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.