There’s people who know that using Comic Sans is an invitation to mockery and that Helvetica Neue is the official designer font of record, and then there’s people who have meticulously curated libraries of hundreds and thousands of fonts. For the former, the built-in Font Book app has typically been enough — there’s the tools to add and preview fonts that most people need. There’s more advanced font management tools, but they’re simply too much for most of us.
Bohemian Coding, the team behind the incredibly popular design tool Sketch and the now-unsupported font management tool Fontcase, has just released a beautiful new font app aimed at the casual user and designers alike: Fonts. It’s the first font app that’s designed for the vast majority of Mac users, with a UI that’s reminiscent of what we can only imagine an iOS 7 inspired OS X redesign would look like.
Fonts is a brand-new font organization app that’s most closely like Font Book. It’s nothing like the more advanced font management applications, like its older sibling Fontcase — there’s no options to activate/deactivate fonts, print out a font specimen, edit font metadata, or anything else. Instead, it’s focused on giving you the very best font preview experience possible, with a few extras thrown in, all for the low price of $9.99.
Fonts shows all of your installed fonts along with your Collections from Font Book in a beautifully clean interface that’s focused on your fonts. You can browse through your library of fonts in Fontcase-style preview squares or a more detailed list view as seen below, with live previews that show the typeface name and a larger preview of the first two letters of its name rendered in the font itself. Mouse over the preview square to see a quick preview of each of the weights, or select the font to see a full preview on the right, one where you can type the text of your choice and see it automatically reused when you select the next font. Every weight is still available from a hidden drop-down menu that appears when you mouse over the weight under the font name in the preview.
Fonts is designed first and foremost to make it easy to compare your fonts and weights, and that’s most apparent in the list view. Here, you’ll see a full line of text as the font preview, one that again you can edit and see automatically reused by every font. By default typefaces will be shown together with a listing of how many weights they contain, but you can double-click and see all the weights individually as well.
That’s where organization comes in. There’s a Fonts-only star option that lets you mark your favorite fonts, and then you’ll also notice your collections brought over from Font Book on the lower left column, including the smart collections. You can drag whole typefaces or individual font weights to collections you want, or make new collections in Fonts that’ll show up throughout OS X. Any app that shows the normal OS X font picker will show your Fonts collections just like it shows your Font Book collections. The only frustration here is that there’s no way to add new smart collections or edit existing ones — though perhaps that’s not so surprising, since Fonts is designed to make it simple to look at your fonts, compare them visually, and then categorize them. And for that, Fonts is great.
There’s one final feature that’s awesome, and yet needs fleshed out a bit more: Glyphs. Fonts lets you browse every glyph in all of your fonts in a beautiful list, and copy the character or HTML/UTF code to your clipboard. It’s the nicest way to look through everything each of your fonts offer, and is a great option just for an easy way to copy hard-to-type characters without having to know what they’re called. But, it’s not perfect. Oddly, copying the character only copies the raw character itself, not a formatted character with the font you were using — unlink Font Book, where the similar feature doesn’t have fancy copy options but does copy the formatted character from that exact font if you tap CMD+C. Then, I couldn’t get the HTML option to work, though UTF did work great each time.
The Glyphs pane obviously needs the most work, but it also underlines one other problem: it takes more taps to see the individual glyphs in each font than it would in Font Book. I’d love it if the glyph preview in the main library view would also let you copy characters — or at least would keep the same font selected when you switch to the Glyph view. And, obviously, it’d be nice if it could copy the formatted text of the character to make it easy to copy and paste any font’s character into any other app.
It’s hard to miss the other major part of Fonts: its beautiful iOS 7-style UI, complete with outline icons and faint text close and minimize buttons in the top left corner. A trend first started with Simplenote for Mac, Fonts takes OS X flat design to its only logical conclusion if iOS 7 style design is the goal — and it’s beautiful. Maybe that style isn’t for everything, but it sure looks great in a type-focused design.
Fonts is a tough app to classify, since really it’s in a class of its own. The simplest way to think of it is an experiment in redesigning Font Book with a light UI that’s focused around seeing your fonts in action. For anyone who loves fonts and enjoys comparing them, organizing them, and seeing everything each typeface has to offer, it’s absolutely great — and at just $9.99, it’s not a huge purchase like most professional font organization apps are.
But then, it’s not everything those who seriously need advanced font organization might want. It’s really a new app, reimagined for today’s font needs. For that, it’s a great first version, one that’ll be interesting to see develop further in the near future. It’s a simple and beautiful way to compare your fonts and enjoy what they have to offer, and that’s nice. But a new Fontcase it isn’t.