Font Management Software

I hesitate to ask, but do I really need font management software on my computer? I'm running the latest update of OS X Lion. I'm "new" to Macs, having switched in 2008. At that time, I bought Extensis Suitcase Fusion 2 and upgraded to 3 when they released it.

My memory is nothing but a confusion of fearfully trying to move the fonts they said I should by following the suggestions they made. Then, they were never ready after Adobe upgrades. Also, I was constantly finding my files missing or turned off somehow and I spent hours researching and troubleshooting issues and managing the app instead of the transparent effortless font management I expected it to provide.

Now, they've released v4. I've already upgraded to Adobe CS6 and I heard that the Suitcase Fusion is not able to work with that version.

Is font management a necessary evil, or can OS X Lion handle my fonts for me. I own most of Hoefler and Frère Jones typefaces and some others besides. I don't know if that qualifies as too many or as not even close to taxing OS X. I don't want to put up with the hassles I had with Suitcase Fusion 3 (and earlier). It made me want to reinstall the OS and start from scratch with only fonts Apple includes (and maybe a few others). What a horror that was.

And if I must install something, is there something better than Suitcase Fusion? If not, is 4 better than 3? I assume there is no work around if I do install 4 and it doesn't work with Adobe? That was also intensely annoying. Perhaps I should use 4 and not use the Adobe plug-ins?

I have a vague recollection that somewhere Hoefler made a comment about font management software in general (or Suitcase Fusion in specific?) perhaps in the sense that they were no longer needed and more problematic than helpful?

My apologies for the length of this post, but I'd really love to resolve this issue if possible.

Thank you so much for any advice!

Joshua Langman's picture

I currently have 823 type families on my computer. Other designers might easily have more.

I do not use a font manager, other than FontBook, which come with my Mac. This simple little program has done whatever I needed.

Karl Stange's picture

For most needs the current version of Font Book is probably sophisticated enough. It might be worth removing any other management software, experimenting by adding a few families at a time and seeing how that works for you.

If taking this approach you should probably keep the file and folder structure as clearly organised as possible and before adding fonts to Font Book make sure that you have not placed them in one of the live font folder structures:

/Library/Fonts
/System/Library/Fonts
/Users/username/Library/Fonts

Some Adobe products also have an application specific font folder that overrides fonts at the system level. I am familiar with this in CS4 but not later versions.

Karl Stange's picture

You may find these discussions helpful:

http://www.typophile.com/node/84817
http://www.typophile.com/node/79952

Also this overview of general font management in OS X by Kurt Lang is exhaustive and could help you avoid some of the system level pitfalls.

Karl Stange's picture

Number 42 in this FAQ on the Hoefler site may be what you were thinking of...

Queneau's picture

If you have, say a couple of hundred fonts maximum, and you often use the same fonts over and over, it is probably unnessesary to use font management. But I have a bit more, and use many different fonts for many projects, so it is indispensible for me. I would not be able to keep a proper overview of the fonts I have, and it is much more difficult to compare them. I have used Fontexplorer (FEX) by Linotype, first the free version, now the Pro version, and it has always worked well for me. It is intuitive, the auto-activation works fine with CS, and it is easy to keep an overview of the fonts. I used the option of the 30 day trial, which I recommend.

I haven't used Suitcase in like 10 years (when I hated it), so I can't say how it is in comparison. I also tested FontAgent Pro on a trial, but it was not on the same level as FEX in my opinion. Plus FEX is the cheaper option, so that helps...

JamesT's picture

For my PC, I use Suitcase. For my mac, I use Fontexplorer.

HVB's picture

A large number of font ID requests here are from designers who have forgotten what fonts they've used for some project. A font manager, if used to group fonts by project, could completely eliminate that problem.

JamesM's picture

> A font manager, if used to group fonts by project,
> could completely eliminate that problem [of forgotten fonts]

In the short term that works fine, but I wouldn't want to depend on that long-term to keep track of font sets for hundreds of jobs over many years. People change computers, change font managers, etc. I think a better method is just to archive each project properly, which a designer should do routinely anyway.

Karl Stange's picture

In the short term that works fine, but I wouldn't want to depend on that long-term to keep track of font sets for hundreds of jobs over many years. People change computers, change font managers, etc. I think a better method is just to archive each project properly, which a designer should do routinely anyway.

Font Explorer X Pro includes a tool (Detect Fonts in Documents) that can generate font reports from a wide variety of file types including: InDesign (CS2 and later), Ilustrator (CS3 and later), pdf, eps, rtf, rtfd, svg, svgz, pages, key, idml, icml and icmt. Reports can be generated in text or XML (plist) format.

This is a very useful way of tracking what fonts have been used in a project and gives you the option to create sets based on those fonts.

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