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October 12, 2005

Cross one off my to-do list: Linotype’s new (free) FontExplorer X made the rounds last month when it originally launched, but I finally got a chance to install it the other day. On the off chance you use OS X and haven’t heard about it yet, now you have. A Windows version is coming shortly. When it’s available for both platforms, consider it a must-have tool.

Why would you need a font manager? Because you have hundreds or thousands of fonts installed on your computer. (If not, then obviously you don’t need one.)

While probably not as true these days, there was a time when a large collection of type would eat up memory pretty quickly. Even with vast stores of RAM though, who wants to scroll through hundreds upon hundreds of fonts every time you want to select Zapfino? A font manager allows you to turn on and off at will only the fonts you need. A good one will also offer quick previews and customizable collections so that you can better organize your type.

FontExplorer has plenty of other goodies up its sleeve, too; it’s basically iTunes for fonts, including things like ratings and smart lists. There’s even a built-in font store. And oh did I mention it’s completely free?

I’ve just started banging the tires, but already I can see why the rave reviews are pouring in. Here’s one of my favourite pleasant discoveries: you can use the Comment field as a list of tags, and then later filter them with smart lists or searches. So you could create a list that includes all fonts except those tagged with UltraCondensed, Dingbat, and Ornamental, for example. One minor annoyance is that you can’t add comments for entire families, only individual faces. That causes a bit of extra work in the short term, but it’s no deal-breaker.

Linotype has done an excellent job with FontExplorer, and I can genuinely see it changing the way I use type. It can’t hurt them that a free tool this good will only serve to inspire loyalty. I know I’ll be throwing more of my font dollars their way as a direct result.

Matthom says:
October 12, 07h

Thank goodness. The font manager included with OS X just does not get it done for me. I also tried Suitcase, but it seemed to bulky, as well. Hopefully FontExplorer will be viable solution. And at such a nice price tag, I think it’s, at least, worth a try.

October 12, 07h

There’s nothing worse than trying to browse through hundreds of fonts trying to pick the right one out for a design in photoshop while using “The down ↓ arrow Key” It gets annoying because you have to look at the fonts one at a time and the text needs to be hilighted for it to change (so you get this retro neon color on a black background).

This is definitely reason now to stick around for the Windows release. I’ll be looking forward to it.

AkaXakA says:
October 12, 08h

“A Windows version is coming shortly.”

Yes! Can’t wait. (Although, knowing my luck, it’ll come out when I switch over to OS X)

October 12, 09h

For Windows users, while you’re waiting, you might like “The Font Thing” (

It’s a freeware font viewer/manager that I find pretty handy. It hasn’t been updated in awhile, but it’s a nice little utility to have in your toolbox until FontExplorer for Windows is released.

October 12, 10h

Dustin: in Photoshop when you are previewing fonts you can hit command+h and it will hide the highlight. Hope that helps :)

As far as the software I’d like to try it but does it have auto activation? That is one feature that I love about suitcase.

October 13, 06h

I downloaded it recently, and I absolutely love it.

I used Suitcase for years, I’ve owned every version since 1 or 2 (I don’t remember - too long ago) and this is the first application that I think even comes close to Suitcase’s feature set.

But for free, it blows Suitcase out of the water.

I highly recommend FontExplorerX.

Ian Lloyd says:
October 13, 12h

I’m a little worried about what I’ve done eith this tool. First of all, it created a folder of removed fonts on my desktop which I immediately wanted to move elsewhere but worried that it could break the system somehow. I also don’t like the fact that it creates a folder in my home directory, and attempting to move it elsewhere is fruitless (next time it’s launched it re-creates that folder). Lastly, fonts that display fine in PhotoShop, that are supposedly enabled in Linotyp FontExplorer are showing up in that app as diamonds with question marks. I think they need to provide some preferences that you can set at startup, asking where you’d like stuff stored, otherwise problems like this can occur. I’m not sure what I should do to rectify the problems now!

October 14, 06h

Been waiting impatiently for a Windows version of FontExplorer X since I first heard of it.

@Chris King: While I find the Font Thing a bit lacking in font managing and sorting it is a nice little tool.

@Christpher Brewers: Thanks, I’ve thinking there should be something like that, but for some reason never bothered to check…

Keith Fox says:
October 14, 08h

I too have found Font Explorer an interesting alternative to Font Book. However if I want to preview asian fonts, the preveiw shows diamonds with question marks. And increasing the size of the preview, the text is cut off. But it is good and hopefully will become more polished.

October 16, 02h

For Windows users another nice tool for easy grouping
and installing/uninstalling is FontHit Font Tools

Marko says:
October 18, 09h

hm nice tool can’t wait when it comes to Windows, btw hmm what about
“The Font Thing”?