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Old 10-13-2010, 08:29 PM   #1
John Spragens
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 437
Default How does OS X handle fonts?

For the past few weeks I've been trying, sporadically, to figure out some font strangeness on my main Mac.

Packrat that I am, I'd installed just about every font I own on the computer. (Most of the font files reside in Library:Fonts, except for a few system fonts that are in System:Library:Fonts.)

I was surprised, then, when one of the fonts I use most often (Myriad Pro) didn't show up in the font menu in FileMaker Pro, even though I'd been using it regularly in InDesign.

My first thought was that maybe FileMaker couldn't deal with as many fonts as I had installed -- about 1,800, by Font Book's count. So I went through the list in Font Book, deactivating (turning to Off) all but a few score fonts.

That didn't help me with my problem in FileMaker. And I noticed a curious thing: FileMaker was still showing a huge number of fonts that I'd turned off in Font Book. InDesign was showing all fonts, even the ones that were turned Off, and including the ones missing from the FileMaker font list.

I'd expected that the Off setting in Font Book would be comparable to deactivating fonts in Adobe Type Manager on Windows. (The mechanism ATM uses is that it stores font files in folders separate from the system Fonts folder. When you activate a font, ATM writes a shortcut to the appropriate file into the system's Fonts directory. When you deactivate a font, it deletes the corresponding shortcut.) Only the activated fonts are available to programs running on the computer.

More recently, I went through the list in Font Book and pared down the number of installed fonts to 960.

That had the immediate benefit of making the font I wanted to use in FileMaker visible in its font menu. But some installed and activated fonts were still not showing up. And many fonts that were turned Off in Font Book were still in the menu. InDesign was still showing all installed fonts, regardless of whether they were supposed to be active of not, according to Font Book.

A side note on InDesign: When I had the 1,800-some fonts installed on the system, the fonts menu in InDesign was quirky, sometimes showing samples but not font names for many of the fonts in the list. Since I reduced the number of installed fonts to 960, InDesign doesn't seem to have any problem displaying all the font names.

Side note on another program: During the time I've been trying to figure this out, I bought TypeBook Creator. It shares FileMaker's problem of not being able to see some fonts that are installed and activated in Font Book. In spot checks, the missing fonts correspond between the two programs.

Side note on yet another program: In trying to figure out what was wrong in TypeBook Creator, their tech support person suggested a program called FontNuke, which finds and removes font caches on the system. I notice that a side effect of whatever it does is that all fonts that were set to Off in Font Book before a run show up as active after the run.

So ... I'm looking for clues.

The first thing I'd like to understand is what the activation and deactivation in Font Book are supposed to accomplish.

The second thing I'd like to find out is whether Suitcase or some other font manager actually does what I'd assumed Font Book would do -- that is, really change which fonts are available to programs running on the computer.

The third thing I'd like to understand is whether there's a practical limit to the number of fonts that should be active under Snow Leopard at a given time and, if so, what that limit is.

Anybody ... ?


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