My article last week about setting up an account with MaxEmail to receive faxes in email (see "Replacing eFax with MaxEmail" in TidBITS-774) generated a number of suggestions from readers for other services.
Faxaway -- Hudson Barton, who wrote about Internet faxing for us a number of years ago, recommended Faxaway, which charges $1 per month for an account and a per-minute fee that varies by country for outgoing faxes, but provides unlimited incoming faxes for no additional charge. That makes Faxaway slightly cheaper than MaxEmail for receiving faxes ($12 per year versus $15 per year; both charge a $10 activation fee that I forgot to mention last week). In terms of sending faxes, the rates vary by country, but in my spot check, MaxEmail's rates were cheaper. Overall, the two services seem quite comparable, though my impression is that MaxEmail's Web interface is more sophisticated and easier to use.
K7 -- Oddly, the same company that operates Faxaway also runs K7, which offers truly free fax reception. The numbers are all in the 206 area code (Seattle), and K7 delivers all faxes only in TIFF-F format. You must use the account at least once per month or it will be cancelled, although you can sign up again, perhaps with a different number. If your incoming fax needs are modest, K7 may be just the ticket. Thanks to Sebastian Rueckert for turning us on to K7.
Innoport -- Trisha Miller suggested another similar service from Innoport, which, while not free, has served her well. Innoport offers a variety of plans from $4 per month to $8 per month; the highest end plan lets you pick your area code (which is also true of MaxEmail's more expensive plan). There are no setup fees, and with the least expensive account, you can use up to 350 minutes of inbound call time per month, which is likely more than sufficient for anyone who needs only incoming fax capabilities. At $48 to $96 per year (there's no activation fee, and the first month is free), Innoport is more expensive than MaxEmail, but potentially worth a look.
Fax Service List -- Edward Reid passed along a link to the Internet Fax Service Reviews and Discussions site, which brings together links to a vast number of Internet fax-related services and anecdotal information from users about them. It's a good resource if you're still researching fax services.
J2 and International Area Codes -- One potential problem with MaxEmail and many of the other services mentioned so far is that they provide incoming fax numbers primarily in the U.S. (MaxEmail also offers numbers in Japan.) If you need a fax number elsewhere in the world, Przemyslaw Jablonski recommends jConnect from j2 Communications, which also runs eFax. jConnect costs $15 per month with a $15 activation charge. Receiving faxes is free; sending them costs $0.10 per page in the U.S. and varying rates to international destinations.
Roll Your Own -- Greg Scown of SmileOnMyMac couldn't resist noting that his company's fax sending and receiving software, the $30 pagesender, could serve as the front end for sending faxes through MaxEmail (or any other service that lets you fax via email). In essence, you print to pagesender, which images the printout in TIFF-F format, creates and addresses a new email message, and sends it to the fax service using your email program. Greg noted that imaging the fax locally sometimes provided better results than other email-to-fax services when working with two-byte characters and esoteric fonts. And of course, SmileOnMyMac's $50 PDFpen, which appears in this week's DealBITS drawing, will help you fill in and sign received faxes (without printing) before returning them via pagesender; pagesender can also send and receive faxes directly via your modem,
If you're rolling your own, remember that Mac OS X 10.3 Panther has built-in fax capabilities, too. You'll need a modem and a phone line, and you'll pay normal phone charges for your faxes. Receiving faxes requires that your Mac be turned on and awake. Search for "fax" in Mac Help (from the Help menu) to learn more.