AsterFax 1.0 / 1.1 Beta 4

AsterFax is an email to fax gateway for the transmission of faxes using Asterisk.

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Brett Sutton
ROOT \ Communications \ Fax
AsterFax is an email to fax gateway for the transmission of faxes using Asterisk.
Asterisk is an Open Source PABX (or PBX) which provides all of the functionality of a high end PBX, free of charge.

AsterFax builds on the services provided by Asterisk to provide a full fledged email based Fax Gateway.

What that means is that with AsterFax and Asterisk you can send faxes from your desktop using your standard email client without have to install any software on your desktop.

AsterFax can translate a normal email message into a fax message. You simply enter the destination phone number in the 'To' address, compose your email message and click send. Its that easy.

For more formal correspondence AsterFax also supports a growing number of file formats such as PDF, Tiff, Postscript, MS-Word and OpenOffice Writer. You can either attach the file to your email message or for applications such as MS-Word and OpenOffice you can fax directly from the applications by using the 'Send Email' option. The resulting email is sent as a fax message.

If any errors occurring during transmission a error report is sent back to your inbox.
You can also preview how the fax will look by sending email to the special 'preview' address, which simply formats the message ready for transmission and then sends it back to you via email for previewing before the fax is sent.

AsterFax supports a growing list of file types such as Tiff, PDF, postscript, MS-Word, MS-Excel and the OpenOffice Writer. AsterFax is also extensible in that you can easily add support for additional file formats via the AsterFax.xml configuration file providing that you have access to a third party product that can convert your required file format to one of the supported file formats such as PDF or tiffg3.

Additional file formats will follow shortly (see the Roadmap).

For the technically minded AsterFax is written in pure Java and utilizes the Asterisk Manager API to submit jobs.

AsterFax uses external applications to perform the conversion of attachments to the required tiff format for transmission.

AsterFax can be extended via a simple xml configuration file to convert and transmit any other file format providing a suitable conversion application is available.

AsterFax includes a simple standalone SMTP gateway which handles the receipt of emails. AsterFax is not a complete SMTP gateway in that it will only accept messages which are to be faxed. Alternatively AsterFax can be integrated with your existing SMTP server (Sendmail. Postfix, Exchange Server) by way of tools such as Procmail.

AsterFax requires Asterisk@Home or Asterisk with the spandsp (txfax, rvfax) extensions.

Here are some key features of "AsterFax":

Built as an extension to Asterisk.
Integrated SMTP gateway provides a simple one stop install.
Support for a number of file formats including: Tiffg3, Postscript, PDF, Word, OpenOffice Writer.
Preview mode allows previewing of rendered faxes before they are sent.
Support for multiple Asterisk Channels as well as group channels (e.g. Zap/g0).
Send faxes without specialised Fax Modems (just use your existing Asterisk/Digium hardware).
Send faxes directly from MS-Word and OpenOffice Writer
No client side install required.
Send standard email (text or html) as fax or attach a Word, PDF, Writer etc.. for transmission as a fax.
Email body used as a Coversheet to attachments
Send to multiple recipients in a single message by providing multiple 'To' addresses.
No special formatting required in the email.
Extensible support for additional file formats via simple xml configuration file.
Built-in test suite to aid in configuration and installation.
Automatic Archiving of all faxes to a designated mailbox.
Automatic Delivery receipts.

What's New in 1.0 Stable Release:

This release is the culmination of months of effort and includes a number of bug fixes as well as a few new features.
Most notably this is the first release of AsterFax Free Edition.
The free edition includes all the features of any other edition but will only transmit a single fax at a time.
Thanks to everyone that has given us feedback and helped make the product what it is today.
We look forward to working with you all on this release.

What's New in 1.1 Beta 4 Development Release:

Version 1.1 beta 4 corrects a number of small but significant issues in the configuration files and scripts. It also introduces a few new features:

1. The font used when converting the plain text body of an email is not fully configurable through the BaseFont element in AsterFax.xml.
2. We've introduced a return fax number attribute that can be included in the header and footer with a %R parameter.
3. The header, footer, company name and return fax number can vary based on source email address, i.e. if you are using a single AsterFax instance for several businesses you can configure a list of email addresses for each company and allocate a different header and footer to each. See the Templates section in AsterFax.xml.
4. An Absolute timeout has been introduced for fax transmission. There are instances where channels can become locked when transmitting a fax. We've introduced the absolute timeout to combat this issue. See the Timeout element under the Channels element in AsterFax.xml

Last updated on June 6th, 2008

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