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Manage Mac OS X fonts with some help from Font Book

Added on Thursday 13th of April 2006 12:53 am EST


Font Book

Operating Systems:

Mac OS X 10.3 or later

With the multi-user capabilities of Mac OS X, font management becomes a little more challenging. However, by understanding where fonts are stored within the system—as well as why—and using Font Book to proactively manage them, you can make sure you always have your favorite fonts ready.


To take advantage of Font Book that came shipped with Mac OS X, we’ll:

     Introduce you to Font Book and the different types of fonts supported by it.

     Fill you in on the various folders where Max OS X stores fonts—which ones you can touch and which ones you should leave alone.

     Show you how to add fonts to Font Book to get started with the utility.

     Describe how to manage fonts with Font Book, so you and your fonts can get and stay organized.


Fonts—you generally can’t design a layout without them and, if you don’t manage them well, you often can’t design a layout because of them. With the overabundance of fonts available today, it’s important that you develop a method for organization and usage. To prevent problems that arise due to missing, duplicate, or corrupt fonts, you can purchase a font management utility. But just imagine how impressed your supervisor will be when you tell him you can manage the font situation without costing the company another cent. Font Book, shown in Figure A, makes this possible.




Fonts supported by Font Book

Mac OS X can accommodate the six most popular font formats on the market today. This flexibility alone makes the operating system a boon to designers. The following are the font formats that Mac OS X uses:

        Macintosh TrueType. These fonts are contained within a single file, which includes both the screen and printer font information. Mac OS X can natively read these files. You should embed these fonts when creating PDFs or PostScript files to avoid printing problems.

        Windows TrueType. Similar to Macintosh TrueType, these fonts have a different internal format. But you can simply move them from your PC to your Mac and they work!

        Mac PostScript Type 1. These are fonts used for output on PostScript printers and for offset printing. Each font is comprised of two files: one for the screen and one for the printer.

        Multiple Master. These PostScript fonts include information for variations of one or more font types to create several different styles.

        System (dfonts). dfonts are special fonts introduced with Mac OS X that contain all the font information in the data fork instead of the resource fork. This improves the font’s portability. The fonts can also contain extensive glyph sets. (Glyphs are the individual items that represent a character in a particular style.)

        OpenType. These fonts provide over 65,000 different glyphs, allowing them to be used in non-Roman languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Only applications written for Unicode can use these fonts effectively.


Where are all the fonts stored?

Mac OS X stores fonts in a number of locations. While at first this makes little sense, there is a method to Apple’s madness. The following are the main reasons why Mac OS X utilizes various directories for fonts:

        Sharing resources. Since Mac OS X is designed as a multi-user system, it’s important to make resources available to everyone whenever possible. You can share these resources both on a computer and on a network basis.

        Protecting critical resources. Multiple font locations provide for increased security of system resources. For example, the fonts used by the system are secure from inadvertent deletion.

        Variation among users. Many users with different font needs may be using the same computer. Further, fonts of the same name can vary depending on the creating foundry and format.

        Ensuring backward compatibility. Since many users still require the Classic OS, certain fonts are required with the Mac OS 9 System Folder.

With so many locations, you might wonder which one takes precedence when Photoshop needs a specific font. The various locations in which fonts can reside are as follows (in order of predominance):

        UsersusernameLibraryFonts. No one but the specific user can use fonts stored in this location. For single-user computers, this is the folder of choice for fonts.

        LibraryFonts. Fonts within this folder are available to all of the computer’s users; however, only the administrator can move fonts in and out of this folder. Also, Safari uses many of these fonts when they’re referred to by web pages with custom font definitions, so be sure to disable them cautiously.

        NetworkLibraryFonts. Used as a means of providing a consistent set of fonts to all users, this collection resides on a network server and all fonts within it are always active.

        SystemLibraryFonts. Mac OS X uses these fonts to display menus, dial...