Fontcase 2: Revisiting Your Font Collection

Elegance is not a word that you would associate with Font Book, Apple’s built-in font management application. Personally, I found Font Book to be clunky and annoying at best. For designers, who have font collections ranging in the thousands, managing and previewing text in Font Book is far from ideal.

There are not many font management applications available for your Mac, but at least one clearly stands out as worth revisiting: Fontcase.

Fontcase 2's new look

Fontcase is an application developed by Bohemian Coding, who also made the recently updated Sketch application. Created to replace Font Book, or any other font management application, Fontcase is a beautifully designed, powerful application.

Design

The application features a gorgeous icon and a wonderful user interface that pays attention to detail. Living all inside one window, Fontcase consolidates your fonts into three different views: Collections, which are custom groups of fonts, Genres and Tags. In the settings, you can even create Smart Collections, like Smart Playlists, as well as organize your fonts by Foundry, Designer or Language. Fontcase even fills in the information for you. Using Typedia, a online source for information about thousands of fonts, most of the metadata information will be filled in automatically.

In all of these views its incredibly simple to preview fonts. Just click a font or font family and the preview pane changes to show off the different weights and styles of the font. Command + Click multiple font families to compare fonts or just scrub over the font in the main window to get a quick look at each variation.

You can preview fonts in short sentences, in body format or preview just the font’s set of glyphs (like then @ or * symbols). One of the neatest features is the ability to edit the preview text. Just double click and start typing.

Examining glyphs

Activation

No, I’m not talking about the horrible process of entering in a product key from Microsoft or a license code from Adobe. I’m talking about enabling and disabling fonts to help improve the performance of your computer. In some cases, your font library might number in the thousands. Having every font in your library open and running can majorly impact your memory usage and can even slow down your Mac.

When you aren’t using a font, or in most cases a collection of fonts, you can deactivate the fonts with just one click (or by pressing Command + Enter). The font family will have a green label when activated, gray when deactivated and yellow/black stripes to represent system fonts (which can neither be activated or deactivated).

Auto Activation

In some instances, you may deactivate fonts or entire collections that a file is dependent on. With Auto-Activation enabled, Fontcase can detect when a file is looking for a deactivated font and can quickly activate it so you don’t run into annoying errors.

I found the auto-activation to work as described. It was almost magical as collections and font families reactivated so my text wouldn’t revert to another font. Auto-activation is supported by most Mac applications, including iWork and Adobe’s Creative Suite. This auto-activation does not, unfortunately, work in InDesign. However, Fontcase does give you the option to automatically activate all fonts within the foremost InDesign document.

Semi-auto activation within InDesign

Typesetter

One of the flagship features for Fontcase 2 is the ability to test fonts on any webpage. Fontcase has a built in web browser with this special capability. To preview a font, just drag it onto the text that you are wanting to replace and the change happens instantly. You can even change the text’s color, size and line height.

 

The Mac AppStorm site looks great in red

The default page, called the Specimen, that appears when you open a font in the Typesetter window is also incredibly useful. Being able to quickly grasp all the different letters, characters and how they work together has been very helpful.

The "Specimen" page allows you to grasp how the font would work in different sizes

iOS

To get a closer look at your font choice, or to see how legible a font is on an iPhone compared to your Mac, you can use Fontcase Viewer. This $0.99 app is available in the App Store for both iPad and iPhone. Fontcase viewer pairs with your iOS device over a Wifi network.

View fonts on your iOS devices

Other Details

The metadata Fontcase uses, like ratings on your fonts, what collections you create, and more is all stored inside Fontcase’s vault, which is another term for their database that they use. This makes it easy to move between systems, or store your fonts on an external hard drive. I personally have stored my Fontcase vault inside of Dropbox. (Though it is important not to open the vault on multiple systems at the same time!) Fontcase’s minimal preferences window can also help you move your Fontcase vault around easily.

When dragging a new font you’ve purchased or downloaded into Fontcase, you also have the opportunity to add it directly to a collection or to a tag. Just drag it over the icon for Collections or Tags and wait a second. This makes keeping things organized a cinch.

Fontcase also makes printing your fonts out beautiful. It will generate a wonderful sheet that can be used to easily compare fonts on paper. I’ve found it to be really useful when working on print projects– just to make sure that I know how the typeface I chose will look in the real world.

Fontcase's printout for the font, Arvo

Wrap Up

Fontcase is an incredible application for designers and font-lovers alike. With features that let you organize to your heart’s content, automatically activate the fonts you need before you know that you need them, and even let you preview your fonts on websites and iOS devices, I haven’t found an app that can compare.

While I wouldn’t be hesitant to recommend this to a designer, I doubt the average person needs Fontcase. The price tag is also a bit of a hurdle at $34.99. It is available in the Mac App Store as well as in trial form on their website.

If you’re a designer or font lover, give Fontcase a spin, and let us know what you think!


Summary

A elegant font manager that makes working with thousands of fonts a breeze.

9
  • Buchholdtd

    Hi there

    I would like to disagree with your verdict :-)

    If you are a heavy font user, like most designers, you will soon notice that font case ver. 2 has downgraded the usability, in favor for the smooth look. If you compare it agains ver. 1 and other font managing apps, you will see that the managing part has suffered greatly. Adding a font to a collection is to slow and cumbersome.

    But it does look great. I would give it a 5/10

    • Sebastian Szwarc (@Behinder)

      Exact my point. I made a review on my site and for me Fontcase was far from ideal and additionaly brought a mess to system fonts.

  • http://www.affonso.org Alex Affonso

    I agree with Buchholdtd. Fontcase 2 was a downgrade from first version. 9 was a generous score, it’s not this close from being a perfect 10 software.

  • Arthur

    I recommend FontExplorer X to heavy font users.

  • http://vectorform.com John Einselen

    Absolutely agree with the other comments, and shocked that anyone would recommend Fontcase! This application is unusable in any sort of profesional environment, and even hobbyist-level designers will be frustrated. Ayone wanting to actually work with fonts must look elsewhere.

    Earlier versions were unstable (crashing regularly), but at least allowed you to organise and catalog typefaces – more specifically, you could drag-and-drop a font from one category to another, browsing fonts just like you would music tracks in iTunes. Creating smart folders, collections, tagging, and other features were all easily accessible and at the forefront of the application.

    With version 2.0, you can’t even browse collections and tags at the same time, much less drag-and-drop between them without complicated keyboard shortcuts! It’s a font *browser*, with extremely limited functionality, and nothing more.

    When I politely contacted the developer to question their change in application design (from an iTunes management structure in 1.5, to an App Store style browse-only setup in 2.0), they rudely told me a multi-step process with hidden keyboard shortcuts and no visual feedback was “better” than the old, simpler procedure of browsing and managing font collections.

    You’re better off looking elsewhere. Even Apple’s Font Book is better for managing fonts.

    • B30

      Totally agree with that, it’s a pity what the developer had done to that useful (v 1.5) software.

  • Krol

    I guess that there really are more powerful font managing apps.
    But for browsing fonts and previewing them this app do well.
    Maybe other apps got extended functionality. I’ve tried few — they all are a complicated mess. But this one really focuses on how font looks and feels without distractions.

  • Krol

    And making font previews in squares is brilliant idea.
    It’s far less distracting than sample lines in different styles and far more easier to browse then just a font names list.
    And when you got the right font, you can view sample text in lines, columns etc.
    But yes — managing font collections could be better.

  • Tim

    Adobe would make a killing if they re-released ATM Deluxe, which blows away anything available today. I like FontExplorer X, but still not as good as ATMD.

  • Maegz

    When I switched with my graphic design productivity setup from Windows to Mac I first couldn’t believer there isn’t something elegant like MainType. Everything you would want in a font software is there: Smooth activation/deactivation, a clear user interface and more. Font Explorer is way overpriced and only focused on the Linotype shop, so I bought Fontcase at a lower price. But I still miss MainType.

    • Tim

      “only focused on the Linotype shop”
      Why would this matter unless you are planning to buy fonts through the software? I use it purely for organization and previewing. You can do those things with any font on your system, not just Linotype fonts.

  • phunkidude

    Having a ‘pretty’ font app that doesn’t auto-activate in InDesign is like having a hybrid Ferrari.
    Font Agent Pro is the best by far.

  • Wilhelm Deussen

    I agree with the above commenters. v.2 is a downgrade over the first version. Moreover, the developer was very snotty about the special price when upgrading from v.1, which was nonexistent. When I mailed him about it, his reasoning was that the app store doesn’t allow special upgrade prices, and he ended his mail with telling me that nobody was forcing me to upgrade.

  • http://thegraphicmac.com Jim

    I just reviewed Extensis Suitcase Fusion 4 – which is a HUGE improvement over version 3, especially with the new Font Match feature. Prior to that, I used Font Explorer (which is a fairly ugly and clunky app to begin with).

    http://www.thegraphicmac.com/extensis-suitcase-fusion-4-new-version-brings-useful-features

    I’ve tried every font manager for the Mac that there is over the years… sometimes I continue to use some of them for several months. But I always seem to end up switching back to Suitcase.

    • phunkidude

      Suitcase 4 does not auto-activate fonts in CS6. Apparently they did not get the developers previews like the rest of the planet.

      • Ryan

        Actually it they do auto-activate. Works for me in CS6 with SF4.

  • Nicholas

    I look forward to the day when mac.appstorm promotes useful, affordable alternatives to expensive and clunky software.

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