Using your PC as an answering machine

For a number of years, many modems have been able to do more than just simply dial up to the Internet. Feature-rich modems also boast voice and fax abilities and quite often you should find that your modem (or computer) came bundled with software allowing you to take advantage of such features. For the purposes of this tutorial I've chosen to use the 15-day trial version of CallAttendant 2.1.1, due to its relative ease of use and feature set. The program is designed for Windows 95/98/Me but the Web site doesn't mention support for Windows XP.

Getting started

Close any programs you have open that may use your modem, plug your telephone line into your modem and install CallAttendant from the HelpScreen section on this month's cover disc. To use CallAttendant's e-mail functionality, you will need to have an Internet connection set up in dial-up networking and have your ISP details handy.

CallAttendant Configuration Wizard

Make your way through the Configuration Wizard until you are asked to enter your ISP's outgoing mail server details - assuming you have a regular dial-up account at home, you'll also need to select Internet Mail (SMTP). The next stage of configuration requires you to select that you're dialling up using a modem, and you'll need to choose your ISP connection from the drop-down list box as well as enter your user name and password.

The Configuration Wizard will check if you have a compatible and voice-capable modem. You should see a message stating that CallAttendant has located all the compatible modems installed on your computer; if any problems arise, CallAttendant will advise you of the cause. If everything was detected and deemed to be compatible, select your modem (in most cases, this will be the first device in the list) and click Next.

Setting up Voice Mail

Go to File-New-Mailbox. Type the name you want to give your mail box, such as your name, and click OK. Go to File-New-Service. You'll notice that the Answer Box in the right window has two black connector pins on its right - the mouse cursor will turn into a cross as you move over them. Right click on the top connector pin and select Insert-Play Announcement. Using a microphone, you can click the Record button and record and save a personalised greeting, but for this article we'll simply click the Browse button and choose welcome.wav from the tutorials folder. Next, right-click the Play Announcement box's connector pin and select Insert-Take Message. Use the drop-down list box (that may already have Sample Mailbox selected) to choose the mailbox you created earlier. Finally, right-click the Take Message connector pin and select Insert-Hang-up.

Setting up Fax Receiving

Right-click on the Answer Box's bottom connector pin and select Insert-Receive Fax. In the Receive Fax box, use the drop-down list box to choose your mailbox. Right-click the Receive Fax connector pin and select Insert-Hang-up.

Auto-Forwarding an e-mail address

Click on the telephone icon in your hang-up boxes and press on your keyboard. Right-click the Receive Fax box's connector pin and select Insert-Send E-mail. In the To box, enter the e-mail address to which you wish to forward the faxes. In the From drop-down box, select your mailbox. Right-click the Send E-mail box's connector pin and select Insert-Hang-up. In the same way, now add a Send E-mail box to the Take Message box's connector pin. Fill out the Send E-mail box the same way and add a Hang-up box to the Send E-mail box's connector pin. Your incoming call flow chart should now look like those illustrated in FIGURE 1.

Go to File-Save and enter a name to save your incoming call setup. If you've made any connecting errors, the program will let you know where. Go to File-Close. On the bottom of the left window pane, click the Services button. On the right-hand side, right-click on what you've saved your incoming call setup as and click Activate and Enable Service.

And that's it. Remember that all of your messages will be sent to your e-mail account as attachments - as a wave file for voice and as TIFF files for faxes. Only your ISP's mailbox limit will restrict the length and size of messages you are able to send or receive via e-mail.

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