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Font, That Four-Letter Word

(May 2005) posted on Thu May 05, 2005

The greatest cause of printing-file disasters.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Stephen Beals

For Mac users, another solution is a $10 shareware product
called Font Cache Cleaner, recently renamed Font Finagler
(available from
You may also want to consider an overall system
cleaner such as OnyX, a freeware that's available from www.tita (not related to Onyx Graphics).

A warning here to PC users: A multitude of cheap font collections
are available for PCs, as are some very inexpensive fontmanagement
utilities. While some of these may be fine, a good
rule of thumb is to avoid them like the plague. Stick with known
products and reputable font designers and studios. If you want
to spend time researching the companies you can trust, more
power to you"?but consider if you can really afford to risk all the
pain that a bad font can cause. And now that Macs can use PC
fonts, this warning also applies to Mac users.

Mac OS X users need to be aware of some other considerations
as well. For instance, when you open and close fonts, there
are little bits of data that may not follow instructions"?particularly
if you are jumping back and forth in Classic mode, or dealing
with a very large number of fonts in a variety of programs.
Think of the poor ref in the aforementioned imaginary basketball
game; it's a wonder that things work as smoothly as they do!
Mac OS X users also should get rid of the large number of
excess fonts that OS X automatically seeks to install on your
system. There are actually six locations for fonts in OS X, so the
process can be a bit involved.

A rowdy bunch

PC users should keep in mind that much of the final output is
still done from Macs, and some Mac and PC fonts are not as
cross-platform as you might think. For true cross-platform interoperability,
OpenType is a good choice. Whether you are upgrading
your font collection on either Mac or PC platforms, give careful
consideration to going with the OpenType solution.

For OS X users, a good combination would be Apple's font
management in OS X 10.3.7, a robust font-management utility
like FontAgent Pro, and a cache-cleaning utility such as Font
Finagler, and the freeware OnyX. With that package, you have a
pretty good chance of controlling what could be a very rowdy
bunch of four letter words.

Stephen Beals (, in prepress production
for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager
with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.