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Managing Fonts in the Mac OS

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Managing Fonts

By Jim Felici, contributor to The Macintosh Bible, Eighth Edition

Fonts multiply like rabbits. The Mac OS gives you fonts. Applications give you fonts. And you'll find it hard to pass by those cheap CDs full of fonts. The next thing you know, you've got hundreds of them all over the place.

It's no wonder that font management has become a big issue and that there are so many programs out there to whip your fonts into line.

There are two main reasons to manage your fonts. First of all, it reduces System overhead (having gobs of fonts on hand saps your Mac's energy) and shortens your Font menu so you can find and choose fonts more quickly and easily. Also, in Mac OS 9 there is a limit as to how much stuff the System will let you cram into the Fonts folder (512 suitcases). If you exceed this limit, things start to go haywire. You may, for example, suddenly find that all of your dialog box inputs appear in the Symbol font. This is a wake-up call that tells you the System is teetering on the brink of a crash. Mac OS X doesn't have a suitcase limit.

The Do-It-Yourself Approach

The simplest method of font management is to keep only those fonts in your Fonts folder that you'll actually be using. Just store the others in some other folder: For Mac OS 9 and earlier, that would be outside your System Folder; for Mac OS X, that would be outside the various Fonts folders you can keep them in. You can then add them back as needed. In the case of some older applications, you may need to restart the program to get it to recognize fonts you added while the program was running. This is not a big deal and will ultimately save time compared to scrolling through mile-long Font menus whenever you want to change a typeface. If you are working in the Classic environment of Mac OS X, you have to restart Classic after dragging fonts into the System Folder.

As part of your housekeeping, you may be tempted to rename certain font files. Take care! You can rename suitcases holding screen fonts, but do not rename TrueType fonts or PostScript printer fonts--their filenames are specific and important, and changing them could cause all sorts of font confusion, substitutions, and even System crashes.

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