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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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!