Reviews: Font Manager Face-Off

Body: 

This article is excerpted from InDesign Magazine, June/July 2007 (Issue 18).

You may work with hundreds or even thousands of fonts. The more typefaces you have, the more creative options you can explore. The downside is that managing a multitude of fonts can become a daunting task for both you and your computer.

You can dump them all in your Control Panel Fonts folder (Windows) or one of the three system folders (Mac), but this is not only extremely taxing on your system, it can overpopulate your application font menus and result in endless scrolling.

It makes more sense to use only the fonts you need, when you need them. Font managers let you do just that. So the real question is not why you should use a font manager, but which one works best for you?

And don't think this is just a Mac thing. All designers -- whether on Mac or Windows -- can benefit from a font manager.

The following comparison of eight font managers -- our favorites out of a larger field, plus one we can't recommend -- will help you sort through the sometimes-confusing choices. Let's tackle the Windows side first, starting with the highest-rated applications. For the Mac side of things, go to page 2.

Ratings Key
1 - Not worth it even if it's free
2 - Not recommended
3 - Average
4 - Exceptionally good
5 - A must-have

20070928_table01.jpg

FontAgent Pro 3 for Windows
Insider Software
www.insidersoftware.com
$99
Windows XP
Rating: 4

Insider Software's FontAgent Pro 3 for Windows was very promising as a public beta, and I'm happy to report that the shipping version fulfills that promise.

The ability to create a managed library, complete with the option to optimize fonts from the system Fonts folder, make FontAgent Pro 3 for Windows (FAP) a strong choice for creative professionals. FAP can also validate fonts upon import, which is a nice built-in troubleshooting feature, and its Font Compare and Font Player preview options are superb. On the other hand, it lacks font auto activation, a major detraction. In addition, there's no secure database comparable to the Vault in Suitcase for Windows.

When you first launch FAP, it tells you that it must create its own database. You can accept the default location (C:\FAP_Data) or choose a different location on your system. Once the database is created, FAP asks if you'd like to add fonts by optimizing the Fonts Control Panel or by importing a folder of fonts (Figure 1). It also gives you the option to bypass the initial auto import options and add fonts later.

20070928_fg01.jpg
Figure 1. Part of the process of adding new fonts to the FontAgent Pro for Windows database. Click on the image for a larger version.

If you've been storing all of your fonts in the Windows system Fonts folder, give your system a break and optimize the Fonts Control Panel. When you do, FAP displays a dialog box with archive and import options. I recommend backing up all fonts imported into the database from the Fonts Control Panel, especially those supplied by Windows, in case you move them back later. I also recommend enabling the Don't Import Incomplete Postscript Fonts option, as incomplete Postscript fonts will not display or output properly.

FontAgent Pro always runs a diagnostic check on all fonts before importing them. I suggest you import all fonts except for those required by the Windows system. (FAP places them in their own category.)

Required fonts are automatically placed in their own library and locked. As a safeguard, you can never unlock, move, or deactivate required fonts. All other fonts imported from the Fonts Control Panel are placed in the Control Panel Fonts library and can be managed easily using FAP.

FAP is the only Windows font manager that lets you create multiple libraries. You can add fonts to the database at any time by dragging and dropping them into the interface, or by clicking the Import button. Doing so prompts FAP to display another dialog box with import options (Figure 2).

20070928_fg02.jpg
Figure 2. FontAgent Pro for Windows import options. Click on the image for a larger version.

If you click the Import button, FAP gives you the option to locate a folder of fonts to import or search your drive for additional fonts it can manage. You can import fonts into an existing library (with the exceptions of the Required and Control Panel libraries) or create a new one.

FAP's flexible sets let you nest sets inside of other sets and add fonts from multiple libraries. It's easy to activate fonts and sets by clicking in the activation column or by clicking the activation buttons. If you don't enable the preference to reactivate fonts from the previous session after restart, fonts are activated temporarily until system restart.

You can view fonts in libraries and sets in either the left or above-right panels, or both. However, to display all fonts in the database, you must select the All Fonts tab in the left panel. Fonts selected from the All Fonts, Libraries, or Sets tabs display in the bottom-right panel. You can view fonts individually by font name, or grouped by font family. You can also see fonts as WYSIWYG. By clicking the Font Compare tab in the preview panel, you can preview multiple selected fonts side-by-side using custom text (Figure 3).

20070928_fg03.jpg
Figure 3. Comparing multiple typefaces in FontAgent Pro for Windows. Click on the image for a larger version.

The Font Player scrolls through multiple selected fonts and previews them like a slideshow using traditional ABC123, Paragraph, or Custom preview options. The Auto Play function previews each font selected from a library, set, or the All Fonts list in a slideshow. As the slideshow plays, you can click the + button to record a favorite font. FAP then creates a new Font Player set and adds the recorded fonts. You can refer to this set later to preview and compare favorite fonts.

FAP always runs a thorough diagnostic check on all fonts before importing them into the database, looking for file errors, corrupt fonts, duplicates, and incomplete Postscript fonts. When the check is complete, FAP displays a full, categorized report. You can't run a random check on the database, nor search for duplicates or missing fonts.

FAP's Font Export is especially useful when sharing fonts with other members of a production team. By selecting multiple fonts, including entire sets or custom libraries, you can choose the export command and copy the fonts to a specific location on your system or network. FAP automatically places them in a folder labeled "Exported Fonts."

FontExplorer X for PC, Public Beta 1
Linotype
www.linotype.com
Free download
Windows XP (Vista not recommended)
Rating: 4

At press time, FontExplorer X for PC was in beta. Although I wouldn't recommend that you depend on the beta in a production environment, its enormous potential means I'll be eagerly anticipating its final release date. Something else to look forward to is the price tag: free, even after its release.

The interface is easy to use. When you first launch the application, it displays a warning that it must copy fonts into its own database. You can accept the default location for the database (C:\Document and Settings\All Users\Documents\FontExplorer X\Fonts\Managed\) or choose another location on your system.

Once it creates the database, FontExplorer X for Windows (FEX) tells you that all of the fonts in the system Fonts folder must be deactivated and moved to a FEX System folder (C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\FontExplorer X\Fonts\deactivate\). You can keep all fonts not required by the system in the FEX System folder (recommended) or move them back to the system Fonts folder upon activation (Figure 4).

20070928_fg04.jpg
Figure 4. Part of the set-up process with FontExplorer X for Windows. Click on the image for a larger version.

You can then drag additional font folders into the import startup window, or click the + button to locate them in a separate dialog box. Once you've added all of the fonts, click the Analyze button to validate them. If you try to import a font that's already in the database, FEX warns you and gives you several duplicate-handling options.

You can easily activate fonts by clicking in the activation column or choosing the activate command. You can activate fonts permanently or only during the current Windows, or FEX session. There are some interesting preferences for working with sets (Figure 5). For example, when deactivating a set, you can choose to not deactivate fonts in other sets.

20070928_fg05.jpg
Figure 5. FontExplorer X for Windows has interesting font set options. Click on the image for a larger version.

Via a plug-in, FEX can auto-activate fonts for InDesign and Illustrator files, though this applies only to CS and CS2 versions at press time.

Fonts removed from the database aren't removed from the managed folder. To remove the fonts from the folder, you must choose FEX's Clean Manage folder option under the Tools menu.

You can hide and show the FEX preview panel by clicking the P button in the bottom right corner of the interface. You can compare faces side-by-side by selecting more than one font at a time and referring to this panel (Figure 6).

20070928_fg06.jpg
Figure 6. Comparing multiple typefaces in FontExplorer X for Windows. Click on the image for a larger version.

There are several text-preview options, including the traditional uppercase and lowercase character set. FEX is uniquely equipped with several foreign language previews. You can edit the existing preview text options, as well as add custom text, in the Preview section of the File> Preferences dialog box, or by simply typing something new into the field.

The font list lets you view fonts individually or by grouping font families together. You can display additional information about the fonts, such as version and format. The Format (detailed) option tells you whether OpenType fonts are Postscript- or TrueType-flavored.

FEX comes with several troubleshooting options. It performs an automatic check on any imported font, and you can remove missing font files from the database and clean up the Windows font registry at any time. You can also run a check on the entire database by choosing Tools> Optimize Database. To view database conflicts and missing fonts before repairing them, select Conflicts from the Source panel.

Suitcase for Windows 11.0
Extensis
www.extensis.com
$99.95/$49.95 upgrade
Windows 2000 SP4/XP SP2/Vista x86
Rating: 4

With its latest upgrade (version 11.0), Suitcase for Windows has incorporated some of the better features previously available only in Suitcase Fusion for Mac OS X. Suitcase for Windows now gives you the option to copy your fonts into a secure database (called the Vault), and also includes font auto-activation for such applications as InDesign and Illustrator, in both CS2 and CS3.

Combining these great features with its easy-to-use interface and a copy of Font Doctor makes Suitcase a much better choice for Windows-using creative pros than Font Reserve.

However, Suitcase for Windows loses points for its lack of font database search functionality. The application doesn't search your system for manageable fonts. This means that to manage any fonts installed by software such as the Creative Suite (CS), you must copy them manually into the Vault, or tell Suitcase where they're located on your system to manage them locally.

Suitcase for Windows uses FontSense, a precise font matching system developed by Extensis to auto-activate fonts. Keep in mind that this type of auto activation is application-specific, not global or system-wide. When you first install Suitcase for Windows, the installer asks if you want to install auto-activation plug-ins. If you choose to do so (and you should), Suitcase installs the plug-ins in the relevant application's Plug-Ins folder.

With the plug-ins installed, Suitcase automatically locates and activates necessary fonts when you open a document in one of those applications. It's a huge time-saver and one of the primary reasons for implementing a font manager.

You can also activate fonts quickly by clicking in the activation column or by clicking the activation buttons. A preference lets you choose whether to activate fonts permanently or temporarily (until system restart). You can add fonts to the Vault by dragging and dropping.

You preview selected fonts from within the same interface window as the font list, which allows you to select multiple fonts and compare them side-by-side (Figure 7).

20070928_fg07.jpg
Figure 7. Comparing fonts in Suitcase for Windows. Click on the image for a larger version.

In addition to Waterfall, Paragraph, and ABC 123 preview options, Suitcase for Windows also has a QuickType feature that lets you enter custom preview text. To view all of the preview options at once (with the exception of QuickType), select the font and choose Get Info. This opens a separate window that you can also print from (Figure 8).

20070928_fg08.jpg
Figure 8. Suitcase for Windows provides in-depth information in this separate, printable window.

You can sort the font list alphabetically by font type, but you can't filter the list to show only one type of font (such as OpenType), as you can in Font Reserve. There's also no Explore tab in Suitcase for Windows, which means you can't manipulate fonts stored in the Control Panel Fonts folder. Any adjustments to the Fonts folder must be done manually. See the application's PDF guide for a list of system fonts you should never remove from the Fonts folder.

Identifying and managing duplicate fonts in Suitcase for Windows is fairly simple. When you attempt to activate a font that's conflicting with a duplicate in the system Fonts folder, the preview panel displays a duplicate warning.

Suitcase for Windows can show you a list of missing fonts and their last known location. If that was a CD or external drive, you'll know that the font wasn't copied onto your system. If the last known location was on your system, chances are that the font was deleted from your hard disk.

Unfortunately, there's no font export or collect option in Suitcase for Windows. However, it does have a browse and buy command, a thorough PDF guide, and a good printing feature: You can print a sample page for individual or multiple selected fonts. The sample page includes the Waterfall and Block Text preview options, plus the full character set. You can't print the full glyph set.

Included with your purchase of Suitcase for Windows is the powerful Font Doctor troubleshooting application (Figure 9). Font Doctor diagnoses, repairs, organizes, and archives fonts (other than those in the system Fonts folder). From my experience, there's no better tool than Font Doctor for cleaning up a cluttered font library.

20070928_fg09.jpg
Figure 9. Extensis Suitcase for Windows comes with Font Doctor, a valuable tool. Click on the image for a larger version.

Font Reserve for Windows 2.6.5
Extensis
www.extensis.com
$79.95
Windows 98/NT/2000/XP
Rating: 3

When Extensis purchased Font Reserve from DiamondSoft a few years back, Extensis merged its own Suitcase application with some of the better features from Font Reserve, creating Suitcase Fusion for Mac OS X. Unfortunately, a Fusion version of Suitcase hasn't yet emerged for Windows; however, you can separately purchase the older apps.

Although Font Reserve for Windows is a good font manager, it's somewhat limited. For example, it doesn't auto-activate fonts. That alone makes Suitcase for Windows the better choice. Nevertheless, there are useful features unique to Font Reserve, such as Quick Preview.

When you launch Font Reserve for the first time, you can perform a system-wide search for available fonts it can manage, including those installed by third-party products, such as the Adobe Creative Suite (C\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Fonts\). This is one of the best features of Font Reserve, as it lets you make the Adobe fonts, which are predominantly cross-platform OpenType, easily available to other non-Adobe design applications. When the search is complete, Font Reserve manages each font's activation status from its current location on your system, rather than moving them into a managed library.

Font Reserve lets you activate fonts quickly by clicking in the activation column or by clicking the activation buttons. A preference lets you choose whether to activate fonts permanently or temporarily (until system restart).

The Explore tab gives you access to system folders, where you can move fonts from the Windows system Fonts folder. This feature is good in that it lets you keep fonts managed by the system to a bare minimum. But it's also something you should be very careful with, because certain Windows fonts must remain in the Control Panel Fonts folder for the system to run properly. Font Reserve's thorough PDF guide includes a list of system fonts you should never remove from the Fonts folder.

The best way to preview fonts in Font Reserve is to use the Quick Preview feature. It displays a preview window when you click and hold down the mouse button on a selected font (Figure 10). By default, it identifies the font using its PostScript name, but you can enter custom text in the Quick Preview tab of the Preferences dialog box (Edit> Preferences).

20070928_fg10.jpg
Figure 10. Font Reserve for Windows. Click on the image for a larger version.

Another way to preview fonts in Font Reserve is to select them from the list and either double-click with the mouse, or click the Preview button. Font Reserve then opens a separate, resizable preview window. The drawback to the preview windows is that they can display only one font at a time. To compare selected fonts side by side, you must open multiple windows and manually size and position them.

Preview windows contain their own set of Options, some of which are very useful. For example, Character Map displays the corresponding keystroke for any glyph you select (Figure 11).

20070928_fg11.jpg
Figure 11. Font Reserve for Windows' Character Map. Click on the image for a larger version.

The Capabilities option shows you what the text looks like rotated or reversed. You can also choose to display custom text for Waterfall, Single Line, or Block Text preview options.

Font Reserve for Windows doesn't check or repair fonts, but it can manage duplicates and missing fonts. By enabling the Display Name Conflict Warnings option in the Activation tab of the Preferences dialog box, you can tell Font Reserve to display a warning when it activates two fonts with the same PostScript name. If the font is an exact duplicate (same name and kind), Font Reserve permits you to activate only one at a time.

You can also search for and delete missing fonts from the Font Reserve database. Note that you should do this only when you're sure that the fonts are missing (deleted from your system). If the fonts are on an external drive that's offline, Font Reserve considers them missing. Before you delete the fonts from the Font Reserve database, check if the external drive is off. Simply turning it back on can solve the missing font problem, without having to delete any information from the database.

The printing option in Font Reserve for Windows lets you print sample text for single or multiple selected fonts as a specimen sheet, which includes a printout of the Waterfall and Block Text preview options, plus the full character set. You can also print a full chart of a selected font's available glyph characters as seen in the Character Map preview option, but without keystroke indicators.

Macs and Font Managers
Although font management is equally important on Windows and Mac, there's a lot more to consider on the Mac side.

Not only does Mac OS X have three system-based font folders, but there's also a lot more to troubleshoot, including problem legacy fonts (used in Mac OS 9 and earlier versions of the system software), empty suitcases, loose fonts that have escaped from a suitcase, and a font cache you should empty periodically to keep things running smoothly.

Font managers free you from some of this OS X complexity. They let you store fonts anywhere on your system, and activating and deactivating fonts (making them available or unavailable in application font menus) is a breeze. There's no need to hunt down fonts and move them in or out of system folders: Just click a button in the application's interface to turn a font on or off. To make things even easier, auto-activation can turn on all of the fonts used in your InDesign and Illustrator documents as you open them.

Ratings Key
1 - Not worth it even if it's free
2 - Not recommended
3 - Average
4 - Exceptionally good
5 - A must-have

20070928_table02.jpg

Suitcase Fusion 12.1.3
Extensis
www.extensis.com
$99.95/Upgrade $49.95
Mac OS X 10.3.0 or higher (PowerPC); Mac OS X 10.4.4 or higher (Intel)
Rating: 4.5

With Suitcase Fusion, Extensis has combined its venerable Suitcase application with some of the better features from Font Reserve (formerly by DiamondSoft). The result is a powerful font manager with reliable global auto-activation in CS2 and CS3, the option to copy fonts into a secure database, a thorough search engine, and some unique activation features. It's the best choice for most Mac creative professionals.

Suitcase Fusion lets you add fonts temporarily, without adding them to either the secure database (called the Vault) or your managed database (Figure 12). This lets you manage fonts until the system is restarted. It can be a useful feature for production artists continuously outputting a lot of files.

20070928_fg12.jpg
Figure 12. The "T" to the left of font names indicates that they've been added to the database only temporarily. Click on the image for a larger version.

Rather than clutter up your font library with fonts that could potentially cause duplicate problems, you could instead add them temporarily by dragging a suitcase or a folder of fonts over the Suitcase icon in the Dock. You can remove them by restarting your system, or by choosing the Remove Temporary Fonts command under the Edit menu.

You can also create application-based sets in Suitcase Fusion. It automatically activates these font collections when you launch a particular application, including InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. You can nest application sets within other sets.

The quickest way to find a font using Suitcase Fusion's search engine is to enter its name in the QuickFind field. You'll see the search results in the Font View panel.

You can also apply the Find Fonts command to search the database using a dialog box. The Find dialog box lets you search for fonts by specific criteria, such as foundry, style, type, classification, version, and even keywords.

Using the Attributes panel (Figure 13), you can add keywords to fonts and filter which fonts display in the Font View list. Filters include foundry, classification, and style, but unfortunately not type.

20070928_fg13.jpg
Figure 13. The Attributes panel in Suitcase Fusion.

The easiest way to collect fonts in Suitcase Fusion to send to a printer or other members of a production team is to select them from the Font View list or Sets panel, then drag them to your desktop or any other location on our system. Suitcase Fusion will create a Collected Fonts folder.

The powerful Font Doctor troubleshooting software comes with Suitcase Fusion. Font Doctor is a separate application that lets you diagnose, repair, organize, and archive fonts, as well as empty the OS X system font cache. I highly recommend using Font Doctor to clean out your font library before importing fonts into Suitcase Fusion.

FontAgent Pro 3.3
Insider Software
www.insidersoftware.com
Standard $99.95/Workgroup $129.95
Mac OS X 10.3 and higher/10.3.9 or higher recommended
Rating: 4

FontAgent Pro 3 (FAP) is an excellent font manager that can help you maintain an organized, trouble-free font library.

Its advantages include reliable global auto-activation (including Adobe CS3 applications), unique preview options, and the ability to apply a diagnostic check every time you import or activate a font.

The disadvantages are that it doesn't create a secure database, nor can it manage fonts anywhere on your system -- all fonts must be moved into a FAP-created library. It also can't automatically find and move fonts installed by the Adobe Creative Suite; you must move them manually into the FAP library from their default install location (Library\Application Support\Adobe\Fonts).

FontAgent Pro comes with an easy-to-use setup assistant that walks you through the process of choosing a location for your managed font library, setting basic FAP preferences, and importing fonts. To get the most out of FAP, enable the auto-activation and multiple libraries preferences before importing.

FAP is one of the few font managers that let you create multiple libraries. You can create separate collections based on job type (book fonts, brochure fonts, headline fonts), font type (script fonts, dingbats, sans-serif), or even by client name. Each library can be organized and managed differently depending on how you use your fonts.

You can view fonts in libraries and sets in FAP's left or above-right panels, or both (Figure 14). It can display fonts by set or by library, or you can display all fonts at once. You also have the option to view the font lists by name or grouped by family using small, medium, or large WYSIWYG preview.

20070928_fg14.jpg
Figure 14. There are several places to view fonts in FontAgent Pro. Click on the image for a larger version.

The Font Player and Font Compare preview options are the same as the Windows version of FAP. The only difference is that in the Mac version, you can also activate selected fonts from within the preview panel.

FAP always runs a diagnostic check on all fonts before importing them (Figure 15). There are two key analysis options in the Setup Assistant import dialog box that you should always enable before importing: Check Font Metrics to Determine Exact Duplicates, and Do Not Import Incomplete Postscript Fonts. The alternative is a lot of unnecessary font problems and frustration.

20070928_fg15.jpg
Figure 15. The FontAgent Pro Setup Assistant.

Once your fonts are imported, you can run a verification check on the entire library at any time by choosing Tools> Verify Fonts. A useful troubleshooting preference allows FAP to verify fonts before activating them (recommended).

The one troubleshooting feature FAP is missing is the ability to empty the OS X system font cache. For this, Insider Software urges you to buy its $49.95 Smasher app. Unless you're faced with a lot of legacy suitcase problems, which Smasher was specifically designed to fix, it's not worth the expense. Note that Suitcase Fusion and Linotype's Font Explorer come with this feature as part of the package.

The workgroup edition of FontAgent Pro ($129.95) lets you share fonts over a network without setting up a dedicated server. This peer-to-peer sharing setup is based on Apple's Rendezvous when multiple users are working on the same network. With the FAP Workgroup edition, you don't need a server configuration or administration to share fonts with other members of your design or production team.

FontExplorer X Mac 1.1.2
Linotype
Free
www.linotype.com
Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
Rating: 4

If cost is your primary concern, I recommend Linotype's Font Explorer X. It works well, is easy to use, and best of all, it's free. Font Explorer X (FEX) has auto-activation plug-ins for InDesign and Illustrator CS and CS2. (Hopefully, Linotype will soon add plug-ins for CS3, as well). The application also includes good font export and a command for cleaning the system and application font caches.

FEX's Setup Assistant helps you choose a location for your managed font directory and import fonts. It also gives you the option to either copy or move fonts into the directory. I recommend copying because you can use the originals as a backup if the FEX directory is deleted from your system.

The Setup Assistant can locate the OS X system font folders automatically, including the Adobe fonts folder (Library\Application Support\Adobe\Fonts). You can also drag additional font folders into the import startup window, or click the + button to find them via a separate dialog box.

You can install the auto-activation plug-ins during set-up, or at any time afterwards using the plug-in manager (Figure 16).

20070928_fg16.jpg
Figure 16. FontExplorer X's Plug-In Manager. Click on the image for a larger version.

Fonts that are removed from the database are not removed from the managed folder. To remove the fonts from the folder, you must choose the Clean Manage folder option under the Tools menu.

All other activation features work the same as those found in the PC version of FEX.

The preview options in FEX for the Mac are the same as the PC version. There are custom text and foreign language preview options, as well as the option to hide and show the preview panel.

FEX performs an automatic check on new fonts imported into the database. You can also optimize the entire database at any time by going to Tools> Optimize Database.

Unique to the Mac version of FEX is the ability to clean system font folders. Applying this command allows the software to remove any fonts not installed by OS X from the three main system font folders. FEX places all removed fonts in a folder on the desktop. The option to clean the Manage folder (a.k.a. the directory) transfers all fonts that were removed from the database (but not from the folder) to the trash.

FEX has separate commands for cleaning the system and application font caches to help keep things running smoothly on your system. FEX prompts you to empty the cache during setup and when cleaning system folders.

Several export preferences in FEX let you compile fonts into a zip archive, a disk image, or simply copy the fonts without compressing them. The zip and dmg options result in much smaller files, so you can send large collections of fonts as email attachments.

Font Book 2
Apple
www.apple.com
Free
Mac OS X 10.4
Rating: 2

Apple's Font Book 2 comes with Mac OS X Tiger, and its interface is reminiscent of other built-in OS X apps, such as iTunes and iPhoto. Font Book may at first seem suitable for creative pros, but it simply doesn't have the right features.

The largest setback is its lack of built-in auto-activation. The only way to incorporate auto-activation into Font Book is to create a script using Apple's Automator application -- and who has time for that?

Except for fonts required by the system, Font Book can manage all fonts in the User library, Library, System X, and Classic fonts folders. The app automatically activates every font you import into it, and there's no preference to change this. To make font management less taxing on your system, you must first manually deactivate all of the installed fonts, then activate just the ones you'd like to use. Again, that's way too much time.

On the upside, you can create multiple user libraries anywhere on your system. Font Book checks these libraries first when handling duplicate fonts, ensuring that duplicate system fonts don't override common fonts, such as Helvetica and Times. You can identify a specific font's location on your system by selecting it from the Font panel and choosing Get Info (Cmd+I). Doing so replaces the display in the preview panel with a list of font information, including location.

Font Book displays activated fonts in black, while deactivated fonts are gray, with the word "off" next to each one. When you deactivate a font, Font Book displays a deactivation warning dialog box. If you don't check the Do Not Ask Me Again option, you'll be faced with the warning every time you disable a font.

Unfortunately, Font Book can't preview multiple selected fonts and compare them side-by-side in the preview panel. However, if you set the Size option to Fit when previewing a font, the size of the preview text changes automatically as you resize the font Book Window or any of its panels. This interactivity also applies to the scroll button on the right. Dragging the slider up increases the size of the preview text; dragging down decreases it.

The Custom preview option lets you type directly in the preview panel. The Preview> Repertoire option displays all available glyph characters for the selected font but doesn't indicate the corresponding keystroke.

Whether or not you use Font Book, double-clicking a font suitcase lets you preview the font's full character set before installing it. If you are using Font Book, you can install the font directly from the preview window by clicking the Install Font button (Figure 17).

20070928_fg17.jpg
Figure 17. You can install a font from the OS X preview window.

Font Book automatically runs a validation check on all fonts imported into the database; you can also run a check at any time by selecting the fonts from the Fonts panel and choosing File> Validate Font. Font Book displays a separate dialog box with validation check results.

The Resolve Duplicates command works well but is very confusing. Since all fonts are listed by family, those containing duplicates are labeled with a black dot. To see which fonts are duplicates, you must toggle the triangle next to the family name and view the individual fonts. Black dots next to the individual font names indicate disabled duplicates. Font Book automatically activates all fonts imported into the database but only activates one duplicate at a time. When dealing with duplicates, the software uses a specific order to decide what gets activated and what doesn't. First it checks all custom user libraries, then the User\Library\Fonts folder, then Library\Fonts, then System X\Library\Fonts, then the classic System Folder\Fonts folder (if you're running Classic on your system). When you apply the Resolve Duplicates command, Font Book activates the first of the duplicate fonts that it finds using this hierarchy. You can override this by selecting the disabled duplicate and clicking the enable button. When overriding Font Book's duplicate choices for activation, always use Get Info to identify duplicates' type and location.

There aren't many other features included with Font Book (there isn't even a printing option); however, it does have a nice font export feature. Simply select the fonts you'd like to copy and choose File> Export Fonts. You can name the folder and browse to a system location to save to using the resulting Save dialog box.

The Final Word
There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a font manager. My ratings are based on research and experience, but your workflow may be different enough that it has special needs my top-rated font managers can't meet. If that's the case, I recommend that you download a trial of the app you're eyeing to try it out before you make a final purchase. All 30-day trials are free for the downloading.

Return to page 1 of "Reviews: Font Manager Face-Off."

Ted LoCascio is a graphic designer; author of articles, books, and videos; and an expert in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, InDesign, Illustrator, and QuarkXPress. For more information, visit www.tedlocascio.com.

Liked This? Read These!

Font Bros is proud to announce the release of two amazing new display fonts by the talented Mark Simonson; Kinescope and Snicker. Both fonts were inspired by hand-lettered titles in the old Fleischer... Read More
With all the hand wringing over fonts in Mac OS X, you'd think that font problems are new. Let's face it. Fonts have always been a bit troublesome for Mac users. Way back in 1985, when the... Read More
In my first "Font Fatigue" column, I identified six font locations in Mac OS X. In reality, there can be more. Consider this: Each user has his or her own fonts folder. This is as it should be in a... Read More
Extensis, a division of Celartem Inc., announced the immediate availability of the Windows version of Suitcase Fusion 2, a completely new professional font manager supporting feature parity with its... Read More