If a Font Manager is doing it’s job you’ll forget it’s there

I recently changed to a new font manager. Normally this would not be a big issue, but I am writing about it for two reasons.
The font manager I was using I have used for many years and always loved. I will refer to it as Font Manager A (I really don’t want to name names since I am speaking badly of it).
The new font manager was unknown to me, I had never heard of it. Not only do I like the way it works much, much better, but the support staff was really great.
I wanted to write about it is because it works a little different than the Font Manager I was using, which is also the font manager that most people I know use also. I am so pleased with the new one I wanted to explain why.

The Problem:
I have been a Font Manager A user for many years. Recently I upgraded my MacBookPro’s operating system to SnowLeopard. A couple of days after that I saw that Font Manager A had a SnowLeopard patch. I installed it and after that when I tried to save a file in InDesign, it not only crashed, but it corrupted the file. This happened three times, you can imagine how frustrating that was.

So I twittered about the problem I was having and got a response from someone that said they used FontAgent. I had heard of Font Manager A, and the Font Manager that had merged with it, Mac’s Font Book, and even a free font manager called Font Xplorer, but I had never even heard of Font Agent.

So let me explain some of the differences and some of the cool things.

First I noticed that I could not activate a font temporarily. I could go into the preferences and set it so that any manually activated fonts would open after a restart, but on second thought I didn’t want that. Here’s why. I have 20 fonts that I want on all the time. When I am designing a logo I manually turn on 50 fonts. If I set it to activate manually activated fonts after a restart all 70 fonts would come on. The way around this is to leave it set so that manually activated fonts turn off after a restart (which is the default), and make what is called a start up set. I made a new set, then right clicked and selected Start up set. Then I dragged my 20 fonts I want open all the time into the set and Font Agent activates those 20 fonts every time I restart. The 50 fonts, I opened for a logo project, get turned off on a restart. It’s a different way of thinking about it, but it achieves the same result.

It seems that when I open an Illustrator or InDesign file Font Manager A activated the fonts the files needed and they were all there when the file was drawn to screen. Font Agent activates all my fonts also, but it seems like it does it a little later in the file opening process. I see a window about missing fonts, click okay, the missing font window closes and I see the activating fonts messages. This is so far the biggest problem I have had, and it doesn’t really bother me.

On a side note, Font Manager A would deactivate a font of mine all the time after a restart, even though I had it set to be permanently activated. I have not had this problem since I put the same font in a start up group.

The next thing I noticed is Font Agent activates fonts in Illustrator, InDesign, Quark and Photoshop. Font Manager A didn’t activate for Photoshop.

It also activates fonts for Safari and Mail. Now this may not seem like a big thing, most web designers use only web safe fonts and all computers have those. But much to my surprise as I surf the web or scroll through email I see Font Agent messages about fonts being activated, (this can be turned off) non-standard, non-websafe fonts. After I saw that I started to pay attention to webpages and they looked different, they looked the way the were meant to, non standard. I was really surprised by this. I think you can put programs into the preferences in Font Manager A to have it activate fonts for other programs, but I had never done that, I never knew I could until I started to write this.

Font Agent’s font menu can be set to WYSIWYG so you can see your font names in the font style. I think Font Manager A can do this, but is was really slow on my machine.

Font Agents tools for classifying fonts seems much more comprehensive and the search tools seem to work a little better. Now maybe I will finally get my fonts organized, but just in case I don’t Font Agent has something called the Font Player. It allows you to select a group of fonts and quickly automatically scroll through them. I could manually scroll through my fonts with Font Manager A (I can with Font Agent also) but every once in a while it would crash and the font would get marked as a bad font. So far with Font Agent I have not had it lock up and mark any fonts as bad. As I understand it Font Agent does a better job of fixing, and excluding bad fonts during the adding fonts process.

When I dragged all my fonts into Font Manager A I had 9874 fonts. When I dragged them into Font Agent I had 10381.

Both Font Manger A and Font Agent let you make smart sets, set attributes about fonts, make multiple sets, store your fonts in one folder, organize your font folder, and collect for output.

It may not seem like a big deal, but then it shouldn’t be. If I am having to think about managing fonts, my Font Manager isn’t doing it’s job. I hope you check it out, FontAgent.