Editor's Blog: Leslie Goes on (Another) Rampage About Font Management in OS X

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Editor's Blog: Leslie Goes on (Another) Rampage About Font Management in OS X

 

As anyone who sits within 10 or so feet of my desk (and that basically includes all Mac|Life editorial staffers) knows, I have a major problem with the way OS X manages fonts. My neighbors have heard me complain - loudly - about this issue on many an occasion.

 

I'd like to know why 10.4.8 comes with Apple's own Font Book, but also bundles a way-out-of-date version of Extensis Suitcase? (Although I hear the latest version of Suitcase, Suitcase Fusion 12.1.3, is pretty rad. But I'm too cheap to shell out $100 for it.) Both Font Book and Suitcase are activated by default, and they conflict with each other in ways that are understandable yet also mystifying. While I resisted using Suitcase for many weeks, I finally succumbed - but only because it seemed the only way to easily access the fonts I need daily for Mac|Life. (I'll spare you the boring details about how there was this one font that Font Book just didn't take a shine to, and the only way I could install it was by surrendering to Suitcase.)

 

For someone like me who isn't a "creative professional" (meaning I don't spend every daylight hour in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design, or other graphics programs), there's just no need to make font management complicated. Why not just automatically activate all the fonts on my system when I start up (a la the Operating System That Shall Not Be Named)? That way, I wouldn't have to worry about certain fonts not showing up in Word or In Design. Launching either of those apps, which are not yet Universal, is no small undertaking. Having to quit then relaunch them because I realized too late that I'd forgotten to launch Suitcase and turn on the right fonts is one of those time sucks I'd just rather not get sucked into.

 

Thank goodness I finally got a clue and added Suitcase to my Login Items list (System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items). Now I don't have to remember to launch it before I start Word or any other app that uses fonts.

 

If you've been looking for a good font-management app, check out this thorough review of three different apps on ArsTecnica. Dave Girard suffered a lot of pain so the rest of us don't have to. (And, hallelujah, he also pointed out a font manager, Linotype FontExplorer X, that is good and FREE.)

 

So now that my font-management problems seem on their way to being solved, I'll take a minute to bring another one of my font-related crusades to light, namely, a fantasy that someday Comic Sans will be eliminated from the world of fonts. I am not sure why I hate this font so much. (You might assume it's because of its association with Microsoft, but, no that's not it at all.) It's just ugly, is all. And I just try to avoid ugliness. It's also goofy. And not in a good way. In a stupid way.

 

The folks at the website Ban Comic Sans feel my pain. They feel it so much they've started a real campaign to educate the public about the evils of this ridiculous font. The worst is when someone uses it in a business context - whether it's a presentation, signage, or even (as happened to me when I was offered a job at Future) in job-offer letters. Sadly, my mom uses Comic Sans in her personal and professional correspondence, despite my gentle (and then not-so-gentle) entreaties to stop. She says, "It's easy to read." But what about Arial, Book Antiqua, Century Schoolbook, Times New Roman, or (my favorite) Georgia? They're easy to read too - and easy on the eyes. Unlike Comic Sans.

 

What fonts do you hate? (Or love?)

 

28

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Creative Insomniac

Here in Portland, Oregon, land of hippies and Democrats, we are a super liberal city with many providers of massage, nutrition, new-agey type services, and other earth-centric, "bleeding-heart liberal" things.

You can probably guess that the most heinously overused font around here is... PAPYRUS. It's like Extensis Suitcase barfed the damn thing all over the city. Sandwich signs litter the sidewalks with this offensive font. For signage, people??? I mean, COME ON??? In addition to being horribly ugly, it's hardly readable on a sign. PAPYRUS should be sent back to antiquity where it supposedly came from.

If a designer showed me something in their portfolio with papyrus on it, I would take them out back and beat them with a switch of locally grown ecologically sustainable bamboo.

(BTW I'm not hatin' on my peeps-I myself am a bleeding-hear liberal too. But smelly hippies that like papyrus are annoying)

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Anonymous

Comic Sans MS isn't one of my favorites either, but it still looks better than the Chalkboard font included in OS X. I really dont think you should use either one unless you are a kindergarten teacher or something like that. Nonetheless, I think there are a lot of fonts out there that are much uglier....like Brush Script. Ugh.

I also don't care for Arial and Times New Roman because they are so bland and boring. I much prefer Trebuchet MS, Georgia, Baskerville, Hoefler Text, or even Helvetica Neue.

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Anonymous

If Fonts challange you. OMG get a life what about the fact that if you have a male OBGYN you can't get a hysterectomy without GOD knows all this counseling.. Or that women feel that their bodies are NOT good enough to be as they are. OR whose idea was it that 6" heels are HOT,.It as probably a male. Who thought up these FONTs, anyway. So hense, no logic and if you are male and disagree then what Freudian mess did your Mom leave you with.. So Leslie, yes I agree these fonts stink what what can you do.. We are still in a world where men think they rule, but the last time I check they came from a good WO men.. Somewhere between the womb and adulthood they came to the conclusion they Knew better.. LOL so hense we do what we have been known to do best .. Make the best of it and clean up there mess!!!

All I have to say is cheer-up buttercup.. we know who the real MASTERMINDS are..

From
The girl who googles her name and the word "goes"

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Anonymous

what do people think is the best font for business presentations?

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Vern Sherman

Brush Script. Yes, that ubiquitous letter style that showed up
predominately since the '70s as the font of choice for tacky
TV adverts. It conjures images of "Call Today", "Seasons Greetings"
or "Wait, there's more...". I'm in the sign business and when
a customer shows me the lettering on their business card
and they'd like it duplicated for their signs, I politely tell them
that we don't have that font and I give them a script worth displaying.
Also on my list: Kalligraphia, Commercial script and Hobo - they have
to be stopped!

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Jim Kidwell

Hi Leslie,

I whole heartedly agree that font management isn't something that most users want to worry about every day. In an ideal world, the font that you need would always be available when you need it, and you would never be bogged down in a sea of fonts that you don't need.

To help solve this problem, we've developed auto-activation plug-ins for the most common creative applications - InDesign, Illustrator and QuarkXPress. That way, you choose which fonts to use at the time of document creation, the plug-in stores each font's "fingerprint" in the source document, and then you never need to worry that you're using the correct font - it's automatically opened and activated when you open the source document.

If you'd like to know more about how to clean up your system and help avoid any system font conflicts, I'd like to recommend reading our Font Managment in Mac OS X Best Practices Guide (PDF).
http://dl.extensis.com/downloads/SC/EN/P/Fonts_Best_Practices_in_OSX.pdf

Regards,
Jim Kidwell
Technical Product Specialist
Extensis

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Leslie Ayers

To Jim from Extensis: Thanks for the link to the best practices guide. I'll check it out for sure.

 

And to those of you who flamed me for saying how horrible it would be if all 3,000 of your stored fonts loaded on startup ... you missed the point of my comments, which was that I do not have 3,000 fonts on my Mac and have no problem waiting an extra three seconds for them to load on startup. (You see, it was my blog post, so yes, it's all about me!) What I do have a problem with is fonts that I know I've installed not loading in certain applications.

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Rabbit Punch

Suitcase does not come bundled with 10.4.x. It may have been installed by your IT guys, but it is not (and never has been) an app bundled with the OS or Macs.

Suitcase works fine. I use ExplorerX at home with no real problems. Comic Sans IS overdone. But less so than Helvetica and Times...

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computerARTIST

Fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus are fine when they are used appropriately. Although, sometimes these fonts, especially Comic Sans, have been abused by those who think they're always appropriate and must be given a break.

My favourite (standard) fonts at the moments are Gill Sans, and Century Gothic.

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Ryan

Hi Leslie,

I love your article, since it gives me a heads up about my upcoming migration to OSX, but I have to say that Comic Sans is one of my favorite fonts. I use it for audio CD covers, DVD labels, brochures, and lots of other places where I need someting a bit informal and highly readable. But I'd never use it for email. I should mention that I presently use it mostly in system 8.6 and still do all of my typesetting in older versions of Quark.

thanks,

Ryan

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bOMBfACTORY

I have an aversion to the font Serpentine. Can't stand it! I work in the action sports industry, and I think my hatred of this font stems from the fact that seemingly every other wannabe sporty company out there with no trained graphics people on staff uses Serpentine in their lame attempts at 'cool' design. I want this font loaded into a rocket and hurled at the sun. There, I feel better.

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Don Isbell

I do use Extensis Suitcase 11.0.4 on a daily basis.

To update fonts so that programs can see them, first activate them in Suitcase, then Deactivate, then Activate them again. Then go back to your program, and the program should see them. No cleaning font caches, no restart of program or computer (most of the time).

If this doesn't work, then (and only then) do I clean my Font Caches with Font Finagler (or to maintenance the computer at the same time, just use Yasu or Onyx), which does require a restart.

Of course, you can also go the route of not using a Font Manager at all, and drop fonts into /Users/Username/Library/Fonts (place an alias on the desktop to make it easy to access to add or remove fonts).

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Hark

Up with FontExplorerX! Have used it over a year and it knocks the socks off of Suitcase and Font Reserve (and their combo fusion app).

Down with Comic Sans... the battle never ends. I work in print and see this wretched excuse for a font all the time. I change it every chance I get.... "gee, i'm sorry, we don't have that font!"

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lazy guy

You ask "Why not just automatically activate all the fonts on my system when I start up?" You can -- just don't use any font-management program, and keep all your fonts either the Font folder at the system level or the Font folder in your user area, and all of your fonts will be available to all of your programs all the time. No problem.

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Hark

You obviously do not have a background with the Mac. That's fine for small timers, but when you have a lot of fonts that's a really dumb idea. Especially if you have duplicates. I have around 3000 fonts that I need and use on a fairly regular basis being in the printing/design industry.

Not only does that make your font list painfully enormous to navigate, but it will slow down your entire system.

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Anonymous

actually, you mean democrats have no aesthetics, the republicans have great pr and looks. The first comment had an intelligent approach to font management with a database implemented system wide. good idea, maybe itll be used in tiger?

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Vlad

At last someone shares my opinion on comic sans. I HATE this font with a vengeance!!! It's ugly, lame, fat and without a trace of elegance. It's a font for accountants, lawyers, Republicans, and everybody lacking a basic sense of aesthetics who means to be "funky". And it's everywhere you look. May I add to the list of abhorred fonts: copperplate. Yargh!
I deleted several fonts from my mom's -whom I deeply love- computer.

Best regards.
Vlad

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pixelslut

Well font management has never really been a joyus experience. ATM Deluxe was ok back in OS9 and FontReserve i liked for awhile (this was before it was under the Extensis banner). Im using FontAgent Pro now, and its pretty stable (stability and database corruption are generally my biggest issues with font managers), however it lacks some certian browsng features i love like browse by class, ie. serif, sans serif, humanist, etc..

Anyhow, You idea of loading all the fonts on your system at boot is a dangerous one. I realize youre not a graphic pro and this might be ok for you but alot of us are. Do you realize what this would do to my system... I have over 3000 fonts on my system. I shudder to think what it would be like if all those were loaded by default. A better option would be to see all the fonts on the machine in a system managed font database as available from any applications font menu. but then to only load those dynamically when they are selected in the application by a user OR when they are used in a document you are opening. In fact most font management apps have plugins to handle the later in a variey of apps. ITs the former that i dont think has been done before. But both would be better implemented at a system level instead of an application level.

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Ben

Stones San Semilta is the coolest font ever.

[Stones Sans OSITCTT-Semilta]

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