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PhoneValet Message Center 4.0

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Parliant’s PhoneValet has established itself as the premier telephone message recording system for the Mac, and version, 4.0.3 extends the package’s leadership position. Today’s PhoneValet does a lot more than just answer calls—it can also dial, record, log, let you search through calls, and even automatically connect them to your cell phone if you’re on the road.

How does it work? PhoneValet connects one or more standard phone lines to your Mac using Parliant’s USB dongle, which is included in the package. Several of these dongles can be connected simultaneously, so the Mac can answer—and record—multiple phone lines simultaneously. Most of PhoneValet’s features work with just a single line setup. Installation consists of connecting a phone line and running a simple software installer. Once installed, the PhoneValet software runs invisibly in the background. You can even log off of your Mac, and the software will continue to handle calls.

When you need to change a setting, add a voice mailbox, or search the call log, you can launch PhoneValet’s user interface from a convenient Menu Bar icon. PhoneValet will log all calls, both incoming and outgoing. With the OpenBase relational database at its heart, PhoneValet’s call log yields very fast search results, even after thousands of calls have accumulated in the log. You can also use Spotlight to search voice-mail messages.

When you receive an incoming call, PhoneValet can pop up the caller ID on your display or audibly announce the identity of the caller. The program supports AppleScript, so when certain call events occur—such as lifting the telephone receiver, connecting a call, or hanging up—PhoneValet can be programmed to interact with other apps on your Mac. For instance, you could link a sales prospecting database you’ve built in FileMaker to PhoneValet so that, as soon as you lift the receiver, PhoneValet will automatically dial the next number from your list of sales prospects.

Since version 3.0 (   ), Parliant’s flagship product has gained some great new capabilities. First, Parliant added call transfer mailboxes, which allow you to automatically forward incoming calls to any other phone number if you have two or more phone lines connected to your Mac. This way, you could receive incoming calls on your cell phone or at an alternate location. Also new since 3.0 is the addition of remote control mailboxes, which improve on PhoneValet’s ability to let you control your Mac by dialing into it from a phone while you’re away.

Version 4 adds an automatic call recording feature that allows PhoneValet to record all of your phone conversations without manually triggering the recorder. Automatic gain control ensures that caller and receiver are recorded at equal volume levels. If you’re recording every call, you may run out of hard disk space rapidly, so version 4 also gives you an archiving feature that will burn CD or DVD catalogs of your call recordings. Once archived, these recordings can be quickly located using the built-in search function. Phone Valet’s call recording is markedly better than that of Phlink (   ), a competing telephony automation product.

One thing PhoneValet still doesn’t support is voice over IP (VoIP): The package can’t handle calls made or received using VoIP software tools like Skype and Gizmo Project. However, if you use a broadband phone service provider like Packet8 or Vonage, you can confidently connect the phone line from your provider’s hardware device to your PhoneValet Mac, just like you would connect a traditional phone line.

Parliant offers version 4.0 as a free upgrade to owners of PhoneValet 3.0 and 3.1. Podcasters wishing to use PhoneValet’s recordings can buy Parliant’s Podcast bundle ($75), which includes special versions of BIAS Peak Express and SoundSoap that are tailored for podcast production. Networked offices can buy the PhoneValet Anywhere software add-on ($80), which allows two additional users on networked Macs or Windows PCs to query the call log in a browser and receive caller ID pop-ups on their screens.

Macworld’s buying advice

PhoneValet Message Center 4.0.3 is a business-grade telephony automation tool that sports very powerful recording, call logging, and search functions. If you need to get take control of your phone communications, there’s no better choice than PhoneValet.

[ Ted Wallingford is the author of Switching to VoIP and VoIP Hacks (O’Reilly, 2005) and an independent technology consultant based in Elyria, Ohio. He semi-annually updates his VoIP Weblog.]

PhoneValet lets you add notes to calls in the call log, access the built-in dialer, record calls-in-progress, and generate detailed reports about your call history.PhoneValet lets you drill down on calls stored in the call log so you can examine call details and listen to recorded calls.
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