Mixed-technology options made for small offices

Xerox, having bid farewell to analog copiers, has come out with two lines of digital copier/printers designed to be small office solutions, completing the companys transition from light lens (analog) to digital copiers/printers. The WorkCentre XD and XE series offer, in single units, stationary glass platen-based laser copying and Windows-based laser printing. Producing digital copies involves scanning

Xerox, having bid farewell to analog copiers, has come out with two lines of digital copier/printers designed to be small office solutions, completing the company’s transition from light lens (analog) to digital copiers/printers.

The WorkCentre XD and XE series offer, in single units, stationary glass platen-based laser copying and Windows-based laser printing.

Producing digital copies involves scanning the material, which still creates an analog signal that, with the aid of a chip, is converted to digital ones and zeros for processing. As with a printout from a computer, there is no degradation in the process: the printed document has the same quality as the original.

Because the machine copies and prints, a digital copier connected to your computer can also stand in for a printer and a scanner. Once the image is scanned into the copier’s memory, unlimited copies can be printed.

The strongest entry in the two series, WorkCentre XD100 digital laser copier/printer ($749, 800/832-6979, www.teamxrx.com), targeted to the personal copier market, produces 10 copies per minute and prints eight pages per minute at true 600 x 600 dpi. Zoom reduction/enlargement ranges from 50% to 200% in 1% increments, along with six preset choices within that range. Maximum copy size is 81/2x14.

An added bonus in small offices: the XD and XE series units - as much as 25% cheaper than the combined cost of a comparable separate copier and printer - have a footprint at least 20% smaller than comparable analog copiers. Our test runs of spec sheets produced crystal clear printouts in small, medium and large.

Matter of fax

There are two easy-to-use computer-based alternatives to stand-alone fax units: multi-function machines that include faxing capabilities along with scan/print/copy; and computer-based faxing software.

Lately, we’ve been testing out the new Brother MFC 4650 (around $599, www.brother.com) and think it would be satisfactory to handle most small office or job-site needs (except flatbed copying). The unit prints out and scans into a computer at 600 x 600 dpi and takes and receives faxes.

In general, we find using a multi-function unit an excellent desktop convenience for making a quick copy or printout. However, because it is a sheet-fed unit, you can’t fax out (or scan or photocopy, for that matter) book-based materials or any plan wider than 81/2 inches. It is very handy, however, to scan in standard size documents, and as a fax machine to send faxes without first printing them out.

The unit comes with Xerox Texbridge OCR software, so you’ll be able to convert text images. Although it works nicely on full wide text, we found the conversion process didn’t work well on multi-column pages.

As for computer-based faxing, Symantec’s WinFax Pro’s v. 9.0 (about $119, 800/441-7234, www. symantec.com) is a fairly priced, versatile and competent faxing software package. If you run several jobs simultaneously, you can set up a phone book containing all the contacts for each project. Then you could then automatically transmit an individual fax or multiple faxes to any combination of listings in one fell swoop - i.e., in a broadcast fax.

Each cover page is automatically addressed but you don’t have to sit there and do it or even repetitively feed the machine. Furthermore, you’ll have an historical record of all fax activity right on your PC. WinFax Pro also supports external databases, if your contacts are already on Act, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Organizer, dBase, or MS Access.

Not only can you attach any document or group of documents in your computer to go with your transmission, but you can scan a document and fax it out directly. (WinFaxPro also comes with Xerox Textbridge 3.0 OCR, to handle the conversion.)

For example, if you are bidding a project and getting prices from various suppliers, you could send along any form of paper-based data with your request for quote.

Messaging services

SkyTel Communication’s (www.skytel.com, 800/395-5304), new two-way Text-To-Voice messaging service, which works with both landline and cellular telephones, allows subscribers to send text messages to other pagers, e-mail addresses, fax machines and to any phone number direct from their pagers to any telephone in the United States.

To use the service, the message sender enters the recipient’s name and 10-digit phone number as an e-mail address in the pager’s address directory, formatted as [email protected] (This feature is now built into SkyTel’s standard two-way service and does not require any special sign-up.)

Upon receiving the message, SkyTel’s system dials the telephone number. When the call recipient answers the phone, a digitized voice recites the text messages. A message status report is then sent to the originating pager to let the sender know the message was delivered. The system will attempt to call a phone number three times if the phone line is busy.