I love fonts. Classic fonts. Cool fonts. Esoteric fonts. Crazy fonts. As a very long time Mac user (don’t let the smile fool you; it hides the wrinkles) I collect fonts; thousands of fonts.
How do I manage my fonts on my Macs? Easier said than done, but five Mac font management tools make it easier. No, I don’t use all five at once. I have a favorite.
There are three places to find fonts on your Mac. Your Mac hard drive’s System/Library/Fonts folder. You need those fonts to make the Mac work so don’t muck around in there too much.
Fonts can also be installed in your Home/Library/Fonts folder. Some Mac applications such as Microsoft Word come with their own fonts and install them accordingly.
The last place to find fonts is wherever you put them, assuming you’ve downloaded fonts from Adobe or the web or bought fonts on a CD. For my Mac, I created a folder in my Home/Library called Fonts (disabled) and I save fonts there.
Managing fonts can be a chore if you have too many. You’ll want some fonts in some applications but other fonts in a different application.
FontExplorer X Pro
This is my favorite, by far, other more expensive utilities not withstanding. What I like about FontExplorer is auto activation and font handling.
Fonts need to be organized in a way that’s comfortable for your day-to-day use. OS X’s little font manager is anemic at best and does little except list your fonts.
FontExplorer allows you to organize fonts by library, folder, sets, even tags and keywords (handy if you have a few thousand too many fonts, like me).
Also handy is the auto-activation function. That lets me determine which fonts go into which applications. There are more expensive font management tools, but none that are more useful, friendly, or usable.
This one makes the Top 5 because so many other Mac font utilities seem to have stopped active development (if it’s not updated after a year, it’s not active).
Fontcase is very useful because it previews both active an inactive fonts. Trust me. That’s worthwhile. Even with thousands of fonts, Fontcase lets you activate only the fonts you need at the time.
Though a bit pricey, the comparison feature alone is worth the price of entry. Fonts are such that you often need to see how a font looks when compared side-by-side to other fonts.
Extensis is the big name in Mac font management. Suitcase Fusion has about every feature you’d want except the hefty, hefty price tag.
Despite more features than a Microsoft or Adobe product, Suitcase Fusion brings support for Quark and Adobe products, auto-activation, dynamically resized previews, and a whole lot more.
I like Suitcase Fusion, but I find there are far more features than I use (though excellent if you’re an Adobe or Quark shop), and sometimes they’re difficult to find when I need one I don’t use regularly.
At the other end of the scale is Font Pilot. Sometimes you do get what you pay for.
That means if you’re not paying as much, you shouldn’t expect as much. Font Pilot also previews inactive fonts, yet has an auto-activate feature, and a slide show to check fonts.
You can also print a character map for each font, search for fonts a variety of ways, and, very handy, reveal the fonts in the Finder (not as easy as it sounds for some utilities).
Depending on your needs and budget and experience, you won’t go wrong with any of the five, including another favorite, FontAgent Pro.
View, repair, optimize, organize your Mac’s fonts. Smart activate (according to application), use keywords to tag and search, buy fonts online, and even share fonts with the WorkGroup edition (for business use, not sharing fonts with your friends).
My favorite, by far, is FontExplorer, but if you’re a Mac user who loves fonts, collects fonts, and use many different font styles in different applications, any of the five are decent, a few better than others.
My husband often asks me why I have so many fonts on my Mac (thousands) when I seldom create a document with more than three fonts. If you’re a Fontaholic, then you understand, right?