The fax machine is not dead. Although many people prefer email for their business communications, because of the rise in spam and phone calls wondering “if you really got” an email (or if a spam filter ate it), faxing is making a comeback. Especially, when you need a signature, sometimes sending a fax is still the best method of communication.
Your own customized fax cover sheet is a great way to present a professional image. It’s easy to create one in Word and save it as a template you can use again and again. Here’s how you do it.
1. Create a new document and set margins.
Choose File|New and select Blank Document from the Task Pane (or within the New dialog box in earlier versions). Now set your margins by choosing File|Page Setup. Set the top, left, bottom, and right margins to .75.” Before you forget, save your file, by pressing Ctrl+S.
2. Add your logo.
Most business fax cover sheets have a company logo at the top of the page. Remember that faxes only transmit in black and white, so be sure to use a black and white version of your logo. If you’re not sure how it will look, use the “copy” function of your fax machine to see what it will look like to the recipient. You may have to do some tweaking in your graphics program to make it look okay.
3. Add contact information
The graphic I usually use for our faxes has our contact information included in the file, which is easier, but if you don’t have your logo set up that way, you should add your contact information. Use Word’s text wrapping features to align the text with the logo graphic. In this case, I set the logo to be behind the text, and right-aligned the text. Then I highlighted the last line and chose Format|Borders and Shading and added a line below it to set off the logo and address from the rest of the form.
4. Create a title and a table
Most fax cover sheets say that’s what they are to distinguish them from other faxes that may be coming through. (If you’ve ever faced the prospect of figuring out a pile of faxes that fell off the fax machine onto the floor, you appreciate why cover sheets identify what they are and state how many pages are supposed to be in the fax!)
Type “Facsimile Cover Page” or whatever text you like for the title. Highlight the text and center it by clicking the Center button on the Formatting toolbar. Below this, you create a table that has separate columns for the information titles and the text you’ll type in later, so they align nicely and are easy to read. For this example, I included information titles for To, Date, Company, From, Fax Number, Total pages, and Re, so I have a 4 column table with 4 rows. Choose Table, Insert, Table and set the number of rows and columns both to 4, like so:
5. Resize the Columns
When Word inserts a table, it makes the columns all the same size, so you’ll want to adjust the columns so they fit the text better and you have more room to type your information in the cells. Type your text first and then click and drag the columns to change their width.
6. Merge Cells
For the Re line, you want more room for your text, so merge the cells together so they make one long line. Highlight the three columns and choose Table|Merge Cells.
7. Change Row Height
When creating forms like this cover sheet, it’s a good idea to increase the row height a bit to make the text easier to read. Remember, the resolution of a fax isn’t very good, so anything you can do to enhance readability is a good idea. You may also want to experiment with different fonts to see which ones you have that fax most legibly. To change the row height, first select the entire table by choosing Table| Select|Table. Then choose Table|Table Properties and click the Row tab. Click to add a checkmark next to Specify Height. Then set the row to .35″ or larger, depending on your font size.
8. Play with Borders and Shading
You can include borders in your table or not. I tend to like using a borderless table, except for the last line. To remove all the borders, select the entire table by choosing Table| Select|Table. Now choose Format|Borders and Shading and click the None button to remove any borders that you may have. Click OK. Now highlight just the Re: line and choose Format|Borders and Shading again. Under Style, click the type of line style you’d like and the width. Then in the Preview, click the bottom of the box to add the line to the bottom of the cell.
9. Using your cover sheet
Once you have your cover sheet the way you like it, you can use it in a number of different ways. If you tend to always be in a screaming hurry when you send faxes, you can just print out a bunch of “blanks” and stuff them in a folder. In other words, you don’t fill out the fields in Word, you just use it like a paper form. Alternatively, you can open up your file, fill out the form in Word, and print it out. Either don’t save the changes, or save it as a file with a different name than your original blank fax cover sheet.
If you use templates, you can save your fax form as a template by choosing File|Save As. Change the Document Type to Template *.dot. And for the ultimate in automation, you can make your fax form a fill-in form by saving it as a template, adding fill-in fields, and protecting the document so people can only change the data, not the cover sheet itself. For more information creating fill in forms, please refer to this Article Series by Dian Chapman.
No matter what you how you decide to use your cover sheet, the end result is the same: a nicely designed cover sheet enhances your business image and makes you look more professional.