Font Management in macOS, by Kurt Lang
Last updated October 24, 2022
This article deals with font usage in Big Sur 11.x through Ventura 13.x. Its main purpose is to show you where fonts are located on your system and which can be safely deactivated (where applicable). The idea is to keep your font list as small as possible to avoid font conflicts (font conflicts are explained in Section 9). This article will benefit prepress operators and graphic designers the most, but can clear up font issues for most general users as well.
It should be noted that this article is written around the assumption that you are using English as your primary language. The minimum required fonts will be very different for other languages.
To view the oldest version of this article and access information back to OS X, 10.3, click here.
To view the next newer retired article for information including Catalina and earlier, click here.
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Click here to download a PDF version of this article.
What changed in this article update? (latest changes listed first)
• Ventura information (section 1).
• Thoughts on the System fonts in Ventura (Preface) and why the big rewrite of this article.
• More new information on the end of Type 1 PostScript fonts (section 11).
• Updated info on Helvetica with Suitcase/Connect Fonts.
• Font cache handling has changed in Monterey (section 13). Updated again, 5/30/2022.
Table of contents
14. Font 911.
I first want to mention the notation of file locations. By ’notation’ I am referring to the path name. This should help novice computer users and those unfamiliar with standard notation to learn how to navigate to the folders mentioned throughout this article.
I can’t tell you exactly what the path to your home account looks like (since I don’t know your short user name), so here are some handy notes of reference.
A file specification is the entire path from the root of the volume it resides on to the end of the file name. For example, here is the file specification for the Terminal application:
This is known as a hierarchical file specification in geek terminology, but it’s called a canonical filename for short.
/ The beginning forward slash (as in the example to the Terminal application) of a file specification is always the root level of your boot volume.
~/ The tilde-forward slash pair is always your home directory (folder), i.e., the home folder of the current user login session.
So in most cases, the path to the Fonts folder in your home user account would be ~/Library/Fonts/. Which, if you start by double clicking the icon of the boot drive on the desktop, the path can also be presented as
The following words: program, application or app all have the same meaning. I use them interchangeably throughout this article.
Why the extensive rewrite of this article?
As with the previous cutoff, it had simply become too long and a mess of, “you can do xxx under this OS, but not this one”. It becomes difficult to keep so many straight. My goal then was to use Big Sur as the new starting point as it’s the first OS version where the user could no longer remove any fonts installed by the OS. That eliminated virtually all of the can/can’t situations. Or, at least I thought it would until discovering Ventura blocks you from disabling fonts in the Supplemental folder. Now we’re back to a can/can’t issue anyway. But at least it’s still much less of a mess.
The main can/can’t issue now is the font manager reviews in section 12. Anywhere it says a font manager can disable the Supplemental fonts is true for Monterey or earlier, but not for Ventura, and very likely any OS to come after it.
Cutting everything off at Big Sur also allowed me to eliminate full sections that were completely obsolete for that OS and later. We’re three versions of macOS in now from Catalina. It was time to move that data to an older, static page.
Thoughts and suggestions on what to do regarding the System fonts in Ventura (and probably from here on):
Apple cut off access to handling even the Supplemental fonts in Ventura. You may wonder why since you’re not trying to delete them from the drive, just disabling the ones you don’t need. It does no good to call or write Apple about it since they won’t answer such questions. From what I’ve been able to find on the subject, it comes down to this: All of the extra fonts included with the OS over the decades, not used for the GUI itself, have never been there for the user. Apple considers them useful only as backward compatibility support. What support is that? Good question, because I don’t know either. But that is the story I’ve read for their reason to exist. This list changes depending on your region. For English users, it’s mainly anything tagged as a non-Latin font.
The equally decades long problem this now creates is people used these fonts, both for personal use and professionally. After all, we can see them in our font lists, so why not use them? That’s now a problem because there are millions of documents which used these fonts that are now at the mercy of what Apple does with them. Such as, they can change the metrics and cause overflow or underflow issues on a standing book that goes into occasional reprints. It doesn’t happen often, but Apple sometimes also removes fonts from the System folder.
Yes, you can dig up the older versions of a font you may need from previous versions of OS X / macOS. And really, you should be archiving the exact fonts you used in a project with all of its other files for just this reason. But now you won’t be able to disable a newer, conflicting version. You’ll have to resort to an older OS to process standing projects. This will be more difficult over time as older Macs become unserviceable.
How does this affect the home user? Not much, or at all. You create your holiday letter, a lost dog poster, a term paper, etc. and print it. It’s a one-time use document. What happens to any fonts you used with it after that isn’t an issue.
The problem is mainly in publishing. Let’s say your client has a love affair with Arial. They use it as a corporate font on letterheads, envelopes, etc. Arial is a font created by Monotype and what’s included with macOS isn’t a full set. If you want to purchase the entire Arial family, you have to take a trip (as one official source) over to MyFonts. There you can purchase up to the full 28 variations. You can also subscribe on Monotype’s site for access to their fonts. Problem. You can’t disable the Arial variations installed by Ventura. You have no control over any future changes to those typefaces that may throw off type flow in your standing projects. Not without, again, resorting to using an older OS.
The above isn’t only hypothetical. A user on Apple’s forums ran into exactly such an issue when Apple started hiding fonts back in El Capitan. They used the OS installed font Seravek as their corporate font. While it appeared in older documents, they could no longer select that font for new documents in Pages, or any other Apple created app.
My suggestion? Go out of your way to avoid using any fonts installed by the OS for anything. Have your clients do the same so you always have control over the use of that font style. If they’re glued to Arial, Times New Roman or some other OS installed font, encourage them (a lot!) to get the adhesive remover out. There are literally thousands of fonts to choose from that look nearly identical to these and other book fonts installed by the OS. Pick something else.
1. Required fonts
This section examines each of the later macOS releases (Big Sur 11.x through Ventura 13.x). The system fonts can no longer be altered, but you can control those in the /System/Library/Fonts/Supplemental folder for Big Sur and Montery. The list in this section also examines the fonts most needed for the web, iLife and iWork. Fonts in the Supplemental folder of Big Sur and Monterey can all be disabled, but some should always be active as they are web standard fonts. If you turn them off, your browser ends up substituting the missing fonts with whatever is available. The result is that web pages will display so badly at times that it can be difficult (or even impossible) to navigate them.
If you haven’t already, purchase Adobe’s or Monotype’s new OpenType PostScript Helvetica fonts if you prefer, or require PostScript fonts for your output. They do not conflict with Apple’s Helvetica fonts and you don’t have to fight with the OS supplied fonts. It is no longer possible to use Type 1 PostScript or old OS 9 style legacy Helvetica fonts (and some others) as they conflict with the OS versions. There is no workaround other than to use an older OS.
Notable font changes by OS release:
The following is arranged by the release level of Apple’s desktop OS, most recent to oldest.
macOS, 13 Ventura
Well, that was an unexpected change. You can no longer disable fonts in the Supplemental folder. Not even those you can right click in Font Book where the Disable choice is not grayed out. You’re still told you cannot disable any fonts installed by the OS.
And it goes further than that. This change blocks everyone and everything. There is no font manager that can disable any fonts in the System folder. Previously, any disabled system fonts had their names added to the user preference file com.apple.FontRegistry.user.plist, whether you’re using Font Book or a third party font manager. The names no longer get added, regardless of any message you may get from your font manager saying they’ve been disabled. Nothing actually happens. You also cannot cheat by copying in an older version of the .plist file where the names are already part of the file. Ventura ignores all such entries.
What Apple is attempting to do instead is prevent all apps from seeing fonts they consider irrelevant to your language region. In other words, the same way Apple hides these same fonts from Font Book, Pages, and all other apps written by Apple. For example, I use Ultra Character Map. Even though it hasn’t had an update for a while, it already responds to Ventura’s ability to hide fonts. Adobe Photoshop, on the other hand (for now), ignores Apple’s attempt to hide these fonts and displays everything.
This OS is also a rather large rewrite to bring a more cohesive look to the GUI with iOS. The most easily noticed is the System Preferences now being called System Settings, and is laid out much the way you see it in iOS.
There’s a lot more to this locking down of the Supplemental fonts that will, in particular, affect the publishing industry. If you skipped past it, please read the long-winded addition to the Preface section above.
macOS, 12 Monterey
As seems to be how Apple releases their OS, one is a lot of new stuff thrown in. The next has less added and is a cleanup and optimizing release. Monterey is Big Sur’s cleanup OS.
Font Book allows the user to disable far more unnecessary fonts than Big Sur did. Except for the highly annoying, and ridiculous number of Noto Sans fonts. Per the usual since Catalina, Font Book doesn’t even list these active fonts, much less let you control them. Owners of Rightfont, Typeface, Connect Fonts and FontAgent can disable the Supplemental folder fonts with these font managers.
A bit amazingly, Monterey still allows the use of OS 9 legacy TrueType and Type 1 PostScript fonts. As in Big Sur, they do appear with a generic Unix EXEC icon, but they work.
Adobe announced over a year ago Type 1 PostScript font support would be dropped from Photoshop in 2021, and all other CS apps two years after that. It took until almost the end of the year for this to happen, but Photoshop 2022 no longer lists active T1 PS fonts. Dfonts and old OS 9 legacy TrueType fonts get a pass and continue to work.
macOS, 11 Big Sur
Big Sur has taken an even bigger step in security. It is now a Signed System Volume, much like iOS. You can’t view a Big Sur drive in any meaningful way from Catalina or older. If you boot to a Big Sur drive, the folder structure of another Big Sur drive looks as you would expect. But, you cannot modify even the non-startup drive from another Big Sur drive you booted to. This is great from a security standpoint, but is going to drive prepress professionals nuts.
"Houston. We have a problem.": Remember those five fonts (Athelas.ttc, Iowan Old Style.ttc, Marion.ttc, Seravek.ttc and SuperClarendon.ttc) that have been missing in Apple’s apps since El Capitan? Turns out, that’s not a mistake. It’s intentional! How do we now know that? Because Big Sur hides yet more fonts from itself. Like the 101 Noto Sans fonts in the Supplemental folder. Not only can’t you remove any fonts in Big Sur, Font Book doesn’t even list them all so you could at least have a choice to disable these and other unnecessary fonts.
Big Sur and any apps Apple writes will not show you many of the fonts the OS itself installs. You can’t get them to appear by using another font manager. You can’t copy them to another location and activate the copies in the hopes they’ll appear. They are invisible to everything Apple. At the same time, all third party apps do exactly what every app should do; they show you all active fonts.
Each and every developer can do the same thing Apple did. That is, hide fonts based on your language region. As we all know, this is what we have a font manager for. There’s no reason in the world why the user shouldn’t be able to control which fonts are active in one place, like we have for decades. Having to do this individually in every single app that displays a font list is unnecessary and just plain illogical. This makes Font Book extra useless since, even though it is a font manager, it doesn’t show you many of the fonts the OS installs. Which of course makes them impossible to manage. Font Book has always been a mediocre font manager at best. It’s now even less than that.
Much worse. If every developer did follow Apple’s lead (specifically, the API they use in all of their apps to hide fonts based on your language/region), the Mac would instantly become useless to the entire publishing industry. Need foreign fonts to work on a client project? Too bad. There would be no way to make them visible. Not without constantly changing your language in the System Preferences to make xxx visible for the moment, then back to English. Whoops! Missed something. Back to Devanagari, then back to English again. Not to mention, if you switch to such a language, you’d better be able to read everything in the OS that way until you go back to English. No sane person would want to use their computer this way. It has never made sense the user couldn’t at least disable the fonts in the Supplemental folder. The name of the folder itself tells you they’re optional and not needed by the OS.
Apple has the fonts split. Everything in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder is used and needed by the OS in some manner. Not necessarily for English, but they are required for various regions or special needs purposes, such as Braille.
Those in the /System/Library/Fonts/Supplemental/ folder are just that - supplemental - and you should be able to disable all of those, but you can’t with Font Book. Nearly all third party font managers now have that ability.
It was also brought to my attention by one Sir RobLux that updates to Rightfont and Typeface can disable all of the OS installed fonts in the Supplemental folder. Joining the crowd a bit later were Connect Fonts and FontAgent.
The latest version of Rightfont does work. For those using Typeface:
1. Open Typeface
2. Right click in the left column
3. Choose Import > Supplemental System Fonts
4. Deactivate away.
Following the instructions as written, you can indeed deactivate anything it adds. My font lists in Office, etc. went down to 50 or so fonts from over 250. All just from deactivating fonts virtually no U.S. speaking user ever needs. When you do need any of the Supplemental fonts for a project, you can temporarily turn them back on, just as we always have for decades.
You can add the System’s Fonts folder to Typeface if you want, but then you end up with a combined list of all of those fonts plus those in the Supplemental folder, and you can’t disable any of those located in the Fonts folder. It’s easier to add only the Supplemental folder. Since you’d want the majority of them off, it’s faster to disable the entire set in the left column, the individually turn important ones back on the right side of the interface. Like Arial, Comic Sans, Tahoma, etc. Basically, all of the common web fonts listed below under the Suggested fonts in the /System/Library/
Fonts/Supplemental/ folder heading.
Apps like Office, the Adobe suite and others load in less than a third of the time when there aren’t so many fonts to build a list for. They’re also just plain easier to use when the entire list of active fonts fits on the screen instead of having to constantly scroll through a ridiculous number of ones you’ll normally never use.
The last test was to see if the changes made would hold through a restart. Yes, it did. Without even having to launch Typeface afterwards. They all remained disabled. I tested this on an Intel, 2018 Mac Mini. Sir RobLux noted it works on both Intel and M1 Macs.
If you don’t use Font Book for your daily font management, do a Get Info on each font type you use to associate them with your preferred font manager so Font Book (or any other font manager you may have on your Mac) never opens when you double click any fonts in the Finder. Because like the excess fonts, you can’t get rid of Font Book, either.
You can also now temporarily disable fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Tahoma and others if you need to use an otherwise conflicting version. But you still cannot avoid creating font conflicts with those items in the /System/
Library/Fonts/ folder as you cannot disable these OS installed fonts.
Suggested fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/Supplemental/ folder.
At minimum, the following fonts should remain in order for web pages to display properly. The names below are how they will appear in Big Sur 11.x and Monterey 12.x. You cannot modify the following lists in Ventura.
Recommended minimum fonts for the /System/Library/Fonts/Supplemental/ folder:
Arial Bold Italic.ttf
Arial Narrow Bold.ttf
Arial Narrow Italic.ttf
Arial Narrow Bold Italic.ttf
Comic Sans MS.ttf
Comic Sans MS Bold.ttf
Georgia Bold Italic.ttf
Times New Roman.ttf
Times New Roman Bold.ttf
Times New Roman Italic.ttf
Times New Roman Bold Italic.ttf
Trebuchet MS Bold.ttf
Trebuchet MS Italic.ttf
Trebuchet MS Bold Italic.ttf
Verdana Bold Italic.ttf
A reader contacted me about another set of fonts you may want to have active at all times. The 29 STIX fonts are filled with math symbols. While there are quite a few common symbols in the other required fonts, there are many more in the STIX sets. This is of course important to mathematicians, or anyone else who routinely use these symbols. He found that at minimum, you should have the general set enabled.
Depending on your needs, you may want all of them.
All other fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/Supplemental/ of Big Sur and Monterey can be disabled.
If you use iLife or iWork: The following fonts are also located in the /System/Library/Fonts/Supplemental/ folder.
While the iLife and iWork apps will launch without the following fonts, the supplied templates use them. Apple suggests these fonts always be available for these apps.
Of the above list, the font Optima.ttc is in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder.
Once you have disabled the fonts on your system to the minimum, always use your font manager to control all other font activation and deactivation. The better font managers will stop you from creating font conflicts. Your font manager can’t help prevent that if you manually place fonts you want to use in a Fonts folder.
A step you may want to perform after enabling/disabling your preferred Supplemental folder fonts is to clear the font cache files from the system. See section 13 for the proper procedure. Font Book users should also reset the application to update its database. See section 4 for more details.
When it comes to font managers, there’s one thing I can’t stress enough: have only one active font manager on your Mac at a time.
When you double click a font, macOS no longer launches multiple font managers if they’re installed, and hasn’t for a while. It will only launch the one assigned to your fonts. Though even that can mean different font managers if for instance, Font Book is still assigned to older legacy Mac TrueType fonts, and everything else to your third party font manager. That’s a problem when you don’t really want to use Font Book. Having Font Book’s database on the system can prevent another font manager from working correctly, and just the act of having Font Book launch creates a new database. Then you have to remove the database again. So if you aren’t using it, you should not have Font Book on the drive. See section 4 on the steps for completely removing Font Book’s database.
A scenario of having more than one active font manager: You open a font in Connect Fonts. Then later, you open the same font in Typeface. You then disable that font in Connect Fonts. However, the font is still active in all of your applications. Why? Because Typeface is still holding the font open. I used Connect Fonts and Typeface for this example, but this will happen in virtually any case of multiple font managers on your system. Once you have decided which font manager you are going to use, completely remove any other font manager from your Mac.
2. Fonts installed by Microsoft Office
Information from Microsoft is being noted here. As users have likely already realized for themselves, when you dig into an application package and modify anything, you are taking the risk of causing the program to function incorrectly. In all cases of such modifications, as relayed by a Microsoft engineer, doing so "breaks the code signature of the app, and is unsupported." So, proceed at your own risk and keep that in mind for any of the following information for Office 2019, 2021 or 365.
• Since readers will, for the most part, be looking for info on the latest version, they will always be on top. Previous point versions for the same release will be next. Followed by older versions of Office.
• To avoid having to skip around the article, you’ll find all of the necessary info for one version of Office in one place. That means I’ve cloned some text to another version, which may make the article a bit longer overall. But it will be far easier to follow when what you need to know for a given version is all under one heading.
• There was also a lot of completely outdated information. Such as anything to do with Office 2016 and 2011 since you can no longer even activate them. I’ve also purged a lot of other older junk no one needs anymore since you should always be using the latest version of Office in order to have the most recent bug fixes and security updates.
As a general note, virtually all supporting files for Office 2019 and newer have been moved to the user account folder,
/Users/your_account/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/. Within this folder, you’ll find the Normal.dotm template, your email data, and pretty much everything else related to your personal Office information.
There is a font limit in Office. The apps used to show just about every open font. At one time, you could have over 14,400 fonts open and they would list. It also had a very specific cutoff. Go just one font over the maximum and the Office apps would display a cryptic error message, then close. This didn’t matter since, really, who has that many fonts open on a regular basis? The limit is much lower now, though still much higher than most folks need. The Office apps don’t crash, they simply cut off the number of fonts shown at about 1,000. You always see all of the OS system installed fonts and the ones within the Office application packages. From there, Office starts alphabetically with your third party fonts and displays their names up to the limit. Anything beyond that is not shown. Only Excel shows you the reason why with this message:
Other than the activation difference - and even that is really the same procedure, except you start with a different first time installer - the app structure for Office 365 and 2019 is virtually identical. Meaning, you can follow these instructions for both Office 365, 2019 and 2021 to greatly reduce the number of fonts in the font lists.
We have switched to SoftMaker Office for use on our Macs. While I won’t say never, it’s unlikely I’ll be adding information specific to further perpetual license versions of Office. MS did confirm there will be at least one more perpetual license release. Since Office 2019 will not work beyond Big Sur, there is now an Office 2021 released in conjunction with macOS Monterey.
You may ask, why won’t Office 2019 work in Monterey? It’s because Microsoft changed their support model for the perpetual license versions. For the Mac, they’re now supported for three major OS releases. Period. Office 2016 will only run under El Capitan, Sierra and High Sierra. Office 2019 under Mojave, Catalina and Big Sur.
The $99 per year fee for six Macs is a far better value than getting individual licenses for Office 2019 or 2021. When you figure a perpetual license release has happened roughly every three years, $300 is much, much less expensive. If you were to purchase six Home version editions of Office (the one without Outlook) at $150 per license, it would be $900. For the Home and Business edition with Outlook, it would be a whopping $1,500! Then you’d spend that again about three years from now if you always get the latest release when they become available. Even installing Office 365 for only two devices is cheaper than the perpetual license Business edition.
The one time cost perpetual license is now really only beneficial to a single user who will keep using that version until it no longer works in whatever is the last OS it will run under.
There are also these differences:
1. The code for the perpetual releases is frozen well ahead of the next major 365 upgrade so Microsoft can start changing its code and testing the perpetual license. Each perpetual release will haven none of the features added between then and the next Office 365 upgrade.
2. Office 365 will get every new feature as they become available. Not really important for the person whose documents tend to use the basic features. But for a business, it’s very important that you are always able to open client documents correctly.
There is one major annoyance in Office 365, 2019 and 2021. The font list shows a huge assortment of cloud fonts. You can click on any of them to use one. When you do, that font is downloaded to the /Users/your_user_account/
Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/FontCache/4/CloudFonts/ folder, and the cloud icon goes away. See below for how to stop Office 2019/2021/365 from showing cloud fonts.
Microsoft has rearranged the furniture - again.
What did Microsoft do in 16.22? For one, they completely eliminated the embedded Fonts folder. All fonts are now back in the DFonts folder. On the plus side, Excel no longer needs the embedded Times or TH SarabunPSK fonts. All four main production apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) have the same minimum set of fonts. The font seguisym.ttf (Segoe UI Symbol) is necessary in order to see the right pointing arrow for a tab character, and possibly others if you are viewing non printing ( ¶ ) characters. All other fonts can be removed.
To access the DFonts folder, right click on each Office app, choose Show Package Contents and go to the Contents/Resources folder.
Verdana Bold Italic.ttf
As has been the case for quite a while, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook will not recognize the existence of Zapf Dingbats in the System folder. Somewhere along the way, which I missed, Excel no longer recognizes this font, either. If you need to use Zapf Dingbats in Office, you’ll have to copy the OS supplied version into the DFonts folder.
As with other recent versions of Office 365, 2019 and 20201 (in the embedded Resources folder), rename or remove the file:
If you prefer to leave the file and rename it, you can change it to anything so it can’t be "found". Adding any character to the beginning of the file name will do it.
At this point, you’re done with Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. In order to get Excel to show only the minimum fonts, we once again have to apply changes that used to only be needed for older versions of Office 2016.
In the embedded Resources folder of Excel, with the folder set to List view, click on the file fontFamilyImages1025.plist. Scroll down and Shift+click on the file fontsImages2052.plist to select it and everything in between. Delete all of the highlighted .plist files.
Next you need to edit the fontFamilyImages.plist and fontsInfo.plist files to fix the font lists so Excel in Office 365 and 2019 doesn’t keep displaying the names of fonts you just removed.
First, download BBEdit. You need a text editor that can properly display, edit and save an XML based .plist file. Open fontFamilyImages.plist and fontsInfo.plist with BBEdit and edit them so that both appear as follows:
You can remove most of the large amount of content quickly by clicking somewhere underneath the text, <plist version="1.0">. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the .plist data and Shift+click somewhere near the bottom. That will highlight everything in between and you can delete the entire block of highlighted data in one move. Complete any necessary editing to duplicate the image shown here. BBEdit may need your admin password to complete the edit of these files. Enter that when asked so it can save your changes.
Now when you launch Excel in Office 365/2019/2021, only fonts that exist on your Mac and what you’ve left in the embedded Fonts folder of Excel will appear in the font lists.
Cloud fonts in Office 365, 2019 and 2021, beginning in version 16.33
Windows users have had this very easy option to disable cloud fonts for a long time. It’s now, finally, part of the Mac version.
Open any Office 365, 2019 or 2021 app and open the preferences panel. Click on the Privacy icon. In the window that opens, click the Manage Connected Experiences button. Uncheck the bottom box, which will disable all three. You might be asked to restart Office in order for the privacy changes to take effect. Do so if necessary. Once done, all Office apps will stop showing the cloud fonts. Depending on what cloud options you may still want running, only the center check box (left image below) needs to be unchecked to stop the cloud font from appearing. Be aware this also (who knows why) prevents the Help menu from working.
A reader informed me they didn’t get the same privacy options, despite the fact we were using the same build of Office 365. The main difference was the OS in use. Catalina for myself, and Mojave for them. The reason to mention this is so you are aware you may get a different option screen than someone else with the identical version of Office.
Either way, the goal is to turn Connected services/Experiences off and say bye-bye to the cloud fonts.
Catalina options Mojave options
Cloud fonts in Office 365 and 2019 before 16.33
A reader by the name of Ben has discovered how to clear the cloud fonts from Office 2019. This also works for Office 365. Here are his instructions.
The list of cloud fonts is stored in a JSON file deep within your ~/Library folder. You can’t simply delete it; the next time you open an Office app, it will be regenerated. However, you can rewrite its contents so that none of the cloud fonts appear in your font lists. Here’s how:
Quit all the Microsoft Office apps that you have running.
1. In the Finder menu, click "Go" > "Go to Folder…"
2. A popup with a text field appears. Paste this path into the text field, then click the "Go" button.
3. In the Finder window that opens, control+click (or right click) the file named "ListAll_hier.Json", then select "Open with" > "TextEdit.app". (My note. I used BBEdit, but either will work).
4. In the TextEdit menu, click "Edit" > "Select All" and press delete. Then copy and paste the following text into the now-empty file.
5. Save and close the file.
Note: ListAll_hier.Json is shared by all the Office for Mac apps. Editing the one file will remove the cloud fonts from all Office apps.
Personal notes on this subject:
I don’t need to, or want to see long lists of fonts. Most people don’t realize how hundreds of active fonts (that many people also never use) slows the entire system down. They take up space in RAM. It takes longer for the computer to start up. Longer for apps to load. Longer for those apps to display font lists, etc.
More importantly is they seriously get in the way of production work. Unnecessarily long font lists are bad enough, but if I need to use a client’s PostScript version of an Office embedded font, how do I know I’m using it? The lists in Office don’t change. Are you looking at the font you’re required to use for the project, or the one installed within the Office app? There’s no easy way to tell. The owners of print shops get very cranky when a client notices their slightly modified version of (example) Bookman Old Style wasn’t used, and you have to toss thirty thousand dollars worth of paper alone out the door and do the entire press run over. It’s either that, or sell them what you ran - if they’ll accept it - at a rather steep discount. If that sounds high to some folks, going through that much paper on a web press is very easy. It’s a big reason these instructions exist.
By far, one of the best things Microsoft could do for users would be to allow you to easily remove fonts you don’t need.
3. What to do with Connect Fonts
All information for older versions of Suitcase can be found in the old article links. This information refers to the current subscription version, Connect Fonts.
To manually reset Connect Fonts, go to the ~/Library/Extensis/Connect Fonts/ folder, remove the file Connect Fonts.fontvault and restart your Mac.
You can also replace this file in Connect Fonts’ preferences. Click "New Vault" and choose the same location, which will appear by default. Say yes to replace the current vault.
Preserving fonts in the vault for Connect Fonts:
A warning with the above method for resetting all versions of Connect Fonts. If you have Connect Fonts set to store fonts you activate in its vault and you delete its database, they will all disappear with it. If you always activate fonts in place and never use the vault, then removing the database is safe to do at any time with any version of Connect Fonts.
If you are using the vault and need to reset any version of Connect Fonts, follow these steps first to save the fonts stored in the vault.
1) Your sets will be listed in the left pane under the "Font Library" heading. Highlight the first set and then Shift+click on the last set to select all. Press Command+D. It will ask you where you want to save your fonts. Navigate to an existing folder or create a new one. Choose your target folder and press the Choose button. Connect Fonts will save full copies of the vault fonts to that folder. They will also be saved in subfolders by the same name of all sets you had them separated by.
2) Quit Connect Fonts.
3) Go to your user account and remove the vault database noted above. Relaunch Connect Fonts.
4) Go to the folder you had saved your vault fonts to and drag and drop the subfolders of fonts into the Connect Fonts application. This will add them back to the vault and recreate your sets by the same names you were using before.
4. Font folder locations - Using Font Book
macOS uses a folder priority to locate and open fonts. The user account Fonts folder is given priority over the root Library Fonts folder.
Fonts activated from Connect Fonts or other third party font manager not located on the Mac in any of the above folders are given the least priority overall. You can see then that a version of Helvetica activated by your font manager will be superseded by any version of Helvetica located in any of the previously listed folders. In order to use your PostScript fonts activated by your font manger, all like named versions must be removed from the higher priority folders. However, it’s no longer possible to remove or disable the OS installed versions of Helvetica and some others.
macOS’s Font Book has preferential treatment here. By that, I mean fonts you activate using Font Book will get a higher priority over other font managers as it uses the folders listed above to activate and deactivate fonts. This, if you’re using the default method of adding fonts in Font Book. They are copied to the Fonts folder of your user account. As you can see in the list above, that folder has the highest priority.
The advantage of Font Book (besides being free) is that by knowing these rules, you can try to quickly force preference of one font over another of the same name by placing the font in a Fonts folder that has a higher priority, although you should always avoid knowingly doing this. A font conflict will almost always prevent either font from showing up in any application if both are active.
Font Book in Big Sur 11.x through Ventura 13.x
Automatic font activation has been removed from the preferences. Testing with both a Collection and a Library set confirms that auto activation has been removed from Font Book. Any fonts I disabled that were used in a test document were not turned back on when I opened the file again.
Font Book preferences in Big Sur and Monterey Font Book preferences in Ventura
Resetting Font Book’s database
At times, Font Book’s database can become corrupt. Usually from opening too many fonts, or fonts that are damaged. When you activate fonts with Font Book using the original method, not only are all fonts you’ve ever activated copied to the Fonts folder chosen in its preferences, but those fonts are also added as entries in its database (Library sets do not copy the fonts, but still do become entries in the database). Font Book uses this database to keep track of which fonts are active and which are not. The more there are, the longer it takes for your Mac to start up as Font Book must compare each font to the information in the database during startup to determine if a given font should be on or off. If the database becomes damaged, it can take a very long time for your Mac to start up to the desktop. If it’s really mangled, your Mac may not finish booting at all. Another symptom of a damaged database is not being able to activate or deactivate fonts from Font Book’s interface.
Manually removing fonts from your system will also ‘damage’ Font Book’s database, so to speak. Font Book does not correct itself when you manually remove fonts that are listed in its database; not even after a restart. It then contains links to non existent fonts which causes the program to behave in the same manner as a corrupt database. You’ll find that you cannot activate or deactivate certain fonts, or any at all.
To reset Font Book completely, do the following in the order listed. It takes the least amount of time and only two restarts.
1) Quit Font Book. Open the Preferences folder in your user account and put the following two files in the trash.
com.apple.FontBook.plist (does not exist in Ventura)
The file com.apple.FontBook.plist keeps track of Font Book’s general preferences and activated fonts, whether as a standard or library collection. The file com.apple.FontRegistry.user.plist keeps track of deactivated fonts. Both may not be present. Delete what’s there.
2) Open Terminal and enter the following command (for Big Sur only):
sudo atsutil databases -remove
Enter your administrator password when prompted. This removes all font cache files maintained by macOS.
For Monterey or later, use this command:
atsutil databases -removeUser
This removes all font cache files of the currently logged in user account.
3) Restart your Mac and immediately hold down the Shift key to boot into Safe Mode. Keep holding the Shift key until macOS asks you to log in to your user account (you will get this screen on a Safe Mode boot even if your Mac is set to automatically log in). Let the Mac finish booting to the desktop and then restart normally. This will clear the remainder of Font Book’s database and the cache files for the user account you logged into in Safe Mode.
5. Do you need a font manager?
Do you need to use a font manager at all? Actually, no. You can activate fonts by placing them into either of the Fonts folders of your drive mentioned in section 4 and removing them when you want those fonts closed. For convenience sake, I would suggest always using the common /Library/Fonts/ folder. Fonts placed in this folder will be active to all users of that Mac. If there is some font you don’t want other users of that Mac to have access to, place them in your user account fonts folder, which is located at ~/Library/Fonts/. The most convenient way to use this method is to create an alias of the Fonts folder you want to use on the desktop. That way, you don’t have to keep opening the hard drive and clicking down through the folders of the disk hierarchy to get to it.
There is a disadvantage to this method though. You run the risk of damaging fonts by constantly moving/copying/deleting them from the folder you’re using to open and close them with. For these reasons, I do suggest using a font manager.
6. What is a font suitcase and why do we have them?
In decades past, computers had very limited amounts of RAM. This was partly due to the fact that RAM was extremely expensive. So most computers were outfitted with far less RAM than could be installed. This required the OS and applications to be as frugal with RAM usage as possible. Each font you activate takes up a small amount of RAM, so the Mac OS limited the number of fonts you could activate to 128. Since OS 9, computers generally have had more available RAM, so this limit was increased to 512. Designers, however, often wanted or needed to have more fonts open at once than the OS would allow; especially for projects like a catalog. The solution (more like a workaround) was to enclose fonts in a suitcase. The suitcase itself was counted as only one item by the OS in the Fonts folder; so you could open dozens or hundreds of fonts by enclosing them in a suitcase. Having fonts enclosed in a suitcase was also the only way the Mac OS would recognize fonts before OS X.
Using suitcases has become unnecessary on today’s computers with gigabytes of RAM and more capable operating systems. You see that with OpenType fonts. Each typeface of a font (italic, bold, etc.) is a file unto its own (those with a .ttf extension) rather than being placed together in a suitcase. Not that the usage of suitcases has ended. It’s a very convenient way of keeping a font set together. Apple’s .dfonts are suitcase files which contain the individual TrueType fonts for that family of fonts. There are four types of suitcase fonts currently in use:
1) Mac legacy TrueType suitcase fonts from OS 9 and earlier. These are 8 bit fonts limited to 256 characters, or glyphs. The suitcase can contain up to 999 individual TrueType or bitmap fonts. They can be of any font family. All data is stored in the resource fork of the fonts. It’s not at all unusual to see a mix of fonts found in programs such as greeting card and banner makers. They’ll give you a font suitcase named something like "Card Designer Fonts". You see just the one item on your desktop, but contains as many individual fonts as they put in it.
2) Type 1 PostScript fonts. These are two part fonts. One file is a suitcase containing all of the low resolution bitmap screen fonts. The rest are the outline printer fonts. As an example, here’s Adobe Garamond:
The first file (highlighted in green) is the font suitcase of bitmap screen fonts. The rest are the individual outline printer fonts. Both must be in the same folder in order to work. When placed in a Fonts folder or activated with a font manager, the OS or font manager only looks in the suitcase for the available type faces.
If you have the printer outline font for the italic version of a font, but the screen font for the italic face is missing from the suitcase, then the italic font will not work. If you have the outline fonts without the matching suitcase, then none of them will work. In reverse, if you have the suitcase screen font for bold, but not the bold outline printer font; the bold font will show up as available in your font lists, but the printed output will be very low quality because the system will be forced to print the font from the low resolution bitmap font in the suitcase. Screen fonts in the suitcase that are missing the matching outline printer font are known as orphaned fonts. In later macOS releases, the OS will not load a suitcase that is missing its printer outlines. All data for Type 1 PostScript fonts is stored in the resource fork. They also are are 8 bit fonts limited to 256 glyphs.
Beginning back in El Capitan, neither the OS or any font manager will allow you to activate only a Type 1 PostScript suitcase as you could before. This is good since all you have are the screen fonts and it shouldn’t be considered usable. You must have both the suitcase and that font’s matching printer outlines to use it at all. You either have a complete font, or you don’t.
3) Apple TrueType .dfonts. They are essentially the same as the legacy Mac TrueType fonts from OS 9 and earlier with three major differences: (a) the data is stored in the data fork of the font rather than the resource fork (b) they are Unicode fonts and (c) like OpenType fonts they are 16 bit fonts which can contain 65,536 glyphs. However, they are not OpenType fonts as they have a different font table.
4) TrueType Collection. These fonts have a .ttc extension. Similar to a .dfont, it is a suitcase containing multiple TrueType fonts. Apple (for the most part) has moved to this suitcase type in Snow Leopard and later.
7. FFIL and LWFN. What are they and which is which?
There are a fair number of explanations to be found on the Web as to what FFIL and LWFN stand for, but in a nutshell they are the Type codes of the respective files. At the time Type 1 PostScript fonts were created, the Mac OS kept track of what type of file it was, and which application owned it, by its resource fork Type and Creator codes. The Type code of a font suitcase is FFIL. For the outline printer font, it’s LWFN. macOS and OS X can still use them, but Type and Creator codes are being replaced by a more modern method known as Uniform Type Identifiers.
Many Type and Creator codes have a meaning attached to them while others don’t; or at least not an obvious meaning. For Adobe Photoshop, an EPS file saved by the application has the meaningful Type code of EPSF; but the Creator code for any file saved from Photoshop is 8BIM.
A reader informed me that he was a beta tester for Photoshop v 1.01b. That version added 8 bit color support, which was huge at the time. The Creator code for Photoshop then became 8BIM, short for 8 Bit Image Map. A former employee of Adobe has confirmed the most commonly seen meanings for FFIL and LWFN found on the Web. They are: LWFN = LaserWriter Font, FFIL = Font File. Thank you both for your contributions.
While you could call a .dfont an FFIL file since it is a suitcase, it’s not a Type 1 PostScript suitcase. Having a different Type and/or Creator code is what helps the Mac OS keep similar items from being opened in the wrong application or defined incorrectly. In reality though, .dfonts don’t normally even have Type and Creator codes.
8. External vs. internal font names
How many free TrueType fonts have you downloaded and found that many of them show up in your font lists with the name "New"? There is a reason for that. With all fonts the name of the file you see on your desktop has absolutely nothing to do with the names that show up in your applications. That is controlled solely by the font’s internal name. Those free fonts were likely created by someone who (1) didn’t know they needed to, (2) forgot to or (3) simply didn’t care about assigning a proper internal name to their creation. Windows TrueType fonts in particular, even those included with commercial applications, are a constant source of this type of confusion. It’s not at all unusual for a Windows TrueType font to have a file name something like TT145B3.TTF, but shows up in your application as its internal name of "Bumblebee". To be fair, this can be a problem with any Mac font suitcase, also, because there is no easy way to tell how many fonts are in the suitcase or what names they’ll produce in your font lists until activated.
Thankfully the designers of Mac fonts have almost always been kind enough to give the fonts they create descriptive file names, like the Adobe Garamond example above. Still the name of the suitcase is no true indicator of the font names that will show up in your programs, but historically this has been the case on the Mac.
Assigning the internal name is something the font’s creator must do when using a font creation program such as FontLab or Fontographer. You can also use these programs to change the internal name of a font, or assign one where the original creator of the font did not. Like those three hundred free fonts you have that all show up in your font lists as "New".
9. What is a font conflict?
In order to understand how font conflicts occur, it was first necessary in the previous section to explain internal font names. The shortest explanation of a font conflict is that two or more fonts you have activated are declaring the same internal font name to the OS.
Fonts are actually little programs. Or once described by Adobe representative, Thomas Phinney, as “Plug-ins for the OS". Fonts don’t just sit on the hard drive waiting to be called on. When you activate them, each individual font takes up a small amount of RAM; which (among a few other things) is needed to load the internal name the OS displays in your applications. If you are opening a suitcase, more RAM is used because multiple names must be created at once; especially if it’s a suitcase containing more than one font, such as a TrueType Collection, .dfont or Type 1 PostScript font can have. If the suitcase contains 30 fonts, it will open 30 separate tags in RAM.
So let’s say you activate a font with a file name of Courier and its internal name is also Courier. Then you activate a second font with a file name of "Courier Plus", but the designer made its internal name Courier. You now have two fonts declaring the same internal name of "Courier" in RAM with the obvious conflict; more than one active font saying it is Courier. When you go to choose them in your application, how can the OS or the application possibly know which one you mean to use? The answer of course is, they can’t.
Various things happen when you have font conflicts. Sometimes the font you just opened with the same internal name will take precedence over the one that was already open. Other times the font that was already active with that name will be the one to continue to show up in your programs, the new one won’t. Rarely, if ever, will you see more than one font with the same name show up in your lists. More likely, active fonts with duplicate internal names won’t show up in any program. Quark XPress is very good at having fonts disappear from its lists when there is a conflict. This is not a bad thing and I wish more applications would do that. It’s essentially letting you know immediately you have a font conflict by not showing you a font you’re expecting to see in its list of available fonts.
Conflicting internal names is exactly what the font problem is between Apple-supplied versions of Helvetica in High Sierra through Ventura and older Type 1 PostScript fonts. Apple gave almost every individual typeface exactly the same internal name as the Type 1 PostScript versions. Since the OS protects the system fonts from being disabled, you can’t open your preferred versions of Helvetica. This can be circumvented, however, by following the instructions in Section 6 for Big Sur or older. For Big Sur and later, you simply can’t use Type 1 PostScript fonts that conflict with the OS installed versions. And you should be, anyway. Adobe is killing all support for Type 1 PostScript very soon. If you need PostScript, use their newer OpenType Helvetica fonts. These do not conflict with the OS versions.
10. Are you a good font, or a bad font?
Other than not being able to see a font you expected to, what is actually happening behind the scenes when you have a bad font? There are more problems that can occur with fonts than just conflicting internal names.
One issue is damaged fonts. Just like an application, fonts take up space in RAM. Typically it is a small amount. However, a damaged font, just like a damaged program, will do things it’s not supposed to. With fonts the most common issue from becoming damaged is a memory leak. A font may normally only take up a few Kbytes of RAM, but a damaged font can step outside the amount of RAM the OS thinks it is supposed to be using and take more. When this happens the font may overwrite data being used in adjacent RAM by another active application or the OS itself. Suddenly, data the OS or an application may need, or be looking for is gone; overwritten by the damaged font. Disabling the font might release the RAM back to the assigned program or the OS, but the damage is already done. In the case of an application, you will need to shut it down and relaunch it in order for it to behave correctly again. The OS will likely require a restart.
All other font issues are in how they are built. Free fonts are the number one source of these font problems. Free fonts known to be bad are Alien League and Brady Bunch. Both have an incorrect internal name. There are several name fields that need to be filled in by the font’s creator. Among them are the PS Font Name, Full Name, Menu Name and FOND Name. In the case of both fonts mentioned here, three of the fields have the same name as what the font is supposed to be, but both have Arial in the Full Name. So both conflict with the real Arial font. Another ’bad font’ is Radioactive. It has an incorrect PS Font Name which causes it to conflict with Times New Roman. These are three I know of, but I’m sure there are many more.
If you want to see the effects of this (it’s harmless, but annoying), download the Brady Bunch font and activate it. You can easily find this font by using "font+Brady Bunch" (without the quotes) as a web search. Google makes heavy use of Arial in the text it returns for a search. When you display such a page, Brady Bunch gets in the way of the regular Arial (Roman) font. Arial Bold will still be correct since that’s a different internal name and a separate font, but all regular Arial text will display in the Brady Bunch font. Now that you’ve seen it, deactivate the Brady Bunch font, toss it in the trash and everything will return to normal.
I don’t know if it’s due to this article, but Alien League has been updated and can now be downloaded from most sites as a correctly functioning font. There are still bad copies out there, but they are actually getting very difficult to find. You can’t go by the name of the font since both a bad copy and a fixed version are named alien5.ttf. Without a font editor to view the internal names with, you can’t really know which is which without activating it and seeing if Arial suddenly gets trumped by Alien League.
The Brady Bunch font has also been fixed. Lots of copies of the old bad version are still out there, but if you want a repaired version, download Brady Bunch Remastered.
With any font, there are multiple common errors they can possibly have. These issues can include outlines that make up the shape of a character having far more points than necessary to define a curve, having segments which overlap, paths running the wrong direction, and/or have stray anchor points. If you are unfamiliar with vector drawing, you draw a shape by placing down points. Between the points are Bézier line segments. You continue to draw your shape until you come around to your first point and close the path by connecting the last anchor point to the first. A path in Photoshop is an example of a vector outline, as is any such shape drawn in Illustrator. Fonts shapes are drawn the same way.
Free fonts may be poorly designed (and thus earn a ‘bad font’ rating) due to the lack of effort by their creator. Many are done by drawing characters by hand with pen and paper, scanning them into the computer and then using a tracing program to create the paths. These result in rough fonts using hundreds to thousands more anchor points than necessary to create the outline shapes. Problem is, most people make no attempt to clean them up, but instead just drop the resulting paths into the font they’re creating. Yes, it saves a lot of time creating your font, but the end result is the junk they are.
Unnecessary points make the vector to raster processor work a lot more than it should have to when displaying the font to your screen and printing. Granted, computers do this so fast you’d have a hard time measuring the time difference between a well drawn font and a poor one, but it’s still an indication of quality over a slap-it-together font. Overlapping segments (Bézier lines) cause a break in an outline that shouldn’t exist. If a path is running the wrong direction (the outer path must be created in a clockwise direction, and the next inner path counter-clockwise), various things happen, depending on the character’s shape. For example, take the letter ’A’. Depending on correct or incorrect drawing of the outer and inner paths (for the hole in the middle), the character may display as just a solid triangle where the hole is, but invisible where it should be solid. A stray point is an anchor point that connects to nothing. Stray points can be particularly bad for RIPs. When the RIP comes across one, it sees the point, but it has no other instructions then what to do with it. It can’t draw anything since a single anchor point goes nowhere and isn’t a shape unto itself. It’s not a line, so the RIP can’t draw one. The RIP can’t fill a shape since there is none. The automated error handling of a RIP may be able to handle the problem, but otherwise may cause it to crash.
While there are a handful of good free fonts out there, the vast majority are worth exactly what you paid for them. For an excellent source of free fonts, head to Font Squirrel. I’ve downloaded and examined quite a few randomly chosen fonts. All are very well made. The owners of Font Squirrel vet the fonts you find there, so only the highest quality free fonts are made available.
11. Fonts you can and cannot use in macOS
Get ready to say goodbye to Type 1 PostScript fonts.
If your company hasn’t already been weaning itself off of Type 1 PostScript fonts, now is the time to start. With the release of Photoshop 2022, Adobe has now killed all support for Type 1 PostScript fonts with that app. Extensis also has an article about it. In January of 2023, the newest releases of InDesign and Illustrator around that time will also ignore Type 1 PostScript fonts.
Adobe has since added a new page explaining in detail what is going to happen when. Since Multiple Master fonts are also a Type 1 PostScript variant, these will also go the way of the Dodo.
All other CC apps are still recognizing Type 1 PostScript fonts, but unlikely for much longer. And when Adobe entirely drops T1 PS support, everyone else will likely follow.
When Catalina was in beta, Type 1 PostScript and legacy OS 9 fonts didn’t work. I filed a bug report and it was quickly fixed. Finding them out of whack again, I was considering filing another bug report. But when a reader sent me the above links, it become a moot point. I had heard a while back this may happen, but until seeing these pages at Adobe and Extensis, it wasn’t a certainty yet. Now there’s no sense fixing something that already has one foot in the grave and no balance left to prevent falling in the rest of the way. With those gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if the old legacy OS 9 style TrueType fonts, or ancient DOS/Windows .ttf and .ttc fonts also get kicked to the curb.
Why is this happening? One word: Unicode. None of these older font formats have it, and it was only a matter of time before they were relegated to the annals of history. For a much more thorough explanation and history of why Type 1 PostScript fonts had to go away, watch this great conference by Thomas Phinney, a former employee of Adobe, FontLab and other companies, who was (and still is) heavily involved in the development of fonts.
You can still use Type 1 PostScript fonts in Big Sur through Ventura. The simple trick is to place these fonts directly into your user account Fonts folder. Also, the makers of Typeface have discovered Type 1 PostScript fonts work outside of your user account Fonts folder, as long as they’re not on the startup volume, and are activated in place. Full details here. Users of Font Book may not have noticed anything wrong since the user Fonts folder is where all newly added fonts get copied to by default. If you try to activate T1 PS fonts in place on the startup volume from anywhere other than your user account Fonts folder, you’ll get blank lines in the font lists of apps like Office 365, the Adobe suite, Quark XPress and others. For .dfonts, you can add them to any font manager via its interface. You can also still do this with old legacy OS 9 TrueType suitcase fonts, but they no longer work in some apps. In the Office 365 suite, Excel and PowerPoint will show OS 9 fonts, but Word and Outlook ignore them.
You also may have noticed in Big Sur, Monterey and Ventura that Type 1 PostScript and legacy OS 9 TrueType fonts now display with a generic Unix EXEC icon. They still work as noted just above, but when Apple does things like this, it’s usually a very big hint something is going away.
How to convert your Type 1 PostScript fonts:
1. Online. There are numerous sites that will do font conversions for free. You simply upload your font via your web browser (usually one at a time), wait a few moments and download the converted font. Of the half dozen or so I tested, they work well, but is probably not something you’d want to do with hundreds, or thousands of fonts.
You’d think FontLab’s premiere editor would be able to batch convert fonts, but I’ve never found a way for it to do that. Fontographer is from way back. FontLab bought it from Macromedia. The only reason I can think they wanted it was to offer a less expensive version to their own FontLab editor. But it is 32 bit only software and will not run on any Mac OS later than Mojave. Their description makes it pretty obvious they have no intention of ever rewriting the Mac version to to 64 bit and instead encourage users who already have Fontographer to upgrade to FontLab.
FontForge is free. It doesn’t natively batch convert fonts, but users can write scripts to automate FontForge functions. I did see a script for the Windows version to batch convert fonts. No idea if there’s a Mac script.
Fonts which can be used in macOS:
Apple Data Fork Fonts (.dfont) - A Unicode TrueType suitcase variation which allows for 65,536 characters per font.
Color Fonts (.otf .ttf and .ttc) - Until recently, you haven’t had this much fun with fonts! Think of them as Type 3 PostScript fonts on steroids. While those could only use simple fill patterns, shading and solid colors, color fonts can be darn near anything. You’ve actually been using one for a while and maybe didn’t even realize it - Apple Color Emoji.
There are four types of color fonts. The chart shown on this site checks off which types an OS directly recognizes. As of Mojave, macOS and Safari (version 12) now support three of the four color font versions, including SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) fonts. Apps that don’t support SVG color fonts will see and use them, but only as a standard font.
Which apps and web browsers currently support color fonts are also listed on the site. For example, if you have the CC 2018 or later apps, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator can use both SVG and bitmap color fonts. Quark XPress 2018 and later fully supports all four types of color fonts.
Adobe has the Trajan color font active in Photoshop CC 2017 and later. You can add it to TypeKit for use in your other Adobe apps by heading to this site.
Feeling creative? Fontself sells a $49 plug-in that works with Photoshop and Illustrator CC 2015.3 through 2022 to build your own.
The question you may ask. Are these just a gimmick? For those in prepress, maybe not a whole lot of interest. But for designers, they’re gold! Think of the time you had to spend in the past taking a plain font shape and then running it through lots of filters and other steps to get a chiseled look, metal, brush strokes, wood, etc. Now you just type!
I can see these fonts becoming commonplace and heavily used in a fairly short amount of time.
Mac legacy TrueType - Also a TrueType suitcase font, normally with no file extension. 8 bit fonts limited to 256 characters.
Mac Type 1 PostScript - Paired fonts comprised of a suitcase of screen fonts and the individual outline printer fonts. Most often without any file extensions. Sometimes the suitcase of screen fonts will have an extension that helps define that it is the screen font suitcase, but aren’t otherwise necessary. The file name extensions found on some suitcase files vary between .bmap, .scr and a few others. Originally, 8 bit fonts with a 256 glyph limit. Encoding options were updated later to allow for some extension of the number of allowed glyphs.
An example of a Mac Type 1 PostScript font can be seen in section 6 with Adobe Garamond. As you can see, "paired" doesn’t necessarily mean only two items. There is always just one suitcase of screen fonts, but there can be any number of printer fonts. Each printer font will have at least one matching screen font within the suitcase.
Multiple Master (Mac OS X 10.2 and later only) - A Type 1 PostScript variant. Rarely used in production. While older versions of Preview and the Acrobat Reader do depend on certain Multiple Master fonts for their operation, they are no longer produced by Adobe and have been declared obsolete.
OpenType (.otf .ttf and .ttc) - Unlike the majority of fonts between the Mac OS and Windows, OpenType fonts are Unicode and have the advantage of being cross platform compatible. They are 16 bit fonts capable of having up to 65,536 characters. Files with a .otf extension, which contain only CFF data will always be a PostScript font. TrueType OpenType fonts will have either a .ttf or .ttc extension. Unfortunately, this is not always true. The OpenType guidelines allows developers to use .otf for a TrueType structured OpenType font if they wish. So just by looking at it, it’s impossible to know whether or not the .otf font you have is actually a PostScript font.
’Impossible’ sometimes has a workaround to it, so there are ways to find out if the .otf font you have is actually a PostScript font. Activate your OpenType fonts and then launch Quark XPress. In the list of fonts, Quark separates OpenType fonts by structure. A TrueType font will have the standard green and black OpenType icon. PostScript OpenType fonts will be shown with a red and black icon. Connect Fonts also notes which type of fonts they are. A PostScript font will be shown in the Type column as OpenType - PS, and a TrueType version as OpenType - TT.
OpenType Variable (.otf .ttf and .ttc) - These are essentially OpenType versions of the old Multiple Master fonts. But, they’re also a lot easier to use, in apps that give you the necessary controls. Adobe has a good overview on them (and includes a nice animated GIF of one in action) on this page. If you want to try a few, Photoshop CC lists several variable fonts you can use while in the app. You won’t find them anywhere on your drive. They are live fonts, but only appear in Photoshop from wherever Adobe hides them.
Windows TrueType (.ttf) - The Windows version of the original 8 bit, 256 character TrueType fonts.
Windows TrueType Collection (.ttc) - Windows version similar to Mac TrueType suitcase fonts. They can contain more than one TrueType font in a single package. This is again referring to the original 8 bit version, even though the same .ttf and .ttc file extensions are used for the OpenType versions.
Fonts which cannot be used in macOS:
Apple bitmapped fonts from OS 7.5 and earlier
Linux Type 1 PostScript - Paired fonts with .pfa and .afm extensions.
Type 3 PostScript - A fairly short lived PostScript variant. They allowed for the full use of the PostScript language such as shading, color and fill patterns. However, they lacked hinting, an important typography attribute. Obsolete.
Old, very old third party bitmapped fonts - Way back before TrueType or Type 1 PostScript fonts. There were no outline vector fonts for printing. Each point size for a typeface had to be built as a high resolution bitmap file from a companion program, or purchased separately. Good riddance.
Web Fonts - OpenType and TrueType fonts can be served from a remote server to function as web fonts, but there are three other styles that only work in your web browser. Those end in the .eot, .woff, and .svg file extensions. macOS and any font manager will pay no attention to these font types if you try to use them directly on your Mac.
Fonts which can "sort of" be used in macOS:
Windows Type 1 PostScript - Paired fonts with .pfb and .pfm extensions. Normally, these fonts have never been able to be used on the Mac; not in OS9, OS X or macOS. Technically, you still can’t. You can’t open them with any font manager or use them by directly placing the fonts in one of the standard Fonts folders. But the Adobe applications (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) starting with the CS2 suite can indeed read these fonts. Place them in the /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts/ folder and you will be able to use Windows Type 1 PostScript fonts with (and only with) the Adobe programs. The CS4 through CC versions do not create the Fonts folder mentioned, but all you have to do is go to the /Library/Application Support/Adobe/ folder and create a new folder named Fonts.
For InDesign CC 2015 and later, there is now an empty Fonts folder in the /Applications/Adobe InDesign CC 2015/ folder for just this purpose. Use this folder if InDesign CC 2015 or later is the only app you need to see Windows Type 1 PostScript fonts. For no reason other than it’s faster to get to.
An example of a Windows Type 1 PostScript font is as follows:
This particular font is Dorchester Script MT. All Windows Type 1 fonts consist of two files for one complete typeface. A .pfm file for the font metrics, and a .pfb file for the binary data. You must have both in order for the font to work. If there were a bold version of this font, you would have another uniquely named matching pair of .pfm and .pfb files.
I’m leaving this last option here for now, but I would also expect the ability to use Windows T1 PS fonts to die soon.
12. Font manager reviews
I’ve used (or at least tested) every font manager mentioned in this article. To help you make a more informed choice as to which one you may want to use, I’m going to list the pros and cons of each one as I see them. These are not exhaustive reviews, but focus on the more common features or omissions that make a given font manager easier or harder to use. Reviewed here are the current versions available at the time of writing, so some features may not be available depending on the version you are using. They are; FontAgent 10.0, Font Book in macOS 13.x Ventura, Connect Fonts (23.0.1), RightFont 6.0.5, Typeface 3.6 and FontBase 2.16.9.
If there is a font manager not mentioned here, it has either been discontinued (in which case I will remove the review), or is too simplistic to bother reviewing. A fair number of commercial font packages will include such basic font managers. They turn fonts on and off, and that’s pretty much it.
Generally, Type 1 PostScript fonts are limping along in Monterey and Ventura. You can still activate them with various third party font managers, but they appear as question marks, or blank boxes in many apps. The workaround is to manually place them in the Fonts folder of your user account. Or, read this article from the makers of Typeface for another option.
There’s also an issue where activating or deactivating a large number of fonts in Font Book, FontAgent, FontBase and Connect Fonts caused TextEdit and Pages to freeze. The only solution was to force quit the frozen app and relaunch it. Other font managers do not cause this problem. Other apps with a font list may also be affected, but I tested the current managers mainly with these two apps. And this may be a Monterey/Ventura issue as they’re the only OS versions I tested these latest font manager versions under.
NOTE: It is no longer possible to disable any OS installed fonts in Ventura.
1) Can create full sets that include font names already in other sets.
2) Can activate fonts in place. No need to create copies of the fonts you activate.
3) Has a reliable automatic font activation feature.
4) Font Sense technology virtually ensures auto activation will open the correct version of a font.
5) Lets you decide which font to activate or keep active when opening a conflicting font.
6) Has a vault option if you prefer to store copies of fonts that have been added.
7) Can control conflicting system fonts automatically.
8) Quickmatch feature helps you locate fonts which are similar to each other.
1) Conflicting fonts cannot be acted upon individually.
1) Copies all fonts you activate to a separate location in your user account. Therefore, even if you remove the original font or no longer have access to it, you can still activate the font from its working folder.
2) Can create full sets that include font names already in other sets.
3) Reliable automatic font activation.
4) Font Savant technology virtually ensures auto activation will open the correct version of a font. MagicMatch will give you close optional choices when the original isn’t available.
5) Includes Smasher.
6) Can disable all of the Supplemental folder fonts, or any combination of them you want.
1) Fonts cannot be activated in place. Everything is copied to its working folder.
2) Does not inform you of a conflicting font that is already active in another set unless you’re using auto-activation.
1) Has a free version. “Awesome” version is a $3 per month subscription.
2) Can create font sets.
3) Can partially deactivate fonts in the Supplemental folder.
4) Fast at activating and deactivating even large numbers of fonts.
1) Does not differentiate between identical fonts in separate sets.
2) Only understands OpenType and ancient 8 bit TrueType fonts.
3) All added fonts are copied to a working location.
1) It’s free.
2) Can create font sets.
3) Resolves font conflicts automatically.
4) Can create Library sets to open fonts in place.
1) There are some very noticeable bugs that need to be corrected in this rebuilt version of Font Book. See the review below.
1) Simple, straightforward interface. Even simpler than Font Book, which may appeal to novices.
2) Can disable all of the Supplemental folder fonts, or any combination of them you want.
1) No method in RightFont to add duplicate fonts to handle modified versions.
1) Can create full sets that include font names already in other sets.
2) Activates all fonts in place. No copies are created.
3) Lets you decide which font to activate or keep active when opening a conflicting font.
4) Individual fonts in a suitcase can be activated or deactivated rather than all or nothing.
5) Can disable all of the Supplemental folder fonts, or any combination of them you want.
6) Very fast adding sets, and activating/deactivating fonts.
1) None significant (in my opinion).
Font Book is included with macOS, so you can play around with it as much as you want. FontAgent has a version you can download and use as fully functional software for 30 days. Connect Fonts and Typeface have a 15 day trial period. Plenty of time to run them through the paces.
I consider full font sets a very big plus. When you have multiple projects going at once, you want to have a single set for each project that includes every font it uses, not just those that don’t already exist in another set. That makes your stop to your font manager a quick and painless process when you can simply turn off set three and turn on set ten. No need to search the other sets for fonts you still need activated. I also consider activating fonts in place a major plus. If you can activate a font right from where it is, why bother copying it to another folder as Font Book (standard set) and FontAgent insist on doing? The only advantage to that is if the fonts reside on removable media when you first activate them, so you may not have access to the originals later. But to avoid that, all you have to do is copy the fonts to your drive first. It’s not like they take up a lot of space.
Font Book in Big Sur and Ventura allow you to open fonts in place by using Library sets. But there are still limitations to how you can add fonts. See below.
Here are my recommendations based on what I consider important.
Please note that some of these descriptions may not apply to the version of a given font manager you are using. Other than some older notes I leave for comparison, they are based on the versions which were current at the time of writing and may be a little, or drastically different from older versions.
1) Typeface: What a difference in the current 3.6! It is now so much better than the 2.3 version I tested before, I switched to it from FEX, given Monotype’s apparent disinterest in that app (and now discontinued).
Typeface is vastly improved from the last time I reviewed this font manager. Only takes 5 seconds to activate 2353 fonts. Less to deactivate. All fonts appear and disappear quickly in the apps I tested with.
Typeface handles duplicated fonts correctly. I imported two duplicate sets and activated one. Activating the other set prompted me to skip or replace. It also treats all new fonts as "in place". It doesn’t store copies anywhere, which I find far more intelligent than copying everything you add as Font Book, Connect Fonts and FontAgent insist upon doing.
It now has a direct choice for Import > Supplemental System Fonts to make an easy set for those. Say goodbye to the 100 Noto Sans fonts and many others neither you or the OS need activated. You can deactivate all of the fonts in the Supplemental folder, or any individual ones you want.
Clicking on one font switches to a single view of that font. To prevent Typeface from doing that so you can select the individual fonts of a set to activate/deactivate, you can either hold down the Command key while choosing your fonts, or without a modifier key held down, move the cursor towards the lower right corner of a font. When you do that, a clipped area of that font’s window will appear. Click the icon that appears to select or deselect that font. You can skip around to any individual font to select or deselect them one at a time without affecting any previously marked fonts. Include the Shift key to select or deselect a range of adjacent fonts. Then right click on any marked font and choose to activate or deactivate.
To add sets, chose Import > Fonts from Folder from the menu bar (or right click on the left column and make the same choice). You can also drag and drop into the main right hand window, or onto the left hand sidebar.
If you’re like me and have removed the Font Book set (which is initially the only set), the set section disappears. A fix in 3.5.2 allows you to always add sets to the sidebar, even if it’s empty. And you don’t have to worry about dropping a new folder of fonts into the currently shown font samples. You’ll still get another new set, as you expected.
Is it a simple app? Not at all. It’s nearly the equal to Connect Fonts with its feature set. And at only $35, it’s hard to go wrong with Typeface.
2) Connect Fonts: You may recall in my last review of Suitcase I had said it has become an app aimed mainly at large businesses. Well, it couldn’t possibly be any more true now. How many individuals or small businesses do you know who will willingly spend $108 per year, per computer, for a font manager? Read on. It’s not quite as simple as price.
Connect Fonts is the new name for Suitcase. It’s also the name of the online page you can access. Along with this new font manager, Extensis also has Connect Assets, which is a cloud based DAM (Digital Asset Management) solution. Connect Fonts and Connect Assets are separate subscriptions. So no, you do not get Connect Fonts as part of that $300 per year fee for Connect Assets. Each person must have their own license for either. Have 30 seats that require asset access? Then it will cost your company $9,000 per year just for that. Add another $108 per year ($3,240 total) for each of those 30 seats to also have Connect Fonts.
You do not need to use the online portion of Connect Fonts. It can be a stand-alone font manager on your desktop the same as you’ve always done with Suitcase. Though you do need it to use all of the online font options. More recent versions of Suitcase can access the online Connect Fonts page, but your options are limited.
You can connect to your online font library at connect.extensis.com/login. Enter your Extensis ID and password. Or, from the Connect Fonts app, click the Open in Browser button at the top. Since you’re already signed in with the app, you automatically get logged in online.
When you go to the Connect Fonts web page, it initially says 1 of 5 seats used, with the person who logged into the account with the same credentials as the desktop app being the administrator. Click the Invite button towards the top right to add up to four other users who can access your online font repository. You can do this individually, or as a bulk addition. For each person you add, you can assign them as Administrator, License Manager, or User. Presuming you only want one person to handle the fonts for your team of 4 possible additions, you choose User. From there, you can give them access to Modify what’s in your online font repository, or Read Only. There’s also a check box that allows the user account to Collect For Output. Lastly, you choose which Font Libraries (Team Libraries/Sets) you want each person to be able to access. Click the Send Invite button and the recipient receives this pertinent information in an email from Extensis (live email links removed for the purpose of this article):
Let’s get started:
1 Downloadand install Suitcase Fusion (the desktop client that pairs with Connect Fonts).
2 Launch Suitcase Fusion.
3 Login to Suitcase Fusion using your account credentials.
If you’re new to Extensis, a user account has been created for you, and you’ve received a separate email with
your temporary password.
4 Login to Connect Fonts (use the same login credentials as Suitcase Fusion).
5 Any shared Team libraries will display in the library panel on the left-hand side of the screen.
6 Get creative.
When I clicked the link in step four, it then showed 2 of 5 seats used. Even though I was on the same computer, in the same browser, the server presumed I logged in from elsewhere as the test account from the email address I set up. And it did show this in the browser as two users logged into the page. Myself as Administrator, and the test account as Read Only. As long as everyone has their own Connect Fonts app, or a more recent version of Suitcase, you can share specified font libraries in a team of up to five.
A rather slick option is the fonts via your browser. I let it install the Safari plugin (Chrome, Edge and Firefox work without it) and chose to create a new set in the browser. You then upload your fonts for that set. It’s a nice option for users on the run to have access to their legal font library no matter where they are, without having the fonts directly on their laptop. From the web page, it acts just like your desktop font manager with buttons to activate or deactivate fonts. Though the Connect Fonts app on your Mac must be running when you do this. Otherwise, nothing happens. And while you can choose one of your older registered versions of Suitcase in the browser, you cannot activate or deactivate the fonts within it. Connect Fonts is the only one that will tie in. Otherwise, it does work as advertised. Fonts I activated in the browser appeared in Photoshop, TextEdit and Pages. Inkscape and the SoftMaker Office suite did not. But that’s a fault with the apps themselves. Neither will pay any attention to fonts activated in place. If they’re not directly in the user account Fonts folder, the apps don’t see them.
Who thinks the new Connect combo is worth this kind of money? In my opinion, it would only be the large business model mentioned earlier. Firms such as Nike, Apple, 3M, or any company who need employees working around the city, country or even worldwide to be able to access both files and fonts for various products in the works. And want those assets available to all without having to shuffle them around on an FTP or as email attachments. It’s all right there in your browser as if you were using a local server. And without Connect Assets, it’s still a way for one person to consolidate and manage the fonts for a project with up to four others having access to the project fonts, ensuring all involved personnel are using the exact same fonts.
Since this article is mainly about font management, let’s pretend Connect Assets doesn’t exist and focus on Connect Fonts. It’s a noticeable improvement over Suitcase. Activating 2,300 OpenType fonts takes about a minute. Same to deactivate that amount. Still slow compared to other choices listed here, but much faster than it used to be. If you’re activating or deactivating a couple of hundred fonts, Pages and TextEdit will momentarily stall, but then work normally when Connect Fonts is actually done with the process. But like some of the other font managers noted here, if you try to activate/deactivate a couple of thousand fonts, Pages and TextEdit will just plain ol’ freeze. You’ll have to Force Quit and relaunch them.
During the initial setup of Connect Fonts you first choose if you want all new fonts added to the Vault, or used in place (original location). Which like before in Suitcase is really no choice at all since it adds all of the fonts you activate to the Vault anyway, and then removes them when deactivated. This first screen also gives you a choice of whether or not to enable Google Fonts in the interface.
Next, you choose which plug-ins you want active. All of the main Adobe suite apps are there, including the retired Adobe Sketch, but not Quark XPress or anything else outside of Adobe. Following that are boxes to check for updates automatically and whether or not to share system profile information with Extensis.
Lastly, you can choose to deactivate all non-required system fonts. Which means Connect Fonts can now control the Supplemental folder fonts like pretty much every other third party font manager. It doesn’t matter if you skip this choice since you can still turn these fonts on or off in the main interface afterwards anytime you want. This final setup screen also gives you an option to clean the font caches to end the setup routine.
As a basic judgement, Connect Fonts is a quite a bit of an improvement over Suitcase. And you don’t need Connect Assets in order to use the remote server option in a browser for your fonts. I just don’t know how many people Extensis believes are going to willingly part with $108 per year for a font manager. For a group routinely involved in team managed products, they will probably find value in it. Even though each individual user has to have their own copy of Connect Fonts, or Suitcase if that user is always only accessing fonts made available by the administrator of the online account.
However, let’s face a basic fact. You can get by without any font manager at all, including Font Book, by manually putting fonts into the Fonts folder of your user account to activate them, and take them out to deactivate. The benefit of a good font manager is it makes this chore much easier and more organized. But unless you truly see value in the browser option, which you don’t need at all if you’re using a desktop computer, or if you always have all of your fonts on the device you carry with you anyway, I don’t see any reason to spend this much money per year for a single user font manager when there are equally good choices for far less.
3) Font Book: Font Book in Ventura has gotten a major makeover with many improvements. Most - okay, all - greatly overdue. Because it is so different, I’ve removed all references to older versions. If you need, or want to read information on Font Book relevant to the versions in Monterey or earlier, please refer to the old article links at the top of the page.
Font Book has been pretty much rewritten as a new app. Virtually all of the old issues are gone. However, it’s difficult to fathom how Apple missed the glaring issues in this Font Book redo. This based how it was behaving in the last beta release just a week before Ventura’s official launch.
If you create a new collection, you can add fonts to it, but any collections you create tells you there are no fonts in them. In order to see the fonts you added at all, you have to click on the My Fonts, or All Fonts headings. Even though Font Book recognizes the fonts have been added under other headings, and the fonts are indeed in the Fonts folder of your user account, the collection itself is useless. You cannot enable or disable fonts from any of your new collections since Font Book insists they’re empty.
It gets clumsier. If you delete an "empty" collection, the fonts you added to it remain trapped under the All Fonts and My Fonts headings. Makes sense in a way since they are still in your user account. But what if you don’t want them listed? Your only choice is to remove them from under the My Fonts heading. Then, whether they’re enabled or not, they finally clear from the All Fonts list.
Libraries are worse. After resetting Font Book, I created a new library and added the same five fonts. One appeared and was activated (the default). The other four wouldn’t appear until I shut down FB and relaunched it. The others were then listed, but not active. This is somewhat random. I repeated the process after resetting FB and the next time, none of the fonts appeared under the library until I shut down FB and relaunched. In all cases, since library fonts are links and not actual copies of the fonts in your user account Fonts folder, they appear under All Fonts, but not My Fonts.
The next fun part is trying to get rid of these entries. It’s easy enough to remove some or all of the fonts in a library set, or the entire library. But no matter how you do it, those fonts are permanently listed under All Fonts. How do you clear them? You can’t! If you delete the actual fonts the links point to, Font Book still clings to the entries. Except, now they’re all marked with big question marks and labeled as .LastResort. The only fix either way is to use the Reset Fonts button under Settings. But that of course removes all of your libraries and collections. You’d like to believe it would at least be easier to remove the dead entires from the All Fonts list since the .LastResort entries all collect at the top. But no, you can’t do anything with them at all.
How does this new version handle duplicates? I created two new Collections. I then added my five test fonts to one, and a duplicate set from another folder to the other. Font Book asked for each font if I wanted to Keep Both, Skip, or Replace. The first two are self explanatory. If you choose Replace, the duplicate fonts are moved to the Fonts (Removed) folder of the user account. The folder will be created if it doesn’t already exist. I let it keep both on all five fonts. What does FB do? It copies the same fonts to your user account with a 2 after the name. So I now had 10 fonts in my Fonts folder.
The problem remains that your collections are blank and you have to go to the My Fonts or All Fonts folder to activate or deactivate the fonts. You have to click the expansion arrow by each name to see there are now two choices for each of the installed, duplicate fonts. Whichever set you added last are the ones that are enabled. Activating the opposite font automatically deactivates the duplicate. This is actually nice since you can now have same-named fonts installed without the worry of font conflicts. Activate the ones you want, and any conflicting font is turned off for you. This would all be great, if you could use the collections you create. But since they all display as empty, you have to very annoyingly handle them in the My Fonts folder.
If you want to remove your collection set fonts, you would supposedly remove the collection name(s). Which you may as well do anyway immediately after importing your fonts since they list as empty. Instead, you have to go to the My Fonts heading and chose which fonts to remove. The fonts will then be correctly removed from the user account Fonts folder.
Libraries at least do this part right and work the way you would expect, as far as what appears in Font Book. Using the same two folders of duplicate fonts, I created two new libraries and imported a folder into each set. As noted above, the imported fonts names wouldn’t appear until I shut FB down and relaunched it. After that, you can activate one library (or selected fonts within one), and the duplicates in any other library will automatically be deactivated. As with collections, you can now have fonts with identical names in each library.
As you may have guessed by now, the old Font Conflict resolution screen is gone. There was no longer a need for it since Font Book automatically deactivates any fonts that conflict with one you just activated. The user doesn’t have to pay attention to this.
On a brighter point, it no longer takes over an hour to import a large number of fonts. I tested both a collection and a library of 2,300 OpenType fonts. It took something less than a minute for Font Book to import the fonts. It also pretty quickly activates or deactivates them.
Yes, I’m going to say it. Font Book is now actually a pretty decent font manager. The fact that it won’t let you enable conflicting fonts without so much as a warning, per the way FontAgent functions, I’d trust Font Book in a commercial environment before FontAgent.
Once Apple fixes the collections bug of refusing to show any fonts you’ve added, and the libraries bug of never removing fonts from the All Fonts list that were connected to any library, it really will be a quite usable font manager.
4) FontAgent: Auto activation is very reliable. Stable program that rarely crashes. Copies all activated fonts to another location, which I don’t find necessary. FontAgent 10 uses Sets, similar to Connect Fonts and other font managers listed here. Much less confusing to have it behave the same as its competitors. Version 10 carries on with the well designed interface introduced in version 7.
You can now add a set for the Supplemental fonts folder. And even though FontAgent is managing copies of these fonts in your user account, which would all technically conflict with those in the
/System/Library/Fonts/Supplemental/ folder, it still manages to disable or enable any of them you wish.
That’s the good news. For professionals, it’s still a dangerous font manager to use. The one main issue I’ve mentioned for previous versions is still its greatest downfall. And that’s being able to activate multiple, conflicting fonts without the user ever once being informed by the app. And even that isn’t consistent. There’s only a preference to inform you of conflicts through auto-activation. Any sets you manually turn on that produce a conflict tells you nothing. As in earlier versions, if you have duplicate fonts in multiple sets, they all shown green (activated) when you turn any one of them on. I’ve long wondered, is FontAgent simply being smart enough to recognize the fonts are identical? So I tested it to find out.
As with all previous versions, FontAgent creates a repository in your user account of every font you add, saving its own copies of all of them. This time, I took a font and intentionally stripped a bunch of glyphs out of it and saved a copy to the same name. All internal names were the same, and since the fonts were now physically different, it should produce a conflict error. At least, that’s what you’d think.
If the fonts are truly identical, then no matter how many times you add the same duplicated font in different sets, FontAgent keeps one copy of the font, and one only, in your user account. So yes, it does realize they are 100% identical, which is why every single instance of a given font turns green when you activate it in any entry. So far so good, since that makes sense, once you understand why it’s doing that. Next, I added an unmodified font in one set, and then the modified version in another set. Turning one or the other on does not turn both green. Yes, again. FontAgent realizes they are not identical and has copies of both in the user account.
This all sounds logical and good. Right up until you turn one font on, and then the other. At this point, FontAgent simply should not let you do that. But you get no notice you’ve turned on not just a conflicting font, but a physically different one. Clicking on each one in the interface does show a preview for each "active" font in the bottom pane. And since I really hacked the modified one, it’s clear glyphs are missing. So it should be impossible for both to be active.
In your apps, as you would expect, only one instance of that font name appears in the menus. Which one do you get? Since you now have a font conflict, it’s essentially random. Sometimes the first font you activated is the one used, and other times it’s the second one. So we have the same issue as previous versions. You could end up using the wrong version of a client supplied font, which could result in the loss of hundreds, or thousands of dollars at your company’s expense.
If you remove any fonts or sets from the interface, FontAgent will also delete the related fonts from its storage location in your user account. You don’t get a choice of whether or not the fonts are removed.
FontAgent’s Font Savant technology, which is similar to Connect Fonts’ Font Sense, makes FontAgent a strong contender. Having auto activation open exactly the same fonts as before is extremely important in a production environment, saving you from both lost time and income because the wrong version was used. When the original font cannot be found, MagicMatch will show you the closest alternative it can find.
It’s also still slow. About 2 minutes to open or close 2312 fonts. Far better than the 20 minutes it took before to do the same thing, but it simply shouldn’t take this long. Like other managers I had this issue with under Monterey, Pages and TextEdit froze after activating or deactivating these test fonts, and they wouldn’t all appear in other apps.
Overall, FontAgent 10 is a very good font manager, but its biggest failure is that it may not warn you that a conflicting font you’ve turned on isn’t the one previously used in a document. This can be a tremendously costly error in production.
5) RightFont: Nice looking, but a simple font manager with few controls.
Very surprisingly (at least to me), RightFont and FontBase are given high ratings on many web sites doing font manager reviews, placing them above Typeface and ConnectFonts. And I do mean surprising because they are anything but good. I can only reason the popularity of these apps compared to the far superior choices of ConnectFonts or Typeface is they’re cheap. Or in the case of FontBase, free. Though at $59, RightFont is not cheap for how underwhelming it is. If you’re going to replace Font Book, spend the money on a truly useful font manager.
Why mention these font managers at all? I get emails once in a while asking if I’ve ever heard of xxx font manager, and could I do a review on it? Hence their inclusion. Take the review of these two font managers more as a reason to avoid them.
RightFont has gotten a massive visual makeover from version 4 and earlier. I had hoped the vendor had also done something to improve how it works. They haven’t.
Pages and TextEdit both freeze under Ventura when activating/deactivating 2300 fonts. It is better in version 6, though. In version 5, the apps froze and stayed that way until you force quit and relaunched them. Now they’re only unresponsive until RightFont is done activating/deactivating a large number of fonts.
Dragging and dropping a folder of fonts into the left column does not create a set by that name. Everything just gets lumped under the Font Library heading. In order to keep separated sets, you have to create a set folder first, then import the fonts you want within it.
You still cannot import duplicate fonts. Well, you can, but nothing actually happens when you do. When you import a duplicate, there is still, and always, only one of that font. This is bad. As noted in other font manager reviews, you must be able to truly allow access to fonts that have the same names. Clients long have, and still do send in modified fonts. If you use the wrong one on a project, it could cost you hundreds, or thousands of dollars to redo the work.
Imported fonts used to be separated by alphabetical subfolders. They now all go into one monolithic database. You have no choice here. There is no option to open fonts in place. Any fonts you import get added to an ever growing database in your user account.
You can now have your fonts separated by sets. As with previous versions, this does you no good if you need to bring in identically named fonts for different projects since you can still have only one font by that name in the database. It also suffers from the same major mistake as other less useful font managers. I created two folders with identically named fonts. Added both sets and turned one on. RightFont marked both sets as active. This, of course, comes back to the issue where RightFont will only add one of any identical font to the database. All others are ignored, even though they’re listed in separate sets.
RightFont 6 can properly disable all fonts in the Supplemental folder (or any number of them you wish). Do that by clicking on the System Fonts heading. A concatenated list of the System’s Fonts folder, and Fonts/Supplemental folder will be displayed. Click on any font and press Command+A to select all. Then right click on any font and choose Deactivate. When finished, all of the Supplemental folder fonts will be disabled. Those in the main /System/Library/Fonts/ folder won’t be since no font manager can control those. You’re free to disable or enable any number of fonts in the Supplemental folder.
Clicking on the expansion arrow next to System Fonts reveals the active user account name, All Users and System. Clicking on System shows you only the fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. It’s a rather pointless heading since you can’t do anything with these fonts anyway.
It’s also slow. It took RightFont 4 minutes to activate 2,524 fonts, and just as long to deactivate them. This is far better than than the hour and fifteen minutes it took older versions of Font Book to do the same thing, but it sure isn’t anything to brag about.
6) FontBase (free version): Meant to be used only with OpenType fonts. It will let you import Dfonts, Type 1 PostScript and OS 9 legacy TrueType, but it will not activate them. On a bit of a strange note, it has no issue handling ancient 8 bit Windows TrueType fonts.
FontBase does not pay attention to duplicate fonts. If you bring in two identical sets it will show both, but activating one set does the same to both. It shouldn’t do that. Only the set you chose should activate. The other set should be flagged as duplicates if you try to activate it.
It defaults to adding over 3000 Google fonts as a set. Delete that set if you don’t care about cloud fonts.
FontBase doesn’t even bother to show you the system fonts, but you can add the Supplemental folder as a set. You can then deactivate these fonts. However, it doesn’t work properly. If for example you disable the entire set, a lot of these fonts do disappear from your font lists, but not all of them. It does at least kill those annoying Noto Sans fonts. So, FontBase gets a partial pat on the head for doing a partial job.
On the plus side, it’s incredibly fast. 2300 fonts activated or deactivated in just 2 or 3 seconds! It takes just a bit longer to first create a set since every single font you add is copied to your user account at /Users/your_account/FontBase with a subfolder for every set you create, giving each subfolder the same name as the set. Fortunately, fonts don’t take up a lot of space. Still, it would be nice if it would skip this function entirely and just handle fonts where they are. That it makes full copies of the Supplemental folder fonts is likely why it doesn’t succeed in deactivating all of them. It’s trying to handle what are then all conflicting copies, while the OS tries to hold the original fonts open.
When you remove a set, it drops the copied fonts into the trash.
FontBase has become a fairly decent app. Especially for free. You just have to be aware it only handles OpenType and old 8 bit TrueType fonts, and that it will continually pester you to upgrade to the paid version at a $3 per month subscription. But the speed is amazing, even though it’s making copies of everything you add to the interface.
Type 1 PostScript fonts no longer work in Photoshop CC. In January of 2023, InDesign and Illustrator will follow suit. Legacy Mac TrueType will likely be next. Because these font types are on the way out, it somewhat no longer matters that FontBase only works with OpenType, or old 8 bit TrueType fonts.
Do RightFont and FontBase work? Yes, for what they do. Are they font managers I would recommend to professionals? No. They’re very minimalist managers with nowhere near enough features to be used in a production environment.
13. How to handle font caches
All types of software create and maintain cache files. The purpose of a cache file is to access frequently used data faster than it can usually be obtained from its original location. Since we’re talking about fonts, we’ll use them as an example. Any font activation causes the OS to create cached data of those fonts. This data is optimized for both faster retrieval and rendering; much faster than it would be to access the fonts themselves every time a call is made to draw a font to the screen. If over time you use a particular font less, even though it’s active, the cached data for that font may eventually be removed from the cache in favor of those being used more frequently. If you use the font again, its data will be added back into the cache in the assumption that the data will once again be needed more often. Hence, cache data is something that is always in flux whether it’s font data, data for the OS itself or any other program that use various types of caches.
Because that data is read from and written to so often, the data is bound to have errors introduced at some time. When that happens, you see odd problems. With fonts, it’s almost always garbled text caused by corrupt font caches.
Utilities you can use to clear your font caches are Cocktail and OnyX. These are powerful utilities which can do far more than just cleaning font caches. If you are not familiar with these applications, then I would caution you in their use as you could cause your Mac to become non functional, requiring a reinstall of the OS.
Connect Fonts and Typeface include their own cache cleaning tools. With Connect Fonts in the foreground, the option is under File > Clean Font Caches. This is a very thorough cleaning. It clears the the OS font cache files, and those for many third party apps which maintain their own separate font cache files.
Using Typeface, shut down Typeface and all other apps. Hold the Option key and launch Typeface. Instead of the normal interface, you’ll get a list of choices. Click Clear Font Cache. You’ll then see an alert of what will occur. Click the Clear cache button. Enter your admin password to allow osascript to run (this is an OS installed Unix app). Then click the restart button.
Notes on cache files:
There is a right way and a wrong way to remove cache files. Typeface, Connect Fonts and OnyX force you to do it the right way by restarting immediately afterwards. So why is this right? As just noted, cache files are accessed frequently. If you remove any type of cache file and attempt to continue working, you could easily have just pulled the rug out from under an application that was reading (or worse, writing) to a cache file that was removed during the cache cleaning operation. The consequences can be anywhere from minor to disaster. The rules for clearing cache files are simple, but need to be followed to avoid potential data loss.
1) Quit all running applications. This is not optional - do it. While it doesn’t hurt to leave your font manager running, as long as it’s in a static state (not actively being used in any way), the only ’program’ running should be the OS itself. If you want to really be certain, shut down your font manager, too.
2) Use either of the utilities linked to in this section to remove the font cache files (Connect Fonts and Typeface can also remove font cache data using an option within the application). If the program you use does not automatically force a restart, don’t take that to mean it’s okay to continue working. Restart your Mac immediately. Under no circumstances should you ever skip restarting after manually removing any type of cache data.
Office 2019, 2021 and 365 do not appear to maintain their own cache. A restart is required after you clear font cache.
In Big Sur, you can also remove font cache files using the Terminal application.
Close all running applications. From an administrator account, open the Terminal app and enter the following command (or copy/paste it from here):
sudo atsutil databases -remove
Enter your administrator password when prompted.
This removes all font cache files maintained by macOS. Both for the system and the active user account. After running the command, close Terminal and immediately restart your Mac.
As of Monterey, this has changed. After conversing with a developer over the period of about a week, we figured out (or, we’re pretty sure) what’s going on with the font cache in Monterey and later.
The Terminal command – sudo atsutil databases -remove – now returns an error message when trying to use it in Monterey or later. This is because the user no longer has any control over the system’s font cache. System fonts and their associated cache are located in a read-only part of the drive and cannot be changed by the user. Only the OS itself can access them. Therefore clearing the system font cache is not necessary and can be static (this is our assumption).
Only macOS may change the system fonts in OS updates. When that happens, the system cache files should be updated accordingly as a new cache would then be required as part of the update. You could see that in the 12.3 update, which at minimum updated the Emoji font. Whatever day you apply that update on, all fonts in the System folder will be tagged with that date (no matter how many actually changed), and contents of the system’s cache file at
/System/Library/Frameworks/ApplicationServices.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/ATS.framework/Versions/A/Resources/ReadOnlyDB/ will have the same date. The 12.3.1 update didn’t alter the font cache, or timestamps of the system’s fonts. That’s a pretty good hint no fonts were updated in that point release.
For Monterey users, and presumably from here forward, you would use this Terminal command to clear only the user font cache:
atsutil databases -removeUser
This is the same folder Typeface, Connect Fonts and other tools clear in Monterey when you use their font cache cleaning function. You then must restart before the OS will build a new cache.
If you have no font manager or other app that has a font cache clearing option and prefer not to use Terminal, then the simplest way to do this is to restart the Mac into Safe Mode, and then restart normally.
14. Font 911
If at any point you want to reinstall the OS supplied fonts, the only way to do that is to reinstall the entire OS. It’s mostly a last resort option.
Q: "The fonts in Safari and many other applications are a garbled mess, or Safari and other applications won’t launch."
A: A common cause of applications not starting are corrupt fonts, or sometimes (though rarely) even a corrupt font cache. See the previous section on how to clear the user font cache.
Q: "What in the world is with a question mark in a box?"
A: Are you seeing a strings of characters like this where there should be text in your web browser, email or other app?
The most common causes are that your font cache data is damaged, or you’ve turned on conflicting fonts. When either happens, the OS opts for the last resort to display something, anything there. Appropriately, this text is from the system font LastResort. Usually, for corrupt cache data, all you have to do is restart your Mac. If that doesn’t do it, then clear the font cache files from the system using Terminal, as described at the bottom of the previous section. If the problem appeared after enabling some new fonts, turn them back off and see if the problem corrects itself. If neither helps, you may need to reinstall the OS.
Yosemite was the last time the boxed A was used. There was quite a variety of boxed glyphs in the LastResort font then. In El Capitan and later, Apple threw almost all of them out. The main glyph used to signify a missing font now is a boxed question mark.
15. Determining if fonts are causing problems with applications
This can be difficult, as the problem could be related to fonts, preference files, system files, or a combination of the three.
First disable all third party fonts you’ve installed. If your applications now run normally, then one or more of your now disabled fonts is causing the problem. It doesn’t matter if the application uses a particular font or not; a damaged font can cause memory leaks and other memory related problems. Enable five of your third party fonts at a time. If behavior problems return, then one or more of the fonts you enabled are damaged. Replace as needed.
If your applications are still having problems, you then you need to determine if the problem is damaged system fonts or preference files. To do so, open the System Preferences. Click on the Accounts icon and create a new user account. Log in to that account and run the applications you are having trouble with.
If after all this your applications are still not functioning properly, then other basic OS system files are damaged; which only a reinstall of the OS can repair.
If your applications are now working correctly in a new user account, but you are still experiencing problems:
Then the preference files in your original user account may be what is damaged. There is no easy way to fix this, either. At least not one that will keep you from losing all of your individual preferences for each application. I suggest you open the Preferences folder in your user account and move everything in that folder to a new empty folder on your desktop; so the original is empty. Restart your Mac and login to your normal account. When the Mac is ready, you can remove the new account you made for testing in the first step if you tried that.
At this point, everything about your desktop will look as it did when you first installed the OS. The Dock, your desktop image, everything. For those applications that need certain preferences present to avoid having to reinstall them, you can try copying those particular preferences back from the folder you created on your desktop containing your original preference files and see if they work. If not, that preference file is damaged and you may need to reinstall the application. Others will simply let you reenter the serial number when it needs to create a new preference file.
Why you wouldn’t just reinstall the OS? Because your preference files would still be damaged if you reinstalled the OS, preserving your settings. If you performed a clean install, then your preferences would be gone and replaced with new ones. So you either will have accomplished nothing with a reinstall, since your original damaged preference files will still be there; or you will put yourself at the same point you would be if you had simply removed your preference files. Except it took you a lot longer to do the latter because you did a complete clean reinstall of the OS rather than just empty the Preferences folder.