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Does your home printer need a fax machine?

Does your home printer need a fax machine?
(Image credit: HP)

As more and more people work from home, you're likely considering a new printer. While many of the best compact printers will offer everything most users need in a space-saving device, you may also be thinking about an all-in-one printer with fax capabilities, if you need hard copies of original documents. Most who work in the  legal or medical professions need copies of original documents, and those who don't will have many reasons to still use a fax service. However, you likely don't need a printer with these capabilities, and can save money on your next purchase.

When choosing an all-in-one printer, don't let the lack of a built-in fax machine sway your decision and keep you from buying an otherwise great printer, copier and scanner combo. In today's work environments, email and the ability to scan documents have just about completely replaced the role of fax machines anyway.

If you're doing business online, such as purchasing a new auto insurance policy, many websites allow you to provide a legally binding virtual signature to complete and submit documents. There is little need to fax or overnight documents that require your signature, although there are some occasions when you will still need to provide an original, hand-printed signature. In these cases, you won't be able to fax or scan and email the documents because you must provide the original copy of the documents with a physical signature. This is where the best online fax services come in.

There are many fantastic fax software services such as Fax.Plus, SRFax, and RingCentral Fax that you can use to send and receive faxes from your home computer or other smart device. You can directly fax a document you're working on, including a Microsoft Word document (or similar) or a PDF. If you are a remote worker, your company will likely have access to one of these fax services, or will be looking to sign-up as more of its employees work from home.

(Image credit: HP)

You can use these same fax services to save incoming faxes as PDF files to avoid printing and filing a bunch papers and the resulting clutter. If you have to print and sign a document like an auto insurance policy, you can use your all-in-one printer's scanner and return the signed document as an email attachment, or fax it from your computer with a fax app.

There are also some PDF software apps that allow you to digitally sign PDF documents safely, legally and securely, including Adobe Acrobat X and PDFpenPro. With this feature, you'll be able to skip printing, signing and scanning (or faxing) documents that require your signature. Simply add your signature by using a mouse, trackpad or smart pen. Or, you can scan your signature and save it as an image file, which you can then add to documents that require your signature.

It isn't necessary to own a fax machine now that fax software and online fax services are available for both Windows PCs and Macs. If you're in the market for a new, wireless all-in-one printer and the particular model you re drawn to doesn't come with a built-in fax, don't let that be a deal breaker because you have plenty of other options.