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FaxFacts fax software

Mailmerge to Fax

Copia's real strength in fax blasting is our FFMERGE product. This is the single strongest reason to select Copia's fax system over all of the other solutions in the marketplace. Why am I making such a strong statement? Let me explain.

During a show in London, Tim Frost and myself were driving (on what seemed to me the wrong side of the road) back from London to Tim's home near Stonehenge west of London. We were well into solving people's problems with faxes. We had been asked if we could do mailmerge to fax. Well we could not at this time do mailmerge to fax.

The problem with mailmerge to fax is how do we get the information from the wordprocessor when one fax stops and the next one starts, and how can we pass the information of the fax number and other information. We were aware of other solutions that use DDE(Dynamic Data Exchange), vendor specific API calls, and embedded keywords. Tim and I were not happy having to develop WORD Basic programming to do the interface to the fax system. We also thought that the system would not be reliable if it had to look for key words in the print stream. We wanted it to be easy to use, and to work with any of the wordprocessors out in the market place, and we wanted to be sure that it would work without us having to buy and test one of every word processing packages that has been released.

As we talked we came around to thinking about being able to do the equivalent of an OCR operation on the fax number. Now we both knew that OCR was a lot of work and would slow down the system. We then came to the thought of doing our own special TrueType font. But instead of catching the font on the way into the windows conversion to graphical raster lines, we would look at the graphical raster lines as they came out of the rasterization process.

We designed our font to have a line at the top of the character and a line at the bottom of the character. Just under the top bar we put a binary code that we can decode into the actual character. We took advantage of the following information. A 12-point font is the same as 10 characters per inch. At 200 pixels per inch for fax images that gives us exactly 20 pixels or dots across each character. We make the overbar 18 dots across the top and bottom of each character. The overbar allows us to "see" our font at the start of the page.

When we "see" our font we are able to read the next scan line and decode it directly into the information needed. This line we call the "firing line" and it contains the fax number and any other information that we wish to pass from the printing system to the faxing system. By only having to look at the top information to find the "firing line" the rest of the printing process goes along at full speed. The FFMERGE printing speed to create the ready to fax tiff image is 30 to 60 pages per minute. (this differs from the 100-150 mentioned earlier)

Let's see how well our invention of FFMERGE meets our design goals:

Is it easy?
Yes all you have to be able to do is get your mailmerge running to paper, then place the fax phone number field at the top of your mailmerge form letter. Set the font to the FFMERGE font that we supply and set the size of the font to 12 point. You are now down with the setup of FFMERGE.

Do we have to program?
No because we are looking at the print stream as a print driver, we do not know or care what windows application that is being used. We now do not have to purchase and test each and every word processor on the market. The customer is not bothered by needing to get operational the "macro package" for each new version of the OS or word processor.

What databases do you support?
This is a common question that we get with our mailmerge solution. Because of our design getting our information off the printed image, we support any database that the word processor you are using will support. Again, if you can print it, you can fax it.

Do you support the latest version of Word (Office 97), or the release that just came out.
Yes, If the system prints to Windows and you can control the font selection, you can use FFMERGE. (Copia was issued patent number 5,715,069 on Feb 3, 1998, for the FFMERGE product)

*** Sure we can do mailmerge, NOT ***
We have had a number of people come to us saying that they purchased a product that could do mailmerge. BUT whenever an application, for example MS-Word, was upgraded, this seemed to cause problems for their mailmerge software. Also some implementations tend to slow down as the size of the mailmerge grows.

I have had reports that the time for each page at the start is very quick, but after 1000 records the system was so slow that it could not keep up with the number of outbound lines sending faxes. Just because the vendor says that they can do mailmerge to fax, be sure to ask if it works with current tools and the latest OS. Also what are the defacto limits to the size of jobs that the systems "likes".


[mailmerge screen shot]

After you are amazed at the ease of use of the FFMERGE solution, you will see that it is "pop-up" free and MUCH faster than any of the other systems that are available.

FFMERGE extra credit
After you understand how the FFMERGE print driver works with the True-Type FFMERGE font, what about all the other things that you print? Why would you ever mail something that you print from you computer? With the FFMERGE tool, and invoice, statement, or purchase order can be printed directly to the fax machine of the person that is intended to receive the information.

To me it makes no sense to print a piece of paper, fold it, address an envelope, place postage on the envelope and leave in in the hands of the US post office. I don't know about you but I am from Chicago, we burn mail in Chicago! Using FaxFacts to deliver items normally mailed, gives you access to the receivers fax printer on a 7 by 24 basis. The US mail people have defined "on time" delivery of mail from one suburb to another to be two days.

We are working with people that are pulling up their payment times by using fax and also lowering their costs for delivering paper to other businesses.

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