Suitcase or FontReserve & OS X

sean's picture

I am finally making the leap to OS X. I am upgrading just about
every thing Adobe including a new purchase of ID. Exciting.

As for font management I have always used Suitcase from the
beginning and have little hands on with Font Reserve.

Currently, I am up to Suitcase 10 which is built for OS X but if
something works better I would like to know.

What would you recommend for a font management program
and why? What is best for X?

Mark Simonson's picture

After some mixed experiences with FontReserve on OS X,
I've been doing without any sort of add-on font utility for
the last six months.

Basically, what I do is keep all of my fonts in a large
organized collection, with each family in its own folder.
When I want to use a font, I just drag-copy its folder into
my user Fonts folder. (In OS X, you can keep fonts in
folders within the Fonts folder.) Most apps will update their
font menus automatically. For those that don't, just quit
the app and start it up again. When I'm done using a font, I
just put it in the Trash (I still have the original with the rest
of my collection).

If you rely on auto-activation or use Classic a lot, this may
not be for you, but it has a kind of elegant simplicity that
appeals to me.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I'm one of those strange people that actually owns Suitcase, Font Agent and Font Reserve. I'm also strange enough to admit that I loaded and unloaded each of them at least twice while getting used to OS X. Font Agent was s-l-o-w! And from what I recall I had to leave to open. (Someone correct me here) I still think Font Reserve, even with the scrolling weirdness, is stronger than the others. I also really appreciate that they can control the system fonts and, AND, their tech support is quick and friendly.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Stephen. Can you bullet list your complaints for me?

defrancisco's picture

I started using FontReserve 3.0 a couple of weeks ago
and was pretty happy with it

Miss Tiffany's picture

Ummm. The crash-o-rama -- I think that is the auto-activate feature. I disabled that. =/ Scrolling font list. Yeah that one is a bummer, but if you view fonts ungrouped you can scroll all you want.


sean's picture

Suitcase auto activates for me in classic. I
could only assume it does in OS X as well.
It certainly seems that Suitcase is not the
favorite here so far.

Mark, I really do like your method but I am
with Stephen. Auto activation is nice.

Thank you for the input so far.


jlt's picture

yes - suitcase has autoactivation in x, no problems in indesign or freehand (the only apps i really use much of). i love it - have converted - was waiting with bated breath for atm deluxe for a year but have given up on that. we bought a multi-user license here at work and everyone seems very happy with it. no problem handling PC fonts, opentype, TT, postscript in OSX - sometimes it renders the sample window incorrectly but everything seems to work fine otherwise.

defrancisco's picture

Thanks Tiffany, I'm going to get the upgrade right away.
You just made my day :-) There goes my theory
about how software upgrades are just a scam.

Some research (I should have done this earlier)

jfp's picture

Use FR reserve here, and it work well with OpenType fonts. And FR still quite good with many activations, during type design process.

Anyway, from the time (long long ago) I switched from Suitcase to ATM deluxe, I was so happy, that I really don't want to try it again.

Perhaps, I will have same problem, if one day, for a new "Windows based Mac Os XX", Xpress comeback and finally better than Indesign, I will never want to try it again?? (Who know?)

sean's picture

Just in case you live in a can,
is sporting a bit on this same topic right now.

Some good stuff there.


sean's picture

I'll have to admit I am warming up to Font Agent.

It lays claim to some nice features the others lack - biased
as the chart may be.

Stephen, my final question for you is how slow is it really?
Slow, really slow or really really slow?


defrancisco's picture

Thanks to Stephen we have a good deal of information
on the latest font management contender.
The absence of ATM Deluxe was one of the main issues
delaying my switch to OS X, and I never really liked
neither Suitcase nor FR but, it seems that FontAgent has some of the best features of both.

For the moment I have downoaded the trial version, let's see...

macdadi80's picture

I've been an advocate of FontReserve since the early days. But, the program is buggier in X, and is showing signs of age with respect to its interface. I might give FontAgent a whirl. Seems like it has what I liked in FR, but in a better package. On a semi-related note, I've always wondered why something like font management, which seems fairly close to the OS level, shouldn't be included with the OS. I appreciate competition with regard to software, but part of me thinks Apple could do a dandy job if it would include some sort of font management utility built into the OS.

macdadi80's picture

I've just disabled FontReserve, and downloaded and installed a Trial version of FontAgent Pro. It's pretty slick, but there are a couple of drawbacks I see so far. First, it's slows up launching and shutting down, since it has to do some database management thing that FontReserve never did. Second, libraries and sets are a little confusing, but I think once you get used to the difference, it's probably a powerful feature. Third: you have to keep the program running, apparently, all the time; FontReserve is "transparent." Fourth: when a font is auto-activated in FontReserve, you can tell it's active because it has "active status" in the program window; with FontAgent, an auto-activated font does not show up as active, which is kind of weird. Fifth, the auto-activation in Photoshop is, by the company's admission, buggy, but they claim it will be better with Photoshop 8 (!). I should send this list of concerns to them. Positives: intuitive, cocoa platform and interface; font player is excellent; wysiwyg menus are very helpful; customizable specimen sheet was something I always wanted in FontReserve but never got (you can customize type color and background color as well!); a tiny download; easy to set up and use.

kapone's picture

Just got an update for my FontAgent Pro 1.3. The Insider Software email said:

That brings us to FontAgent Pro 1.3, a new supercharged version of FontAgent Pro that makes saving of font sets 10x faster and greatly enhances printing in Classic mode. How did we do this you ask? We have added some great new engineers to our staff and we will be accelerating our development to bring you some truly incredible breakthrough technology in font management over the coming months.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Kapone -- Have you used Font Reserve? I'd love an update after you've had a couple days. A comparison would be wonderful.

macdadi80's picture

Yes, I agree with Tiffany: let us know what you think about the upgrade. Apparently the upgrade is not available to trial users. Based on what I've seen so far as a trial user, I'm 50/50 on whether or not to abandon FontReserve. I'd be curious to see if you find 1.3 much better than 1.2.1. Thanks!

Grant Hutchinson's picture

The lastest spin? Chuck Weger over at is waxing OSeXsy on fonts, &t.

hrant's picture

>> "Adobe has stopped producing Multiple Master
>> "fonts, so this issue will eventually go away, anyway."

Yeah, solve the King's headache but cutting off his head...


macdadi80's picture

Well, after using the trial of FontAgent Pro 1.2 for nearly 30 days, I'm back to FontReserve. I think FontAgent has serious potential, but FontReserve is just more transparent to the user, facilitates easier exporting and importing of fonts, and is much faster. Exporting fonts in FontAgent Pro and shutting the program down was very slow. FontReserve is extremely quick. Also, the character map in FontReserve is very helpful. Some features in FontAgent are quite nice, such as the Font Player, font diagnostics, and its generally prettier, more OSX-like interface. But Reserve just seems better still.

sean's picture

Wow, very interesting. Everything changes.

I've decided to just sit and wait for Font Book.

defrancisco's picture

After using the trial version of Font Agent Pro for almost a month now,
I am very happy with it. I can't complain about its speed and
performance, and auto-activation works great for InDesign and Photoshop.

I might not even wait for Font Book...

Josev's picture

I just bought suitcase and have had problems with it locking up while using Classic mode. Usually when this happens I'm not even able to use the force quit feature. I've resorted to pulling the battery out of my IBook so that I can restart the computer.

The day I recieved my Suitcase application I read that the next version of OSX will have a font handling feature. Maybe it would be better to wait before you invest any more money.

sean's picture

Whoa! The battery?

minimalista, you do know about the little itsy bitsy button on the left side near the ports right?

Sorry for the lousy picture and if you you already know about the emergency restart button.

You will still have to reset the clock.

Classic or not, I've never had that kind of trouble with suitcase. I suspect you have an extension issue.

That button will at least save you from removing your battery.

macdadi80's picture

I'm back to FontReserve in X, and happy as can be. I liked a few of the features of FontAgent Pro, but the speed and transparency of FontReserve brought me back. Before I invest in another 3rd party app, I, too, am going to wait for the Panther font handler to see how it works.

Josev's picture

I don't have that button. At least not in that location. I'll see if it has been moved elsewhere.

The point I was trying to make was that it may be better to wait for Apple's font resource management. If it looks worthwhile I'm going to drop Suitcase.

sean's picture


I am sure you will find that button somewhere. It is one of those ones that you need to press with a paper clip or a pen.

I gonna stick with suitcase as well till I can give Font Book a try as well.

Good luck.

Stephen Coles's picture

Font Reserve is horrendous in OSX. As a carbon app it is
suffering from some major interface glitches (can't even
scroll proper!).

I've never tried Suitcase, but I heard bad things.

So I tried FontAgent. It is decent, the closest experience to
good ol' ATM Deluxe of the three. Only major problem: it is
slow as cold tar when adding new fonts.

Jared Benson's picture

macHome has posted a review of Font Reserve Single User 3.11 today, and they assert that FR remains a strong choice for font management.

Me? Suitcase.

Stephen Coles's picture

MacHome seems ignorant of the cocoa/carbon issue. Apps
built from the ground up for OSX (cocoa) are generally
smoother and behave more as you would expect. iTunes is
probably the only carbon app that I've not seen exhibit
significant UI foibles.

I haven't tried Suitcase, which is carbon, but the difference
between the FontAgent and Font Reserve experience is clear.

Joe Pemberton's picture

I saw a demo of FontReserve at MacWorld. At the demo, FR
looked pretty sweet, with options to search for fonts in
your library by classication, designer, period, etc. On a few
occasions I've wished Suitcase could do this. ("Show me all
the scripts," for example.)

However, Suitcase has been just fine for me. Stable and
everything. But if you're using any Classic apps still, expect
some weirdness with font management across the two OSs.

Stephen Coles's picture

Font Reserve? Ok:
1. Can't scroll font list with thumb bar
2. Can't scroll font list with mouse scroll wheel
3. Crash-o-rama.

Clearly, in the end, there still isn't a solid font management
solution for X, (not like ATM Deluxe was anyway), but
FontAgent is closest for me, even if slow. And I don't
mind keeping it open so much, just hide 'er.

Joe Pemberton's picture

Oh, by the way. Welcome to the future. =) Maybe you
should hard-crash your OS 9 box a few times for good
measure, just to get it all out of your system.

Stephen Coles's picture

I gotta have auto-activation. I open too many old docs with
too many old fonts too often. FontAgent has auto-activate
for PS, Ill, and InD. Does Suitcase? Joe?

Stephen Coles's picture

Guess what. Remember MasterJuggler?

Stephen Coles's picture

Whoa! That's my 1001st post. I don't know whether to be
proud or embarrassed.

anonymous's picture

This is my first post to this board. Seems like a lot of good information is being traded here. I

Stephen Coles's picture

Bill - nice rundown. I would seriously consider including
FontAgent Pro in your article since it is now a significant
player, the only one written in Cocoa, and, in my opinion,
the best of the three.

Stephen Coles's picture

This is a biased comparison chart, but interesting nonetheless.

Stephen Coles's picture

I have a G4/400 with 1GB RAM. I have about 300 fonts in
my FontAgent library.

When I switch to FontAgent I wait for about 3 seconds
for the main window to appear.

Add fonts: 40 seconds.
Turn on a font: 5 seconds.
Search for a font: 3 seconds.

Also, sometimes the app doesn't hide when it should.

Otherwise happy.

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