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  • Carol Hansen Grey

For the Love of Fonts!


My love affair with fonts started when I got my first Mac in 1984! Granted, back then, there certainly wasn't a big variety of fonts available -- mainly a couple Serif fonts (New York, Garamond), a few San-Serif fonts (Geneva, Monaco, Chicago) and Apple Symbols! Prior to getting my first Mac, I had been an avid calligrapher for about 5 years, so my love of lettering preceded my love of fonts. As I continued to upgrade my Mac every few years, the number of fonts available increased exponentially.


About 10 years ago I discovered a program called FontExplorer that was like a dream come true for me as a font management program. As I understand it, it was developed by Linotype to manage their enormous volume of fonts. At the time it was given away as a free program and I immediately fell in love with it's many features some of which I have listed below. It is no longer a free program, however you can download a free trial version here. I currently have over 18,000 fonts catalogued in my Font Explorer program. I don't know how I would manage that number of fonts without this useful tool.


THE INTERFACE


Font Explorer has a deceptively easy to use interface for this feature-rich program. On the left of the screen is the "Library" that displays all your Font Sets and also displays the total number of fonts installed as well as the number of fonts in each set. To the right of the Library is your Font List. When you click on any SET the fonts in that set show up as a list.


Below the Font List is a space where you can type sample text that will show up in the space below your typed text in the font you have selected from the Font List. You have a choice of showing one line, multi-line or waterfall. You can also choose the display size of the font from a drop down menu (or type any size into the box).


Details of each font are displayed in a small window under the list of Font Sets. You can also get more information about the font by double-clicking it in the Font List. This opens a new window that shows usage information, comments you may have typed about the font, when you imported it and much more. It also includes a unique character viewer showing all the special characters included in the font.


Screenshot of Font Explorer Library showing "sets" and the Font List on the right.

ORGANIZE YOUR FONTS BY SETS


1. This is a great feature: You can name your sets whatever you like and create as many sets as you want. I have over the years created more than 70 sets to accommodate the way I want to search for a font I'd like to use. The sets are all listed in alphabetical order. Here is a short example of some of my named sets: Activated Fonts (this is an automatic set created by the program that shows all the fonts you currently have activated on your computer); Ancient Script; Brush Script; Calligraphy Script; Calligraphy Brush; Chalk; Commercial Use Fonts (more about this set below); Graffiti; Grunge; Hand Printed; Hand Written; Old English/Gothic; Ornamental Caps/Initials; San Serif; Serif; Script, etc. If you like fonts from a particular font designer, you can make a set of just that designer's fonts.

  • You can also organize your fonts in "Application sets" that can activate certain fonts when a specific application is launched and then optionally deactivate them when the application quits.

  • It also has a font detector that can identify fonts used in different types of documents and create a new set from those fonts.

2. You can place your fonts in more than one set which I find is really useful. For instance, I might have a font in the Serif set that is also in the Commercial Use set. This lets me know that the font I may want to use is available to me to be used for graphics I may design that I want to sell or show publicly.


3. You can color-code your fonts. This is EXTREMELY useful. I've color coded all my commercial use fonts green, so no matter what other set I'm exploring, if I see a green highlighted font, I know I can use it in a commercial product. I've color-coded "personal use fonts" yellow that indicates to me that I cannot use the selected font in a commercial project unless I purchase a commercial license. If a font in my list is NOT color coded, it means I can only safely use it for personal use so if I want to use it for commercial purposes, I need to do some research to find out if the license includes commercial use. If I cannot find that information, I will NOT use the font for commercial projects.


4. You can add information about each font (i.e., where you purchased it, the name of the designer, the website of the designer, the date of purchase/download, etc.)


DISPLAYING YOUR FONTS


1. When you click on a set you've created, the list of fonts in that set shows up in the "Font List" located to the right of the Library.


2. When you click on a specific font in the list, you can see what it looks like in the sample text you have typed below the list in whatever size you desire. This is so useful if you are creating a graphic and want to see how the lettering will look in the graphic in various sizes.


ACTIVATING/DE-ACTIVATING YOUR FONTS


When you find a font you want to use, you can easily activate it by clicking on the little box to the left of the font you've chosen or by right-clicking on the font and choosing "activate" from the fly-out menu. You de-active the font in the same way -- unchecking the box on the left of the font or right-clicking and choosing "de-activate."

I have only skimmed the surface of all the great features of this font management program. To see a list of all the features included in Font Explorer, CLICK HERE.