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What Is Font Management?

Fonts are everywhere. From print ads to webpages, and even clothing labels, fonts are an integral part of many forms of communication. For anyone who works regularly with fonts, having a system for organizing and managing them is critical. Many graphic designers, creative directors, and print and publishing professionals rely on font management software to support their creative workflows.

Font management software can be used to:

  • Centralize, organize, and sort font collections
  • Preview and compare fonts easily for quick identification and selection
  • Detect and repair corrupt, missing, or duplicate fonts
  • Activate and deactivate fonts as needed
  • Manage and track font licenses
  • Connect to cloud-based font services such as Google Fonts

Creatives know the value of collecting striking fonts. Unfortunately, growing collections can become difficult to manage manually. Many designers turn to a font manager so that they can stay organized, save time, and reduce busywork in their creative processes.

How to Organize Fonts on Your Computer

Generally speaking, font organization can be employed on your computer and in your workflow or process. If you are interested in how to manage fonts on your computer, it will depend on the type of computer you use. This approach generally leads to a more static organization of your fonts. If you’re curious about how to organize fonts for your creative process, there are many tools available that will let you organize them in a way that works best for you. We’ll touch on that in a minute.

How to Organize Fonts on Mac

Apple has created a simple way to organize fonts. Since 2003, all macOS computers come with an application called
Font Book. Whenever you click on a new font file, Font Book opens automatically.

Fonts are automatically organized into default collections, but you can create different collections and add fonts accordingly. You can also set up “Smart” collections by listing criteria for which fonts you want included in the collection. Font Book will then automatically add new fonts which fit the specified criteria for the smart collection.

Font Book makes it possible to organize and locate fonts on a Mac. However, if you’re actively using your font collection in design projects, it’s unlikely to meet your font manager needs.

How to Organize Fonts on Windows

Unlike macOS, Windows does not have built-in application to organize fonts. Instead, you can manage fonts through a “Control Panel.” The Fonts Control Panel can be accessed via the “Appearance and Personalization” control panel category. Fonts are automatically organized by font families, and you can view by cards, organize, preview, delete, and hide fonts.

It’s true that Windows 10 has provided better support for fonts than previous versions, such as drag-and-drop font installation. However, if you want to change how your font collection is organized, you will need to invest in a font manager.

Organizing fonts manually in folders across storage locations — such as your hard drive, external drives, cloud drives, and networks, can be tedious and time-consuming. Font managers are often necessary for graphic designers to take full advantage of their fonts without being weighed down by them. If your font collection has outgrown your ability to manually track and organize it, it may be time to invest in a font manager.

What is a Font Manager?

A font manager is a software solution for using your fonts more effectively. Organization is just one benefit of a good font manager. We’ll also explore some of the other key benefits, and how you can use them in your workflow.

For many of us, organizing is not a one-size-fits-all activity — and this can be especially true of fonts. Perhaps one reason for this is that people buy fonts for different reasons at different times. You may associate a font you’ve purchased with its style, or remember the foundry who provided it, the type designer who brought it to life, or the client project for which you used it. Flexible organization allows you to organize your fonts in the way that best suits how you think about them and how you use them.

Using a font management application (such as
Connect Fonts or Universal Type Server) allows you to consolidate and organize your fonts by project, client, foundry, font family, type designer, serif vs. sans-serif, or whatever system best supports your workflow.

Another benefit to a robust font manager is that it allows users to really connect with their fonts on a visual level. During the design process, jumping out of a creative application and sorting through file names (rather than visual font previews) can be a little jarring and extremely time-consuming.

Most designers’ font collections are constantly growing. The management of even a few hundred fonts can feel like a waste of time, and wrangling thousands of fonts can lead to countless hours of busywork. Organizing your font collection with a font manager can help you be more productive and creative in your work. And better organization is just the beginning. Font managers deliver several other key benefits worth considering:

+ Font Auto-Activation Plugins Perhaps the single biggest time saver for busy designers is font auto-activation. Professional font managers offer this because it enables designers to activate certain fonts in advance. For example, let’s say that one of your clients has a couple corporate fonts, and you have back-to-back projects for this client planned over the next few months. Instead of constantly activating these fonts every time you open a Sketch file or Adobe Photoshop file from this client, a font manager can activate them automatically. This will reduce the steps in your process and save you time.

Tools to Improve Consistency Using the wrong font can lead to unhappy clients, work being totally overhauled, and even license compliance issues. To make things more complicated, many established fonts actually have multiple versions, with no indication in the file names to help you differentiate between them. And to the naked eye, a random sampling of text in one font may look identical to the same text displayed in a similar font, even though there are often key character or kerning differences between the two versions. The best font managers prevent the automatic substitution of one font for another. If your chosen font is unavailable, you will be prompted to choose another version that works in your design.
+ Search, Preview, and Compare Fonts Even with the most meticulously organized collection, it can be hard to decide on which font to use. A good font manager will give you tools to quickly find, preview, and compare different fonts before adding them to documents. With the right font manager you can choose wisely and move forward with confidence.


How Do I Fix Font Errors?

Many designers have experienced the dreaded “missing fonts” error message in a creative application such as Adobe InDesign. There are many reasons why a font may not display correctly. When you don’t have the font you need, it can derail a project by causing downtime and costly mistakes.

A couple of common font issues (and how to fix them)

  • Font conflicts — Conflicts can happen when a font required for a project has the same internal system name as a font already in use on your computer — but the fonts are not identical. Differences can include font type, version, character inconsistencies, and other variations as well. Some font managers use the font’s internal name or font menu name as the only way to identify it, leaving the door open for unexpected font substitutions. Extensis font management software avoids this issue through font-matching technology to accurately detect exact matches using comprehensive characteristics unique to each font. This ensures the right font is used every time.

  • Missing fonts — Sometimes a font is available but inactive, and professional font managers will help resolve these missing fonts through auto-activation. Basic font managers don’t offer font auto-activation. The best professional font managers can ensure a smoother workflow by identifying, locating, and activating the exact fonts you need for all your projects.

What is a Font Server?

While many individuals and smaller creative teams may choose to go with a cloud-based font manager, larger organizations may benefit from a font server. Server-based font managers give administrators a central hub from which to store, organize, control, and distribute fonts to any number of users. This saves font administrators significant time and streamlines the process of getting the right fonts to the end-users who need them.

The phrase “font server” has also become a shortened way to reference server-based font managers such as Universal Type Server (UTS).

Many large organizations choose a server-based font manager because it provides:

  • Centralization — All fonts are accessed from one secure location, as opposed to being scattered across various devices and drives.
  • Consistency — Users are guaranteed to all be using the same fonts, which protects branding, prevents errors, and supports compliance.
  • Compliance — Tools that ensure your organization only uses fonts for which it has licenses can protect the company from confusion and misuse. These types of font servers can , ultimately help you avoid font compliance litigation.
  • Collaboration — Teams have access to the same fonts to use across projects, eliminating confusion.
  • Creativity — Users gain access to a wider variety of fonts when they are centrally managed for easier access

Once you start managing your fonts correctly, you’ll find yourself saving time, improving consistency, and just generally enjoying your creative process more.

Want To Learn More About Managing Your Font Collection?