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Creating a New Fax to Contact Action

This form demonstrates how to use a custom action in VBScript to create a fax from an existing Microsoft Outlook contact. (Outlook does not include a New Fax to Contact function.) While it has a few mildly useful features, there unfortunately seems to be no way to invoke the Compose New Fax wizard and enter data in it programmatically. This means that the form has to create the fax as an e-mail message, which has some significant limitations.

This form works by adding a new custom action on the (Actions) tab with corresponding code for the Item_CustomAction() function.

The description of sending faxes in this article pertains to the Microsoft Fax service, which was available for early versions of Outlook. Other fax components may work differently.

Setup | Usage | Notes | Limitations | More Information

Setup

  1. Download the Olconfax.zip file (7kb), then unzip it. Open the Contact with Fax Action.oft file. 
  2. Publish the form to the Personal Forms or Organization Forms Library or your Contacts folder.
  3. You may want to make it the default form for the Contacts folder.
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Usage

Open a blank Contact with Fax Action form, enter the normal data on the General tab, then switch to the Fax tab, where you will find several new settings:

  • Check Send to all fax addresses if you always want a fax sent automatically to all fax numbers listed for the contact
  • If you leave Send to all fax addresses unchecked (the default), but the contact has more than one fax number, select which number to use under If more than one fax number, send to.
  • If the fax numbers are all in your local calling area, you can choose to have some or all of them dialed as ten-digit numbers -- that is, with just the area code and local number, but using Windows dialing location properties.

Save the contact record, then open it again. You should now see a Fax to Contact button on the toolbar and, on the Contact menu, a Fax to Contact choice at the bottom.

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Notes

A well known quirk of Windows 95 is that there is no straightforward way to both use Windows dialing properties (dial 9 for outside line, call waiting disable, etc.) and dial a local number with a different area code without dialing the 1 used for long distance in the U.S. and Canada. Instead, the user needs to enter the phone number in a quirky fashion. See When to Lie about Phone Numbers.

This form provides a better workaround, by allowing you to specify whether 10-digit dialing should be used. The form properly builds the phone number so that Windows will dial any prefix codes, then the full 10-digit local number.

So far, I have coded this only for numbers in the U.S. and Canada. Adding this feature for other countries with a similar dialing issue is on my enhancements list.

Suggestion: If you travel outside your local calling area, just select No 10-digit dialing on the Fax tab to turn off this feature while you're away. Numbers entered in international format will be dialed properly, as long distance numbers with Windows dialing properties applied.

Ideas for Further Enhancements
  • Enable the equivalent of 10-digit dialing for other countries besides the U.S. and Canada.
  • Add the option of requesting a delivery receipt, since faxes composed as e-mail messages can report back to your Inbox on their delivery success. I tried to do this by setting the Item.OriginatorDeliveryReportRequested property, but didn't have any luck with that, so I'm open to suggestions.
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Limitations

When you compose a fax as an e-mail message, any text entered in the body of the message is sent as a separate page after the cover page. There is no way to include a note on the cover page. The good news, though, is that any formatting you add to the message body is included in the fax. Note, though, that the default text format when you begin writing the fax is the reply font set on the Tools | Options | Reading tab.

The cover sheet does not pick up company or other information from the Contact record, just the name and number that go into the address in the To box.

As noted above, the 10-digit dialing feature works only for the U.S. and Canada.

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