computer documents, even long ones--just "attach" the file to an e-mail and send. (If the term "attach" baffles you, look to your e-mail provider for instructions.)

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