What Panther Should Fix: Part Three, Font, Fonts, Fonts!!

by Hadley Stern Apr 21, 2003

imageFonts, fonts, fonts!! When the Mac Plus first came out, the revolution of desktop publishing began. Armed with a postscript Apple LaserWriter printer and some postscript fonts, the sky was the limit. Back in those days if you wanted to load more fonts into your system you had to use the Font DA utility. One by one you could add a limited number of fonts and then reboot your applications (which could only run one by one). Still, a designer could now set type on a computer. Later, OS 7 allowed one to “install” fonts by putting them in the system folder. Wow.

We haven’t come that far. One of my greatest disappointments with OS X has been Apple’s ability to make using fonts even more difficult. Now we suddenly have multiple font folders. If you are using classic to run Quark, as most professional designers still have to do, you have your classic fonts folder, library/fonts, user/library/fonts and system/fonts. Using either Extensis Suitcase or Font Reserve makes life somewhat easier, although both programs deal with the problem in different way—FontManager assigns a vault (yet another place!) to keep fonts and Suitcase tries, with some success, to manage the whole mess.

Please, Apple: more important than your own version of a calendar, address book, or photo application, you need to make a sensible way to manage fonts. Build it into the OS and make it easy, powerful and stable. I would even prefer the Font DA, as painful as it was, to the current stress of turning fonts on and off in OS X. Clean up the .dfont, opentype, true type, postscript mess and make Apple users? lives easier. Am I the only one who finds working with fonts in OS X difficult? How would you improve working with fonts in OS X?


  • There’s another source of fonts—a server or network location. Since the whole point of the different font locations is to support custom user configurations, then a single utility to manage all fonts is really more of an admin or server function, it seems to me. I do agree that Apple has missed the boat in respect to solving this problem with multiple font DIRECTORIES. Instead, it should have taken a more database (or NetInfo) approach and each user would define for himself the SET of fonts which applies to his config. As for the install of new fonts, this could be done likewise by a font installer. The location of fonts could be transparent to the user. (And users with admin rights could install more “global” or network fonts.)

    I haven’t really thought through this issue, but I do agree that font management is fundamental enough to an operating system that users ought not need to rely on third party utilities for it.

    Jeff Mincey

    Jeff Mincey had this to say on Apr 22, 2003 Posts: 74
  • I would like something built into the OS like the old Extension manager, except as a preference pane with the added ability to enable fonts from anywhere on your computer. That would make fonts from collected output easy as pie to open with documents. Or for installation, have along with the listing groups (system fonts, user fonts, system 9 fonts), a row of drop folders so you don’t have to find them through the Finder.

    Hoby Van Hoose

    Hoby Van Hoose had this to say on Apr 22, 2003 Posts: 15
  • I completely and unequivocally agree 100%.
    As a long time user of a Mac (16 years) this has to be the most frustrating part of OSX.
    I currently use Suitcase and still get warnings after running FontDoctor numerous times.
    Not sure what I’ll do when I can’t boot in 9.2 to open and edit a custom display font that has conflicts with my OS’s multiple library’s.
    This is such a productivity killer I can’t begin to tell you, if not for Quark I would never look back…
    Mike R.

    MikeR had this to say on Apr 23, 2003 Posts: 1
  • We?re always told, especially by licenses, that a font is a program like any other. So if Apple fixes the program install issue (see What Panther Should Fix, Part 2), let fonts use that fixed installer like any other program. If being installed by a user, they go one place, period. Installed by an administrator, a list of font folders should appear, with check boxes to indicate whether that user can access the install you?re doing.

    As a user, I want to see what fonts I have access to myself, and turn them on and off, singly or in sets of my choosing. I don?t usually care where they physically are, so I don?t want to see that regularly: give me a separate mode for that. There can be a column to indicate if the font is PreScript, FalseType, BlotchMap, or whatever new ?I want to be the standard? type we get next. Let me hide this column, though, for when I don?t care and want the width: some font names are elaborate. But if a font requires two files, like PostScript screen fonts and printer fonts, and I?ve got access to one but not the other, it should certainly tell me that!

    Tony Vazquez had this to say on May 03, 2003 Posts: 4
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