Font Management in OS X, by Kurt Lang


Last updated March 25, 2014

This article deals with font usage in OS X Panther 10.3.x through Mavericks 10.9.x. It's main purpose is to show you where fonts are located on your system and which can be safely removed. The idea is to keep your font list as small as possible to avoid font conflicts (font conflicts are explained in Section 13). This article will benefit prepress operators and graphic designers the most, but can clear up font issues for most general users as well.


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Table of contents

Preface: Understanding terminology used in this article.




1. Required fonts.

2. Known issues with disabled fonts.

3. Fonts installed by Microsoft Office.

4. What to do with Suitcase.

5. Controlling Helvetica and Courier fonts for prepress.

6. Font folder locations. Using Font Book.

7. Required fonts for OS 9 (Classic).

8. Various other fonts you can move or remove.

9. Do you need a font manager?

10. What is a font suitcase and why do we have them?

11. FFIL and LWFN. What are they and which is which?

12. External vs. internal font names.

13. What is a font conflict?

14. Are you a good font, or a bad font?

15. Fonts you can and cannot use in OS X.

16. Font manager reviews.

17. How to handle font caches.

18. Font 911. What to do in font emergencies.

19. Determining if fonts are causing problems with applications.

20. Reinstalling your OS X supplied fonts.


I first want to mention the notation of file locations. By 'notation' I am referring to the path name. This should help novice computer users and those unfamiliar with standard notation to learn how to navigate to the folders mentioned throughout this article.


I can't tell you exactly what the path to your home account looks like (since I don't know your short user name), so here are some handy notes of reference.


A file specification is the entire path from the root of the volume it resides on to the end of the file name. For example, here is the file specification for the Terminal application:




This is known as a hierarchical file specification in geek terminology, but it's called a canonical filename for short.


/    The beginning forward slash (as in the example to the Terminal application) of a file specification is always the root level of your boot volume.


~/  The tilde-forward slash pair is always your home directory (folder), i.e., the home folder of the current user login session.


So in most cases, the path to the Fonts folder in your home user account would be ~/Library/Fonts/. Which, if you start by double clicking the icon of the boot drive on the desktop, the path can also be presented as /Users/your_user_account/Library/Fonts/.


The following words: software program, application or app all have the same meaning. I use them interchangeably throughout this article.


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Required fonts

 This section examines each of the various OS X releases (Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks) and provides the recommended minimum list of the fonts to be stored in the System folder for that particular release of the operating system in order for it and most third party applications to run properly. These lists also include the fonts most needed for the web, iLife and iWork. The fonts listed should always be active on your Macintosh for OS X and should not be removed.


Note that this first part of Section 1 covers only fonts required in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. There is also a root /Library/Fonts/ folder with its own set of required fonts, which will be addressed in the second half of Section 1.


From the font lists below, Keyboard.dfont, LastResort.dfont and LucidaGrande.dfont are used mainly for menus and other system font display purposes; therefore, they are the most important to the OS itself. In Mountain Lion and earlier, you must never remove Lucida Grande. Without that font, the system will not boot. If you remove it while the system is active, you will lose control of all menus (they will be blank), essentially locking you out of your Mac.


All other fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder (that are not included in the lists below by release level) can be removed. You will need Administrative access to delete fonts from this folder. It is advised to save them for future use. Create a new folder on your hard drive and copy them there first. If there are any removed fonts you want to use for a project at a later date, they can always be activated with Font Book, Suitcase Fusion, FontAgent Pro, MasterJuggler, FontExplorer X Pro, or other font manager. Note that MasterJuggler is PowerPC only, and so is suitable for use only in Snow Leopard 10.6 or older versions of the Mac OS.


Beginning with Leopard, 10.5 and up through Mountain Lion 10.8, Apple made it difficult to remove critical fonts. If you attempt to remove protected fonts from the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder, the OS will tell you that you cannot remove the font(s) and immediately replaces them from copies in another location. There are many fonts you can still remove from the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder, but some will resurrect themselves. See section 5 on how to permanently remove Apple's supplied versions of Helvetica and Helvetica Neue in Leopard, 10.5 through Mavericks, 10.9 if this is important for you. Mavericks eliminated this type of font protection, but you still need to remove the supplied fonts if they conflict with other types of fonts you are required to use.


Other than those fonts the OS absolutely requires to function, when it comes to the fonts you prefer to have on your system there is no right or wrong list. My idea of required fonts is based on years in prepress. So like most shops, the number of fonts throughout the system is kept to a minimum in the effort to make sure you will never have a conflict with the fonts a client sends with their project. Actually, the prepress and full service printers I've worked and freelanced for usually have a much shorter list than even those presented here. Sometimes the barest minimum of Lucida Grande, Last Resort and Keyboard. Such shops normally have no unnecessary software installed on their work stations; just what's needed to get production work done.


This bare minimum setup has its advantages, but you will then be missing many fonts commonly used on the web. What then happens is that your browser ends up substituting the missing fonts with whatever font is available. The result is that web pages will display so badly at times that it can be difficult (or even impossible) to navigate them. The bare minimum setup also lacks many fonts that Apple supplied applications require to operate. So for most users having only the 'big three' fonts on your system is not recommended.


You can find many different web sites telling you what the minimum font installation for each OS X release should be. Each site has its own reasons for including some fonts that I do not, and others don't include fonts I think should be active. My main decision making was to run every application OS X ships with and many major third party applications, seeing what wouldn't work if a particular font were missing. The end result is the list of fonts you find here. It's a compromise between the Spartan set most prepress shops use, and what a more fully functional OS needs along with proper display of web pages.


Special Notes About Section 1 - Presented in no particular order as each OS release changes the rules a bit. Hopefully each is organized into its own paragraph, but no promises.


Readers who have followed this article for some time will note that Times and Symbol have been added to the required font lists. They were excluded before since this article was originally intended as a guide for prepress, when the article was also much shorter in length. So the lists have been modified to represent what the majority of OS X users should have in their /System/Library/Fonts/ folder, rather than the leaning towards the needs of prepress. So Courier has been added back into the minimum font lists for the System folder. As with Times and Symbol, remove Courier if it interferes with your need to use a PostScript version.


Users should be aware that not all font managers, and possibly other utilities, will list font names exactly as you see them here. For example, Suitcase Fusion's interface lists Keyboard and Helvetica Neue Desk UI as having a period preceding their names, even though they are not listed as having a period as part of the name by the OS. Not even if you do a file listing in Terminal. Font Book also hides some fonts in its listings from the user in Snow Leopard and later, such as LastResort and Keyboard. But you shouldn't be removing those fonts anyway.


Beginning with Lion, and likely from here forward, I would suggest users give up trying to use any Type 1 PostScript versions of Helvetica. Apple has tied their conflicting versions of Helvetica so closely to the OS, and in so many places, it is no longer easy to manage them. If you haven't already, purchase Adobe's or Linotype's new OpenType PostScript Helvetica fonts if you prefer, or require PostScript fonts for your output. They do not conflict with Apple's Helvetica fonts, so you don't have to fight with the OS supplied fonts as to which ones are active. Use Type 1 PostScript when you have to accurately reproduce a standing older project (see section 5 if this applies to you), but otherwise, avoid them.


One thing to be aware of when you disable Apple's Helvetica.dfont and HelveticaNeue.dfont, is that you are disabling quite a few fonts. This is because a .dfont is a suitcase which can contain any number of individual fonts. The following list is based on Mavericks. Mountain Lion and Lion do not have all of the Neue fonts listed here.


Helvetica: Regular, Bold, Bold Oblique, Light, Light Oblique, Oblique

Helvetica Neue: Regular, Bold, Bold Italic, Italic, Light, Light Italic, Medium, Medium Italic, Thin, Thin Italic, Bold Condensed, UltraLight, UltraLight Italic,  Condensed Black, Condensed Bold


Apple's Grapher program is not something normally used in prepress, which relies on the fonts Times and Symbol. As clients frequently use other versions of Times and Symbol, the Apple supplied versions can be excluded from the lists below if you need them out of the way. See section 2 for more on Grapher.


A note on the MM fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. Since Lion, OS X has continued to install these Multiple Master fonts. Also since Lion, a Terminal command named fontrestore has existed, which attempts move all third party fonts out of the system and main library folders. Run with the -n option, it pretends to go through the steps without actually doing anything; though it still does create the folder Fonts (Removed) in both the main /Library folder, and the /System/Library folders. When the Terminal command is run, it produces this "error" message:


These fonts are not part of the default system install. They would have been removed to 'Fonts (Removed)':



/System/Library/Fonts/Helvetica LT MM

/System/Library/Fonts/Times LT MM



The message is wrong since a default install of Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks will install these files. Font Book runs the Unix command fontrestore under the option Restore Standard Fonts. When run, it does indeed remove all of the MM fonts. Proof enough for me they're dead. For this reason, they are no longer included in the list of required fonts in Lion or later. The initial purpose for these fonts was to duplicate the Adobe Reader's built in MM fonts for use in Preview. These MM fonts no longer exist in the Adobe Reader, and it appears Apple has followed suit, but hasn't cleaned up the OS installers.


Starting with Lion, 10.7.x, Apple made the decision to hide the Library folder in the user accounts. Most tech writers presume this was to make it more difficult to locate and delete files a person shouldn't be digging through (without knowing what they're for). In order to see the Library folder of your account, Apple's method involves (1) being at the desktop, (2) hold down the Option key and (3) choose Go > Library from the menu. For advanced users, this gets really old since it's surprising how often you do go into your Library folder for various reasons. To make it permanently visible, open Terminal and enter the following command:


chflags nohidden ~/Library


This will make the Library folder visible for the account you are logged into at the time, so the command will need to be repeated for each user account as you log into each one. This change will also be reset if you reinstall the OS or apply any updates. You will then need to repeat the process.


In Mavericks, Apple has made showing your home Library folder much easier. Open your user account by double clicking the icon of the house within the Users folder. It must be the active folder in the Finder in order for this to work. Then choose View > Show View Options. There will be a check at the bottom labeled Show Library Folder. If your user account folder is not open and selected, you will not see this check box.


Required fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder.


The following lists, arranged by the release level of OS X, are the minimum recommended fonts.

  OS X, 10.9 Mavericks


Apple has shifted fonts around again in Mavericks. The Avenir, Palatino and Optima fonts, which were in the /Library/Fonts/ folder in Mountain Lion are now in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. The system Thonburi .ttf fonts have been combined into a single .ttc font.


Apple Gothic no longer appeared to be a required font, but a change in 10.9.2 has brought it back. The Messages app now fails if this font is missing. The default font for Notes is now Helvetica, so MarkerFelt is also no longer needed. You can easily change the default font for Notes back to MarkerFelt if you wish. Leave MarkerFelt on your system if you prefer to use that font.


The keyboard viewer has changed in Mavericks to use the font AppleSDGothicNeo. It will display very strangely if this font is not active.


Be extremely careful when removing fonts in Mavericks. There is no longer a ProtectedFonts folder. If you remove a critical system font and delete it, it's gone and will need to be replaced from a backup, or by reinstalling the OS if you have no backup.


In all previous versions of OS X, the loss of Lucida Grande would make your system unusable. What Mavericks does differently as a form of font protection is to use the first available system font (not including Apple Color Emoji) for the menus. I had already minimized the fonts in my System folder, so when I removed Lucida Grande, Mavericks switched to Courier, which was next in the list. If I removed that, the menus switched to Geneva. Mavericks will continue to move down the list of available fonts alphabetically.


The minimum fonts recommended for Mavericks in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder are:


Apple Color Emoji.ttf
















Fonts updated in 10.9.2


Apple Color Emoji.ttf, AmericanTypewriter.ttc, ArialHB.ttc

  OS X, 10.8 Mountain Lion


See the font list under Lion, 10.7. The minimum font list for 10.8 is almost identical to 10.7. AppleGothic.ttf is in the /Library/Fonts/ folder in Mountain Lion. It likely wasn't intended to be, but that's where it is. Be sure to keep AppleGothic.ttf when doing any purging of the /Library/Fonts/ folder. Otherwise, all other fonts are the same in Mountain Lion for the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder as they are in Lion.


The only other semi font related difference is that Notes has been separated from Mail as an individual app. As in previous versions of OS X, the default font for Notes is MarkerFelt.ttc.

  OS X, 10.7 Lion


At first glance, it appeared Lion had eliminated Helvetica Light and Helvetica Light Italic from its required fonts. They are still there and have been moved into the Helvetica.dfont package. HelveticaNeue, which was a .ttc font package in Snow Leopard, is now once again a .dfont. So .dfonts aren't as obsolete as it once appeared Apple was going to make them.


MarkerFelt.ttc has apparently been forgiven of some transgression by the rest of the fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder and has returned there from its banishment in the /Library/Fonts/ folder of Snow Leopard. If you use an email program other than Mail, you can remove Markerfelt.


I really don't know why HelveticaNeueDeskUI.ttc is a protected font. From the name, one would guess that DeskUI stands for Desktop User Interface. I've removed it from the system entirely in testing, and Lion didn't seem to care in the least that it was gone. It's also one of those fonts that Suitcase displays beginning with a period. In fact, even the names of the four fonts within the TrueType Collection start with periods. Because of that, even when active, they don't show up in any application. They're not hurting anything to be in the System folder, and Apple must have some purpose for them; I just can't see what that may be.


While you may never use it, Apple Color Emoji.ttf must be left in the System's Fonts folder. It will only cause a problem if you open the Character palette and click on the Emoji heading, but then the Character palette will be royally stuck.


Previously, you could remove Apple's Helvetica fonts and permanently use Type 1 PostScript versions in their place. Not any more. Address Book is one app which will not launch if Apple's version of Helvetica is missing. So for prepress, designers or others who must use Type 1 PostScript versions of Helvetica or Helvetica Neue, it is now a requirement to copy Apple's Helvetica fonts to a non Fonts folder location, remove them from the System and ProtectedFonts folders, and then set up separate sets in your font manager for Apple's Helvetica fonts, and another for your third party Helvetica fonts. Then turn on whichever set you need at the time and turn the other set off. It's not perfect as you may need the the Type 1 fonts open, which will leave you temporarily unable to open Address Book until you disable the Type 1 fonts and turn the Apple supplied versions back on. There is no way around it. You simply can't have both on at the same time.


So other than this new problem with Helvetica for those who need the use of Type 1 PostScript Helvetica fonts, the minimum System folder font list for OS X, 10.7 is:


Apple Color Emoji.ttf
















A handful of fonts have received an update for Lion over the course of the OS updates noted next. If you had previously removed the updated fonts from the /Library/Fonts/ folder, the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder and the ProtectedFonts folder, you will need to do so again. You can see some are repeated as some of the fonts have been updated more than once. Also, if you commonly use the Combo updates, they will contain all fonts which have been updated since 10.7.0. So even if there are no font updates in a given point release, you will still be reinstalling all fonts which have received changes. There are some minor date differences between 10.7.3 and 10.7.4 on a few fonts, but only by a few days. I would suspect they weren't actually changed.


Fonts updated in 10.7.2


In the /Library/Fonts/ folder:


Devanagari Sangam MN.ttc

Myanmar MN.ttc

Myanmar Sangam MN.ttf


In the /System/Library/Fonts/ and ProtectedFonts folders:





Fonts updated in 10.7.3


In the /Library/Fonts/ folder:



Devanagari Sangam MN.ttc


Myanmar MN.ttc

Myanmar Sangam MN.ttf




In the /System/Library/Fonts/ and ProtectedFonts folders:




  OS X, 10.6 Snow Leopard


The font formats have changed in Snow Leopard, though the main list of fonts shows little change. Apple has replaced many of their proprietary .dfont fonts with standard TrueType OpenType fonts, which have a .ttf or .ttc extension. There are a handful of .dfonts left in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder, but for the most part, they're obsolete (see section 8 for additional fonts Snow Leopard installs). As in OS X 10.5, the Multiple Master fonts are visible, but are blank entries which can be removed.


The recommended minimum font list for OS X, 10.6 is:






HelveticaLight.ttf  (added in 10.6.5)

HelveticaLightItalic.ttf  (added in 10.6.5)





Menlo.ttc  (the new default font for Terminal)





MarkerFelt.ttc is still required for the Notes portion of Mail in Snow Leopard, but is no longer in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. Instead, it's been moved to the /Library/Fonts/ folder.


OS X, 10.6.5 Snow Leopard


Two new fonts have been added in this midpoint update. Both of which are added to the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder, and the ProtectedFonts folder (reference section 5). As with Apple's versions of Helvetica and Helvetica Neue, the new HelveticaLight.ttf font conflicts with the Adobe Type 1 version. So you have yet another font to manage or remove in order to use your preferred, or required version of Helvetica Light. Other fonts have received updates, so if you've removed them following your initial install of Snow Leopard, you'll have to remove the fonts again following the install of any Snow Leopard Combo or Delta update which includes them. These fonts are:


In the /Library/Fonts/ folder:


Hoefler Text.ttc

STHeiti Medium.ttc


In the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder:






STHeiti Light.ttc


In the ProtectedFonts folder:





  OS X, 10.5 Leopard


In this version, the Multiple Master fonts used by Preview are visible, whereas they are hidden in earlier versions of OS X. Helvetica and Helvetica Neue are now in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder rather than the /Library/Fonts/ folder. Courier is no longer a critical system font in Leopard. Also notable is that Leopard comes with OpenType versions of the same named fonts installed by Microsoft Office listed in section three. The following list is the minimum set of fonts for OS X, 10.5.






Helvetica LT MM






MarkerFelt.dfont  (for the Notes portion of Mail)


Times LT MM





  OS X, 10.3 Panther, and   OS X, 10.4 Tiger













Required fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ folder.


The /Library/Fonts/ folder contains many standard web fonts. At minimum, the following fonts should remain in order for web pages to display properly. The names below are how they will appear in Leopard, 10.5 through Mavericks, 10.9.


Panther 10.3, and Tiger 10.4 have most of the following fonts as legacy Mac TrueType. Their names will be the same as the shorter list noted at the beginning of section three. Panther, 10.3 does not include Impact. Neither 10.3, or 10.4 include any version of Wingdings.


Recommended minimum fonts for the /Library/Fonts/ folder:



Arial Bold.ttf

Arial Italic.ttf

Arial Bold Italic.ttf

Arial Black.ttf

Arial Narrow.ttf

Arial Narrow Bold.ttf

Arial Narrow Italic.ttf

Arial Narrow Bold Italic.ttf

Comic Sans MS.ttf

Comic Sans MS Bold.ttf


Georgia Italic.ttf

Georgia Bold.ttf

Georgia Bold Italic.ttf



Tahoma Bold.ttf

Times New Roman.ttf

Times New Roman Bold.ttf

Times New Roman Italic.ttf

Times New Roman Bold Italic.ttf

Trebuchet MS.ttf

Trebuchet MS Bold.ttf

Trebuchet MS Italic.ttf

Trebuchet MS Bold Italic.ttf


Verdana Bold.ttf

Verdana Italic.ttf

Verdana Bold Italic.ttf


Wingdings 2.ttf

Wingdings 3.ttf



Note: In addition to the above list, if you are running Snow Leopard, you must keep MarkerFelt.ttc.

Note: In addition to the above list, if you are running Mountain Lion or Mavericks, you must keep AppleGothic.ttf.

All other fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ folder can be removed.


If you use iLife or iWork: The following fonts are also located in the /Library/Fonts/ folder. While the iLife and iWork apps will launch without the following fonts, the supplied templates use them. Apple suggests these fonts always be available for these apps. If you do not use the any of the iLife or iWork apps, you can remove these fonts. Most of these fonts in Leopard, 10.5 and earlier are .dfonts. Also in 10.5 and earlier, Chalkboard and Chalkboard Bold are separate fonts. In 10.6 and later, they are combined in the TrueType Collection, Chalkboard.ttc.












Hoefler Text.ttc




If you use Microsoft Office: See Section 3 of this article for more info on the fonts Office installs. Some are newer and some are older than those installed by Leopard through Mavericks.


Once you have manually reduced the fonts on your system to the minimum, always use your font manager to control all other font activation and deactivation. The better font managers will stop you from creating font conflicts. Your font manager can't help prevent that if you manually place fonts you want to use in a Fonts folder.


An important step you should take after manually removing fonts is to clear the font cache files from the system. See section 17 for the proper procedure. Font Book users should also reset the application to update its database. See section 6 for more details.


When it comes to font managers, there's one thing I can't stress enough: have only one font manager on your Mac at a time. This will save you a lot of head scratching.


If you double click a font, your third party font manager will activate the font. At the same time, Font Book will show a preview of the font and give you the choice to activate the font or cancel. By canceling, the font will not be copied to the Fonts folder chosen in its preferences. In this way, Font Book can be used strictly as a font viewer. Though since all font managers I've tried have their own way of displaying font samples, it isn't necessary to keep Font Book on your hard drive if you're not using it. Font Book has no special connection to the OS. It's just another font manager and can be safely removed. Also, simply having Font Book's database on the system can possibly prevent another font manager from working correctly. So if you aren't using it, you should not have Font Book on the drive. See section 6 on the steps for completely removing Font Book and its database.


A scenerio of having more than one active font manager: When you double click on a new font in a folder, both Suitcase and FontExplorer X Pro will add it to their list of activated fonts. You then later disable the font in Suitcase. However, the font is still active in all of your applications. Why? Because FontExplorer X Pro is still holding the font open. I used Suitcase and FontExplorer X Pro for this example, but this will happen in virtually any case of multiple font managers on your system. Once you have decided which font manager you are going to use, completely remove any other font manager from your Mac.


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Known issues with disabled fonts

This section describes other fonts you may need available at all times depending on the software you use.



Some applications require the presence of Courier in Panther and Tiger.



I have found no reference that requires Geneva, but it's best to leave it as it has long been a standard font for the Macintosh OS.




Some of the OS X supplied applications that will not launch if Helvetica is missing are mentioned in Apple Knowledge Base article TA22311. While not listed in that particular article, iChat is another application which requires Helvetica, as does iCal. If you've seen the message, "Internal Error" when starting iChat, you're missing Helvetica.


There's no good reason to remove the OS X supplied versions Helvetica or Helvetica Neue unless you work in prepress, advertising, design, etc., where you must be able to use a different version of these type faces (see section 5). If you don't, leave them be.


Note: The use of Helvetica has changed starting with Leopard 10.5. While the system normally prevents you from removing either Helvetica or Helvetica Neue, I have removed both from the hard drive and found that iChat and iCal no longer seem to be affected. Both launched and displayed without either Helvetica font available. iPhoto 7 and iLife 08 both require the presence of Helvetica Neue.


Mail is one application that seems to require, or at least prefer the Unicode versions of Helvetica supplied with Leopard. It will work without them as long as you have another version of Helvetica and Helvetica Neue open, but may have some display problems such as text being misaligned or overrunning its intended space. Mail also requires MarkerFelt, or the Notes portion of the application won't open. Notes has been separated as an individual app from Mail starting in Mountain Lion 10.8.




Terminal is one application that will launch, but not display correctly if Monaco is missing (Menlo in Snow Leopard or later).




If you are using the Monaco (X-Rite) GamutWorks application, it requires Times to function. This can be the Times.dfont supplied with OS X, an OpenType or a Type 1 PostScript version. But it must be Times. Times New Roman or any other variation of the Times typeface will not work.


Apple's Grapher application also requires Times. Like Monaco's GamutWorks, it must specifically be Times. In addition, Grapher also requires Symbol. Without Times, Grapher will not launch, instead giving you a message that there was a problem with the application. If you have Times open but not Symbol, Grapher will launch but then erroneously tell you there is a font conflict, when in reality it's just that Symbol is missing.


Apple Gothic


If the font AppleGothic.dfont is not installed, the following problems occur:


a) You will find that the Adobe CS line of applications will not install in Leopard or Tiger (the CS2 and later applications do not appear to be affected). When trying to install them, you only get as far as entering your administrative password, and choosing your language. The installer then quits. The CS applications run fine once installed. It is only the installers themselves that are affected by the absence of AppleGothic.dfont.


b) The retail version of OS X Tiger itself has an issue if AppleGothic.dfont is not available. When the DVD is inserted, the disk begins to automatically open, but the Finder then closes the DVD file window and resets before even seeing the contents.


c) In Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac OS X, previous to version 11.2, PowerPoint will complain that four of the Asian fonts are missing if you are using the short list of fonts mentioned in section one. One error message for each of the four fonts that you need to dismiss. It doesn't effect the operations of PowerPoint, just an annoyance that it insists on telling you that fonts you don't need (as an English speaking user) are missing. You can eliminate this problem by updating to 11.2.x (11.2.1 being current at the time of writing). If you have already attempted to run PowerPoint after updating to 11.2.x without AppleGothic.dfont active, then you have already discovered that PowerPoint crashes after clicking the Open button at the Project Gallery. To fix this problem, activate AppleGothic.dfont. Run PowerPoint again. This time, after clicking Open in the Project Gallery, you will get a message that certain Asian fonts are missing. Turn on the check box at the lower left to tell PowerPoint to never check for those fonts. PowerPoint will thereafter start without errors, or display any messages about missing fonts. Such issues have been eliminated in Office 2008 and 2011. All of its applications will open without any error messages.


Apple Gothic isn't needed often, but given its importance to viewing and using installation disks and its effect on earlier versions of Microsoft Office, it is advised to have it enabled at all times.


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Fonts installed by Microsoft Office

This section is headlined for Microsoft Office, but also revisits web fonts to note the difference between older legacy Mac TrueType fonts and OpenType versions installed by the various versions of Office.


There are a few fonts installed by OS X and Microsoft programs (namely, Office products) that should be left active since the Microsoft applications (Office X, 2004 and 2008 versions) use these fonts. Mainly for templates. Also, many web sites use these fonts and will display better if they are available on your system. None of these fonts should interfere with any prepress operation in the form of conflicting with a PostScript font of the same name, so can be safely left as is. These are the names as they will appear prior to Leopard, 10.5:



Arial Black

Arial Narrow

Comic Sans MS




Times New Roman

Trebuchet MS


Webdings (from OS 9 or X)


Wingdings 2

Wingdings 3


Note about Wingdings:


OS 9 included Wingdings, Wingdings 2 and Wingdings 3, but OS X did not. It wasn't until Leopard, 10.5 that Wingdings appears as part of OS X. It was assumed that you could use Wingdings if you installed Classic (OS 9) on your system.


Expanded font list for Leopard through Mavericks:


Because the fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ folder supplied with Leopard through Mavericks are OpenType (some are .dfonts) rather than legacy TrueType suitcase fonts, the list appears longer. OpenType fonts are saved as one font per file (those with a .ttf extension). For example, while the Arial legacy suitcase font from Office 2004 looks like one item, it actually contains four fonts; Arial, Arial Bold, Arial Italic and Arial Bold Italic. The OpenType fonts appear as four individual items. So the font list for Leopard through Mavericks will appear as follows to match the visually shorter list above:



Arial Bold.ttf

Arial Italic.ttf

Arial Bold Italic.ttf

Arial Black.ttf

Arial Narrow.ttf

Arial Narrow Bold.ttf

Arial Narrow Italic.ttf

Arial Narrow Bold Italic.ttf

Comic Sans MS.ttf

Comic Sans MS Bold.ttf


Georgia Italic.ttf

Georgia Bold.ttf

Georgia Bold Italic.ttf



Tahoma Bold.ttf

Times New Roman.ttf

Times New Roman Bold.ttf

Times New Roman Italic.ttf

Times New Roman Bold Italic.ttf

Trebuchet MS.ttf

Trebuchet MS Bold.ttf

Trebuchet MS Italic.ttf

Trebuchet MS Bold Italic.ttf


Verdana Bold.ttf

Verdana Italic.ttf

Verdana Bold Italic.ttf


Wingdings 2.ttf

Wingdings 3.ttf



Important notes! Leopard, 10.5 through Mavericks, 10.9 include many of the same named fonts Office installs on your system. These are larger, OpenType TrueType fonts. You can quickly identify the difference between them a few ways.


1) The Apple supplied fonts are larger in size.

2) The OpenType fonts have a newer creation date.

3) The Apple OpenType fonts have a .ttf or .ttc extension, the fonts installed by Office X, 2004 and 2008 do not.

4) In list view, open the folder window wide enough to see the Kind column. The OpenType fonts will be named as such. Your system may also denote them as TrueType fonts, but they are OpenType structured fonts.


Because the older fonts from Office X, 2004 and 2008 do not have extensions (they are still legacy OS 9 style suitcase fonts), both end up being installed (normally) in the /Library/Fonts/ folder, thus creating a large number of font conflicts. This doesn't mean you can eliminate font conflicts if the fonts are not in the same folder. Fonts can be spread out in any order, in any active fonts folder, and still create conflicts. See Section 6 for how to find active Fonts folder locations.


To correct these conflicts, you will have to manually remove one instance of each of the same font from the folder or folders in which the conflicting fonts reside. The names or file extensions may not be identical, but if it is the same font, they will create conflicts.


You could resolve the font conflicts in Font Book, but there's no telling which version it would turn off since you can't specifically select one or the other. Office can use either type of font, so always keep the OpenType fonts. They have far more glyphs (like ligatures, swash characters and other styles) that the older 8 bit, 256 character fonts do not. So for example, keep the fonts Tahoma.ttf and Tahoma Bold.ttf installed by Leopard through Mavericks and remove the older Office font Tahoma. The newer OpenType fonts will also provide correct web site viewing with the font names a web page calls for, so there is no need to keep the older versions. There's more to conflicting font names than the names of the files themselves. This is explained in detail later in this article.


Any time you manually remove fonts, you should then clear the font cache files from the system (section 17) and reset Font Book's database (section 6).


Office X:


Not very wisely, Office X installed all of its fonts into the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. You had to know which fonts belonged to Office and be logged in as an administrator before removing them. Thankfully, Microsoft changed its practice after this version of Office.


Office 2004:


The Office 2004 products install their fonts in the ~/Library/Fonts/ folder (your user account). This is done the first time you run any of the Office products after the initial install in each user account. Tahoma, Trebuchet MS and Verdana are used by Office applications for menus and other program display purposes. All other fonts installed by Office can be removed, leaving only those fonts listed above. They will not be reinstalled by Office after you have removed them. So again, first copy them to another location for future use.


That said, others report that all fonts went to the root /Library/Fonts/ folder. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the location the Office fonts end up in. Your best bet is to first examine each of the Fonts folders (see section 6 for locations) before installing Office to see what fonts are already on your system. Then after Office installs its fonts, reexamine the folders to see what has changed and then move, or remove the fonts you don't want active.


Even after being removed, some users have experienced the problem of those removed fonts being reinstalled by Office each time they launch an Office application. One user offered this simple trick to keep Office from reinstalling the fonts: rename the folder where the fonts reside in Office so it can't find them. The location (for Office 2004. The name for Office X will be slightly different) is /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office/Fonts/. Simply rename the folder "Fonts" within the Office application folder to something else. Just adding a letter to the beginning should be enough, such as xFonts. Note: Be aware that once you rename the fonts folder within the Office folder, if you then create a new user account, none of the fonts will be installed for that user. The easiest was around that though is to take one set of the fonts and put them in the /Library/Fonts/ folder. Since every user can access fonts in that folder, you can then remove the same named fonts from every user account. Which you actually must do to avoid font conflicts.


Office 2008:


Microsoft did a very nice thing with Office 2008. It installs its fonts only once during the initial installation to the /Library/Fonts/Microsoft/ folder. No duplicates of the fonts are kept in the Office application folder, nor are they copied repeatedly for each user. Removing them is a snap. Just move the entire Microsoft folder out of the /Library/Fonts/ folder. Office 2008 does not require a single font it comes with to operate, instead using OS X system fonts for its menus, palettes and templates.


If you are running Leopard, 10.5, Snow Leopard, 10.6, Lion, 10.7, Mountain Lion 10.8 or Mavericks 10.9, you will still want to prefer to use the same named fonts that come with the OS. They are larger sets than those that come with Office 2008. The fonts from Office 2008, while high quality, are still legacy TrueType suitcase style fonts such as from OS 9 and earlier.


Office 2011:


As with Office 2008, the fonts installed by Office 2011 go to the /Library/Fonts/Microsoft/ folder. Therefore, as before, it creates conflicts with the existing similar fonts installed by OS X. If you already have the Office 2008 set of fonts on your hard drive, Office 2011 will replace them. There are also 27 more fonts than in Office 2008. 62 Mac legacy TrueType fonts installed by Office 2011 are identical to those from Office 2008. Six typefaces which used to be legacy fonts are now .ttf fonts. Usually such changes are to fix minor flaws in the fonts, or to improve kerning and kerning pairs for a more pleasing look.


The Office 2011 installation creates a mixed bag of older and newer conflicting fonts. You need to manually sort them out as described next.


During the initial install of Office 2011, newer .ttf font sets replace those installed by OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion. The older fonts are deprecated to a new folder named /Library/Fonts Disabled/. They are:



Arial Italic.ttf

Arial Bold.ttf

Arial Bold Italic.ttf

Brush Script.ttf

Times New Roman.ttf

Times New Roman Italic.ttf

Times New Roman Bold.ttf

Times New Roman Bold Italic.ttf


Verdana Italic.ttf

Verdana Bold.ttf

Verdana Bold Italic.ttf


Wingdings 2.ttf

Wingdings 3.ttf


There is no need to keep the fonts in the /Library/Fonts Disabled/ folder since identically named newer versions have been installed. You can delete the entire Fonts Disabled folder if you wish.


Mountain Lion's and Mavericks' .ttc and .ttf fonts are identical to those installed by Office 2011, so it doesn't matter which ones you keep.


Office 2011 also installs conflicting fonts which are older than those supplied with Leopard, 10.5 through Mavericks, 10.9. These are Mac legacy TrueType suitcase fonts, as opposed to much newer .ttf versions supplied with Leopard through Mavericks. So keep the .ttf fonts supplied with OS X and remove the following Mac legacy TrueType suitcase fonts from the /Library/Fonts/Microsoft/ folder:


Andale Mono

Arial Black

Arial Narrow

Arial Rounded Bold

Comic Sans MS




Trebuchet MS


For at least the last couple versions of Office, Microsoft has used the font family Cambria as the default for Word and Outlook. If you prefer to use some other font as your defaults, you can change it. In Word 2011, open the Normal.dotm template in your user account at ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/. Press Command+D to call up the font palette. Choose the font and point size you prefer, then press the Default button at the lower left. Click OK. Close the template and save. All new documents will now open with your chosen default font rather than Cambria. For Outlook, open the preferences and click on the Fonts icon. Change the options to your preferred font and close the preferences. You must do this before removing any fonts Outlook uses by default. If either font in its preferences are not available when you click on the Fonts icon, the preference won't open.


Once you have your preferences set for Word and Outlook, you can remove the rest of the fonts Office 2011 installs. If you use any of the preset documents from the Document Gallery, they will still open even if you remove every font Office installs. Any missing font the template looks for will simply be substituted with an existing font. Clicking anywhere on the substituted text will show the font name Word is looking for in the font selection drop down menu.


For more detailed information on the various Mac versions of Microsoft Office, visit Diane Ross' web site.


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What to do with Suitcase

Suitcase X and X1:


Once you have your fonts where you want them and you are running Suitcase X or X1, you will need to reset the application. When any fonts are added manually, or by another application to an active Fonts folder, those fonts are automatically added as fixed entries in Suitcase X and X1. You cannot remove them within the application. Also, removing any of those fonts manually from the Fonts folder(s) they are in, as we are doing here, does not clear those entries. Suitcase will forever list all fonts which are removed manually as though nothing has changed. In addition, you can't remove the non existent fonts from its list.


To fix Suitcase, go to the ~/Library/Preferences/ folder and remove the Suitcase preferences, which is a folder named "Suitcase" within the Preferences folder. Restart your Mac. Suitcase will be as it was when you first installed it, but now only fonts that truly exist will be listed. You will need to reset any other application preferences that are not the defaults. You will also lose all font sets you have created. Since my experience is almost exclusively with Suitcase, I don't know how manually removing fonts may affect other font managers.


None of this is necessary with the original Suitcase Fusion through Suitcase Fusion 5. Simply restart your Mac and Suitcase will correctly reflect the active fonts on your system. That said, occasionally Fusion will not fix itself after a restart. See the next following categories to repair the version of Fusion you are using.


Suitcase Fusion:


To manually reset Suitcase Fusion, go to the ~/Library/Application Support/Extensis/Suitcase/ folder, remove the file Suitcase Font Database.suitcasevault and restart your Mac.


Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5:


To manually reset Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5, go to the ~/Library/Extensis/Suitcase Fusion/ folder, remove the file Suitcase Fusion.fontvault and restart your Mac. You may need to enter the System Preferences and reselect the newly recreated database.


You can also replace this file through the System Preferences. Open the System Preferences and click on the Suitcase Fusion Core icon. Click the Stop button to halt Suitcase. Once it stops, the buttons at the lower right will be active. Click "New..." and Suitcase will show the current file being used. Click "Save" to use the same name. Suitcase will warn you that you're about to replace the current database. Click "Replace". Restart your Mac. You may need to reenter the System Preferences to turn the Fusion Core on. You will only need to do this once after replacing the database. With version 4 or later, the Fusion Core is in Suitcase's preferences under the Type Core tab, rather than in the System Preferences.


Preserving fonts in the vault for Suitcase Fusion and Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5:


A warning with the above method for resetting all versions of Suitcase Fusion. If you have Suitcase set to store fonts you activate in its vault and you delete its database, they will all disappear with it. This would be especially bad if you also have the preference set to delete the original fonts (original version of Fusion only) after adding them to the vault and you don't have access to the originals. Losing your original fonts does not apply to Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5 as they do not have the option to delete fonts you add to the vault, but you will still lose all fonts stored in the vault if you remove the database. If you always activate fonts in place and never use the vault, then removing the database is safe to do at any time with any version of Suitcase Fusion.


If you are using the vault and need to reset any version of Suitcase Fusion, follow these steps first to save the fonts stored in the vault.


1) In the Suitcase Fusion interface, change the pull down menu between the two left panes to "Suitcase Fusion Fonts". These are the fonts stored in the vault. Highlight all sets in the top left window. For Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5, your sets will be in the left pane under the "Font Library" heading. Highlight the first set and then Shift+click on the last set to select all. With any Fusion version, now press Command+D. It will ask you where you want to save your fonts. Navigate to an existing folder or create a new one. Choose your target folder and press the Collect button in Fusion, or the Choose button in Fusion 2 through 5. Suitcase will save full copies of the vault fonts to that folder. They will also be saved in subfolders by the same name of all sets you had them separated by.


2) Quit Suitcase. Click Quit on Fusion's warning about shutting it down (Fusion 2 through 5 work differently and will simply close).


3) Go to your user account and remove the vault database noted above for Fusion, or Fusion versions 2 through 5. Relaunch Suitcase Fusion, or restart your Mac for Fusion 2 through 5.


4) Go to the folder you had saved your vault fonts to and drag and drop the subfolders of fonts into the Suitcase application. This will add them back to the vault and recreate your sets by the same names you were using before.


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Controlling Helvetica and Courier fonts for prepress

If you work in a professional prepress environment, then this section will be important to you.


Do you need to remove Apple's Helvetica fonts?


I note this since not everyone reading this section may be clear on why you would want or need to do this. Apple made the unfortunate decision to give their Helvetica fonts the exact same internal names as the long standing Type 1 PostScript fonts from Adobe and Linotype. This creates a fixed font conflict that can be definitively resolved only by removing Apple's fonts from the system. This does not affect the newer OpenType Helvetica fonts available from Adobe and Linotype as they do not have the same internal names, and can therefore peacefully coexist with Apple's versions. Since it is imperative to use the exact same version of a font that was used to create a project, the conflict with the older Type 1 Helvetica fonts makes it necessary to remove Apple's fonts.


This all started long before OS X. Apple's Helvetica fonts have always conflicted with the Type 1 versions; but back in OS 9 and earlier, no one cared. Apple wasn't using their Helvetica versions in the interface or any of its applications, so it was no problem to remove Apple's Helvetica fonts from the hard drive and put your Type 1 fonts in their place. Then came OS X and Apple decided to start using Helvetica rather extensively in its applications design, forcing it to become a required font.


For the typical home user, there is no need to replace the supplied .dfont or .ttc versions of Courier or Helvetica. The information in this section is intended for advanced users. If you have no need to use older Type 1 PostScript or other older conflicting versions of Helvetica, Helvetica Neue or Courier, then please disregard these instructions. This avoids the possibility of your Mac becoming unusable by accidentally removing critical system fonts.


For Panther and Tiger; Courier and Helvetica must be present in some form. They do not however, have to be the .dfont versions supplied with OS X. Any form of Courier or Helvetica will do to satisfy OS X's needs, whether it is the supplied .dfont, Type 1 PostScript, Mac legacy TrueType, or OpenType version.


For Leopard through Mavericks, the .dfont/.ttc supplied versions of Helvetica and Helvetica Neue are necessary for Mail, iPhoto 7 and iLife 08. Address Book in Lion through Mavericks requires Apple's version of Helvetica to launch. There is also Helvetica Light as a separate font in Snow Leopard (it is folded into Helvetica.dfont in Lion through Mavericks). You can still use the following instructions to remove Apple's .dfont or .ttc fonts from the System folder, but you should place copies of the OS X supplied fonts in another location. That way, you can use your font manager to activate your PostScript fonts and deactivate the .dfont/.ttc/.ttf fonts when needed. Then deactivate the PostScript fonts and activate Apple's fonts for normal use of your Mac.


In all following cases, if you use Font Book and have manually removed Apple's Helvetica fonts, you must also reset Font Book's database. A damaged or orphaned Font Book database can also cause other font managers to be unable to activate or deactivate fonts, even if the Font Book application is not on the hard drive. It can even prevent fonts from activating that you manually place in a Fonts folder. So whether you use Font Book or not, you must delete/reset its database after manually removing fonts from the system. See section 6 under "Resetting Font Book's database" for more details. If you have already removed Font Book and reset its database, you do not need to repeat these steps.


Removing Helvetica and Courier in Panther and Tiger.


Remove Courier.dfont and Helvetica.dfont from the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. You will need Administrative access to remove these two fonts. Then permanently activate Type 1 PostScript or PostScript OpenType versions of Courier and Helvetica with your font manager, or place copies of your preferred fonts directly in the /Library/Fonts/ folder.


Despite its technically different name, earlier OS X versions of Courier New conflicted with the PostScript Courier. Remove the .dfont version of Courier New also and use a standard PostScript Type 1 or PostScript OpenType copy of Courier instead. In Tiger and Leopard, the internal names of the OS X supplied versions of Courier New have been fixed so as not to conflict with Courier. So both versions of Courier can be on your system if you wish.


You can also place permanent copies of Courier and Helvetica in any of your hard drive folders listed in the next section. Unlike OS 9 or earlier, you can place folders of fonts into a Fonts folder. OS X will see and open all fonts in any subfolders. The disadvantage of opening fonts this way is that they will not be available to programs running in Classic. Use a font manager such as Suitcase (versions X or X1), MasterJuggler (PowerPC only) or FontAgent Pro to overcome this limitation.


Removing Helvetica, Helvetica Neue and Helvetica Light in Leopard through Mountain Lion.


Apple has gone to fairly great lengths in Leopard through Mountain Lion to save the user from themselves by protecting certain fonts. While this is a wonderful safety net for the typical user, it's a headache for professional printers and prepress shops who must use PostScript versions of Helvetica. Especially since Font Book always favors the Apple versions when using Resolve Conflicts. It doesn't even give the option of choosing one over the other. On top of that, if you try to open a Type 1 PostScript font, only these styles not already active in Apple's versions will appear. I tried activating a Type 1 PostScript version of Helvetica through Suitcase Fusion (before the Fusion 2 through 5 versions) with Apple's version still in place. Even with the option to allow Suitcase to manage system fonts on and Font Book's option to "Alert me if system fonts change" off, Suitcase still could not override the Apple supplied versions, leaving only one PostScript typeface active that didn't already exist in the .dfont copy.


Because Leopard through Mountain Lion keep resurrecting them, removing Helvetica.dfont and HelveticaNeue.dfont (HelveticaNeue.ttc and Helvetica Light in Snow Leopard) is not a simple matter, but it can be done. To do so, follow the steps below.


1) Go to the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. Copy Helvetica.dfont, HelveticaNeue.dfont / (HelveticaNeue.ttc and Helvetica Light - Snow Leopard only) to another location for normal use of your Mac when you do not need a Type 1 PostScript version active. Helvetica.dfont, HelveticaNeue.dfont / HelveticaNeue.ttc and Helvetica Light do not need to specifically be in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder in order to work correctly for Leopard through Mavericks. Therefore, you can activate them with your font manager in the usual fashion.


2) Go to the /System/Library/Frameworks/ApplicationServices.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/ATS.framework/Versions/A/Resources/ProtectedFonts/ folder. Delete the files Helvetica.dfont, HelveticaNeue.dfont (HelveticaNeue.ttc and HelveticaLight.ttf in Snow Leopard). Do not remove any other fonts! Restart your Mac.


3) If you use Font Book, open Font Book and highlight both Helvetica, Helvetica Neue and Helvetica Light (Snow Leopard). Disable the fonts using the menu or by pressing Command+Shift+D. With both files still highlighted, right click (or Ctrl+click with a one button mouse) and choose "Remove Fonts". The fonts should disappear from Font Book's list and the fonts themselves from the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. In Lion and later, Font Book will not remove any fonts in the System folder, even though the choice to Remove Fonts is still an option. If the fonts remain in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder, you will have to manually remove them. You will need your Administrator password to do so. Restart your Mac.


4) If you do not use Font Book, go directly to the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder and delete Helvetica and Helvetica Neue (also Helvetica Light in Snow Leopard). Enter your Administrator password when prompted to complete the action. In Lion or later, do not remove HelveticaNeueDeskUI.ttc.


5) Restart your Mac. This is important as the OS does not release fonts removed from the System folder. They remain active even in the Trash. You must restart in order to release them, otherwise you will still be unable to use your third party Helvetica fonts.


With the backup fonts for Helvetica.dfont, HelveticaNeue.dfont / (HelveticaNeue.ttc and Helvetica Light in Snow Leopard) removed from the ProtectedFonts folder, they will no long keep reappearing in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. You will now be able to activate full copies of your preferred Helvetica fonts.


Courier is no longer a required font for OS X in Leopard, 10.5 through Mavericks, 10.9. As long as you have Administrative privileges, you can remove the supplied .dfont copy of Courier from the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder.


Removing Helvetica fonts in Mavericks.


The ProtectedFonts folder no longer exists in Mavericks. Copy Helvetica.dfont and HelveticaNeue.dfont to another location and then remove them from the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder.


Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5 and Helvetica fonts.


These versions of Suitcase can automatically circumvent the Apple Helvetica fonts.


1) Turn off the check box in Font Book's preferences to warn when system fonts have changed (Mountain Lion and earlier). Close the preferences. You can then delete the Font Book application if you wish (and actually, should).


2) Clear all font cache files and restart. See section 17 for more on font cache removal.


3) In Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5's preferences, make sure the radio button for "Activate the requested font" is on. Also, have the check box on for "Notify if a conflict occurs". You should always know when a font you're activating is turning another one off that you may need for a current project.


Now you can leave Apple's Helvetica fonts right where they are in the System folder. When you open a conflicting Helvetica font (normally a Type 1 version) it will pop up a box that fonts you are opening conflict with the System fonts. Continue and Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5 automatically deactivate the system fonts in favor of the Helvetica fonts you just turned on. When you deactivate your Helvetica fonts, the Apple Helvetica system fonts are turned back on for you.


I have double and triple checked this in various applications, turning Type 1 fonts on and off while I had a document open. Activate your Type 1 Helvetica fonts and the Apple fonts disappear from the available font menus. Deactivate the Type 1 versions and the Apple fonts are once again back. Same with the Helvetica Neue fonts.


If you'd rather be completely sure rather than relying on Suitcase's system to work, you may still want to remove Apple's fonts from the system folder and manually activate them from a different location when you don't need another version of Helvetica active. This is what I still highly recommend since some users have noted that Suitcase Fusion 2 isn't always able to deactivate Apple's Helvetica fonts on their systems. I haven't heard yet whether anyone is seeing this issue with Suitcase Fusion 3 or later.


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Font folder locations - Using Font Book

OS X uses a folder priority to locate and open fonts. This list is in order from highest priority to lowest.






/System Folder/Fonts/ (the OS 9 Fonts folder)


(Source: Apple Knowledge Base article HT2435).


Fonts activated from Suitcase or other third party font manager not located on the Mac in any of the above folders are given the least priority overall. You can see then that a version of Helvetica activated by your font manager will be superseded by any version of Helvetica located in any of the previously listed folders. In order to use your PostScript fonts activated by your font manger, all like named versions must be removed from the higher priority folders. (Suitcase Fusion 2 and later can override the system fonts).


OS X's Font Book has preferential treatment here. By that, I mean fonts you activate using Font Book will get a higher priority over other font managers as it uses the folders listed above to activate and deactivate fonts.


The advantage of Font Book (besides being free) is that by knowing these rules, you can try to quickly force preference of one font over another of the same name by placing the font in a Fonts folder that has a higher priority, although you should always avoid knowingly doing this. A font conflict will almost always prevent either font from showing up in any application if both are active. The advantage of Suitcase (versions X and X1) and Master Juggler is that fonts are activated from wherever they are located on the hard drive, eliminating the possibility of a font being corrupted during the copy method Font Book uses (prior to 10.5). These three particular third party font managers also have the advantage of activating fonts for OS X and the OS 9 Classic environment simultaneously, with the exception of .dfonts as noted in the last paragraph of section 8.


Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5 can also activate fonts in place, but no long support activating fonts for Classic. FontAgent Pro and MasterJuggler are the only remaining font managers which can simultaneously open fonts for OS X and Classic.


Font Book in Panther, 10.3 (before 10.3.5)


If you use Font Book to manage your fonts, it copies the font(s) selected into one of the folder locations listed above depending on which radio button you choose in the application. When you remove the font or fonts, Font Book deletes the fonts from the location they were copied to.


Font Book Panter preferences
Font Book preferences in Panther, pre 10.3.5


If you choose for me only, the font(s) are copied to the ~/Library/Fonts/ folder, automatically giving them the highest priority over any same named font in the hierarchy. If you switch users, the font(s) will not be active under other accounts on that Mac since they are in your user folder.


If you choose for all users of this computer, then the font(s) are copied to the /Library/Fonts/ folder. In this case, priority drops down one rung in the hierarchy and will be active when switching to another user, even though they didn't open the font(s) since they will reside in the common /Library/Fonts/ folder.


Lastly, choosing for Classic Mac OS will copy the font(s) into the OS 9 /System Folder/Fonts/ folder. Not only will fonts activated this way be available to applications running in the OS 9 Classic mode, but also to OS X native programs. When you remove fonts opened with this last choice, the fonts remain available to Classic applications until the Classic environment is restarted even though they are removed from the /System Folder/Fonts/ folder. Fonts opened with Suitcase (versions X or X1), FontAgent Pro, or MasterJuggler are also made available to applications running in Classic and OS X simultaneously without copying.


Font Book in Panther 10.3.5 through Tiger, 10.4


Starting with OS X Panther 10.3.5, Font Book changed the way it handles closed fonts. Previously, it would delete the fonts from the active font folder when you disabled them. Its new method is to leave the fonts where they are and use a separate system function to denote that they are supposed to be closed. This causes problems with most third party applications in versions of OS X before 10.4.3. Since the fonts are left in a Fonts folder, the underlying Unix system still considers them active. So "disabled" fonts still appear in almost all non Apple applications such as those by Adobe, Microsoft, Quark and others. There is no workaround in OS X before 10.4.3 other than to discontinue use of Font Book and use a third party font manager such as those listed in section one.


There are only two preferences in this version of Font Book. Where you want activated fonts copied to and whether or not to validate them (check for corrupt fonts). The only locations available when activating fonts are the Fonts folder of your user account at ~/Library/Fonts/, or the global /Library/Fonts/ folder. Any new fonts you activate will be copied to whichever Fonts folder you chose in Font Book's preferences if they aren't already there. When you deactivate the fonts, they remain in the folder they were copied to.


OS X 10.4.3 and later resolved the problem of having fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ or ~/Library/Fonts/ folders. All applications I tested with did indeed respond to the fonts being deactivated with Font Book. Even older applications that were written before Font Book existed. This change appears to be at the system level since Suitcase Fusion and FontExplorer X Pro can successfully do the same thing.


A few readers note that they are still having issues with fonts remaining on after being marked as disabled in Font Book. But I think that's a matter of a corrupt database. It's very common for fonts to remain active, or unable to be activated if Font Book's database is damaged. See just below for information on how to reset Font Book.


Font Book in Leopard, 10.5, Snow Leopard, 10.6 and Lion, 10.7


Font Book adds a few more choices to Font Book in Leopard and Snow Leopard, but it remains basically the same application with the same methods. Newly activated fonts are copied to one of the two available Font folder locations. New options include (1) the option to validate fonts when activated (check for errors) and (2) to automatically activate fonts a document needs that you have opened, if possible. There is a sub choice to 'ask first' before activating in such an instance. It also has an option to alert you if the system fonts have changed, which is on by default.


Font Book preferences in Leopard


Starting with Leopard, Font Book includes the ability to open fonts in place. To do so, you need to choose File > New Library from the menu. Make sure the Library you created is highlighted and add your fonts. Rather than copying every font you activate to the Fonts folder chosen in Font Book's preferences, the fonts are activated from wherever they reside.


Lion adds a font conflict resolution screen. See the font reviews in section 16 for a more detailed explanation of this feature.


Font Book in Mountain Lion, 10.8


The preferences add a new option and removes two others. Instead of having Font Book simply disabling conflicting fonts, you can choose to have them sent to the trash to permanently resolve the conflict. This is not without problems, though. See section 16. The removed options are (1) validating fonts before installing and (2) asking before automatically activating fonts. The latter option is now simply on, or off. Font validation hasn't been removed, it's now an automatic process which happens any time you add new fonts.


Font Book preferences in Mountain Lion


Font Book in Mavericks, 10.9


The preferences in Mavericks have been simplified even further. There is no longer an alert for system font changes.


Font Book preferences in Mavericks


Resetting Font Book's database


At times, Font Book's database can become corrupt. Usually from opening too many fonts, or fonts that are damaged. When you activate fonts with Font Book using the original method, not only are all fonts you've ever activated copied to the Fonts folder chosen in its preferences, but those fonts are also added as entries in its database (Library sets do not copy the fonts, but still do become entries in the database). Font Book uses this database to keep track of which fonts are active and which are not. The more there are, the longer it takes for your Mac to start up as Font Book must compare each font to the information in the database during startup to determine if a given font should be on or off. If the database becomes damaged, it can take a very long time for your Mac to start up to the desktop. If it's really mangled, your Mac may not finish booting at all. Another symptom of a damaged database is not being able to activate or deactivate fonts from Font Book's interface.


Manually removing fonts from your system will also 'damage' Font Book's database, so to speak. Font Book does not correct itself when you manually remove fonts that are listed in its database; not even after a restart. It then contains links to non existent fonts which causes the program to behave in the same manner as a corrupt database. You'll find that you cannot activate or deactivate certain fonts, or any at all.


Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks each have their own methods for resetting Font Book. Dr. Smoke, (as he is known at the Apple Discussions forums), is the noted author of Troubleshooting Mac OS X. He has kindly made the information for resetting Font Book freely available at his web site. See Undoing Font Book for detailed instructions for the version of OS X you are using.


There are no instructions for Lion through Mavericks at Dr. Smoke's site, but the Snow Leopard instructions listed there apply to them also. The instructions remove the font cache files themselves for the current logged in user, but does not reset Font Book's database.


To reset Font Book completely in Snow Leopard, 10.6.x through Mavericks, 10.9.x, do the following.


1) Restart your Mac and immediately hold down the Shift key when you hear the startup chime to boot into Safe Mode. Keep holding the Shift key until OS X asks you to log in (you will get this screen on a Safe Mode boot even if your Mac is set to automatically log in). Let the Mac finish booting to the desktop and then restart normally. This will clear Font Book's database and the cache files for the user account you logged into in Safe Mode.


In Leopard or earlier, any font sets you have created will be gone. Also, all fonts in the three main Fonts folders (System, Library, your user account) will now be active, regardless of their state beforehand.


2) Clear all font cache files from the system and restart. The Terminal method for this is explained at the very end of section 17. The next time you launch Font Book, it will create a new database.


Removing Font Book


As noted in section one, you really, really don't ever want more than one font manager on your hard drive at a time. So if you don't use Font Book, it should be removed. You also need to remove its database. Leaving Font Book's database on the drive can interfere with other font managers, even if the Font Book application itself isn't running, or no longer exists on the hard drive. OS X will read this database (if it exists) during startup, or logging into another account. Based on what that database says, OS X will fight to keep fonts active that the database says are supposed to be active, thus possibly preventing your preferred font manager from operating correctly.


1) Open Font Book, then its preferences. Uncheck the box for "Alert me if system fonts change" (this option does not exist in Mavericks). Close the preferences and shut down Font Book. Put the Font Book application in the trash and delete it.


2) Restart your Mac and immediately hold down the Shift key when you hear the startup chime to boot into Safe Mode. Keep holding the Shift key until OS X asks you to log in (you will get this screen on a Safe Mode boot even if your Mac is set to automatically log in). Let the Mac finish booting to the desktop and then restart normally.


Identical to a reset, this will clear Font Book's database and the cache files for the user account you logged into in Safe Mode. In Leopard or earlier, any font sets you have created will be gone. Which doesn't matter in this case since so is Font Book. The main goal in this step is to remove the orphaned Font Book database. With the Font Book application no longer on the hard drive, a new one cannot be created. Which is what we want.


3) Clear all font cache files from the system and restart. The Terminal method for this is explained at the very end of section 17.


Removing Font Book in Lion through Mavericks


Apple has protected both the Applications and Utilities folders for any program installed by the OS. This makes it a bit more difficult to remove Font Book, but not impossible. If you try to trash Font Book from the desktop, the OS states Font Book can't be modified or deleted because it's required by Mac OS X. Don't take this message to mean Font Book is now an immutable part of the OS. Lion through Mavericks say this about anything it installed which you then try to delete from the Applications or Utilities folders. It's hard to believe that Chess, Photo Booth, Stickies, or quite a few others are "required" by OS X. It will run just fine without them.


1) Open Font Book, then its preferences. Uncheck the box for "Alert me if system fonts change" (this check box is not in Mavericks). Close the preferences and shut down Font Book.


2) Open the Terminal application in the Utilities folder. Highlight and copy the following blue colored line, then paste it into Terminal. You can, of course, type the command in yourself; but be very careful to enter it exactly as shown. Unix shows no mercy for any misplaced or mistyped characters.


sudo rm -r /Applications/Font\


Press Enter. You will be asked for your admin password. Type it in (Terminal does not return on screen what you're typing for a password) and press Enter. Font Book will disappear from the Applications folder. Close Terminal.


If you prefer not to use Terminal, you can remove Font Book via the desktop. Highlight Font Book and press Command+I, or choose Get Info from the the top menu bar. Click on the lock at the lower right of the Get Info dialog box and enter your Administrator password. Expand the Sharing & Permissions heading if necessary. There are three permissions states, the first of which is already Read & Write. Change the other two, which are currently Read only, to Read & Write. Close the Get Info box. You can now move Font Book to the trash with no interference from the OS.


Then follow the steps 2 and 3 above under Removing Font Book.


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Required fonts for OS 9 (Classic)

For the OS 9 Classic mode, look in the /System Folder/Fonts/ folder. The only ones that must be present are:







If your Mac is capable of booting directly into OS 9, you can use Suitcase (version X or earlier), Adobe Type Manager Deluxe or Master Juggler to open any other fonts you prefer to have open (Font Book is an OS X application and will not run directly under OS 9). Otherwise, these four fonts are the only ones that must be present for OS 9; whether booted into OS 9, or running as Classic within OS X. If you have any other fonts in that folder, move them out. Particularly Helvetica and Courier, which with a default install of OS 9 will be in that Fonts folder and will conflict with the OS X or PostScript versions you may wish to use instead.


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Various other fonts you can move or remove

You can remove all of the OpenType fonts installed by InDesign or the Adobe suites so they aren't active when using those programs. InDesign or the Adobe suite opens them from its own font subfolder, so while they're available in the Adobe applications, other programs can't see them. The location for these OpenType fonts is /Applications/Adobe InDesign CS/Fonts/. Although more commonly, the location is /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts/. You'll need to check both locations depending on which versions you've installed. Whether you install the Creative Suite, or the individual applications (Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign; CS and CS2 versions), quite a few OpenType fonts will be installed in the latter folder. While no other applications or the OS will see those fonts, all of the CS and CS2 programs will. Move those fonts to another location for future use. Again, if you want to use those OpenType fonts for any program, you can activate them with Font Book, Suitcase, FontAgent Pro, Master Juggler or other font manager. You will also find a subfolder at /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts/Reqrd/. Do not remove that folder or any of its contents. The Adobe applications require those fonts and will not launch without them.


The Adobe CS3 through CC applications now install all OpenType fonts they come with into the /Library/Fonts/ folder. These can all be removed. Those fonts required by the CS3 through CC applications are buried where only the Adobe programs can find them. There is no need for you to locate them. As in earlier versions, only the Adobe applications will see and use their required fonts.


Check the fonts in your ~/Library/Fonts/ folder. Again, look for duplicate fonts that conflict with the same name as those you prefer to use as a PostScript version and remove them.


If you have installed Acrobat or the free reader (older versions), you will find more PostScript versions of Helvetica and Courier in these applications' Support folders. Since none of them are in a location that will be automatically activated by OS X, they can (and need to be) left alone. Only those applications that installed them will use those fonts if they are not already active otherwise.


You cannot use .dfonts in the Classic environment. Legacy OS 9 TrueType fonts have their data stored in the resource fork of the file, while a .dfont stores the data in the data fork. Hence the name .dfont, short for data fork font. If you open a .dfont with any font manager, your OS X applications will be able to use them, but OS 9 Classic applications will not understand how to read or use these fonts, even if they have been copied to the OS 9 /System Folder/Fonts/ folder. If there is any particular .dfont you wish to use in Classic, you can convert it to an OS 9 TrueType suitcase font using a utility such as dfontifier. This application quickly and easily creates a new font that OS 9 can use by dragging and dropping the .dfont you want to use in Classic onto the dfontifier application. You then open the converted font for Classic. The program dfontifier is no longer being developed by the author and will work only in OS X through Tiger 10.4.x. For other means of translating fonts, you can use FontLab Studio, Fontographer, TransType or the free open source FontForge.


The retail Snow Leopard disk includes fonts intended for iWork, even if you didn't purchase the Box Set. In Snow Leopard, where they first appeared, I had originally thought this may have been a production error; but these same fonts are installed by Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks. So for whatever reason, Apple essentially gives you these fonts, even if you don't own iWork. In the /Library/Application Support/Apple/Fonts/iWork/ folder, you will find 25 .dfonts (24 in Lion, 25 in Mountain Lion, 28 in Mavericks), which comprise a total of 37 individual type faces (33 in Lion, 37 in Mountain Lion, 53 in Mavericks). Because of the folder they are in, they are not automatically seen or used by the system. However, you can open them with any font manager in the usual manner; giving you some unexpected extra free fonts. This isn't a bonus for everyone though. These fonts will only activate in Snow Leopard or later. Any earlier versions of OS X cannot use them. If you wish to obtain these fonts for Leopard or earlier, you can install the iWork '09 trial (may no longer be available). It will install copies of the same 25 .dfonts found in Snow Leopard, which do work in previous versions of OS X.


If you really feel like digging, Lion also installs 23 .ttf fonts intended for X11. They are in the /user/X11/share/fonts/TTF/ folder. These fonts are not installed in Mountain Lion or Mavericks.


A few others you can copy include fonts within the Game Center app. Right click on Game Center and choose Show Package Contents. Drill down to Contents > Resources > Fonts. Make sure to copy the fonts you find there so you don't break the Game Center app.


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Do you need a font manager?

Do you need to use a font manager at all? Actually, no. You can activate fonts by placing them into any of the Fonts folders of your hard drive mentioned in section 6 and removing them when you want those fonts closed. For convenience sake, I would suggest always using the common /Library/Fonts/ folder. Fonts placed in this folder will be active to all users of that Mac. If there is some font you don't want other users of that Mac to have access to, place them in your user account fonts folder, which is located at ~/Library/Fonts/. The most convenient way to use this method is to create an alias of the Fonts folder you want to use on the desktop. That way, you don't have to keep opening the hard drive and clicking down through the folders of the disk hierarchy to get to it.


There are disadvantages to this method though. One is that fonts activated this way will not be available to programs running in Classic. In addition, you run the risk of damaging fonts by constantly moving/copying/deleting them from the folder you're using to open and close them with. For these reasons, I do suggest using a font manager.


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What is a font suitcase and why do we have them?

In decades past, computers had very limited amounts of RAM. This was partly due to the fact that RAM was extremely expensive. So most computers were outfitted with far less RAM than could be installed. This required the OS and applications to be as frugal with RAM usage as possible. Each font you activate takes up a small amount of RAM, so the Mac OS limited the number of fonts you could activate to 128. Since OS 9, computers generally have had more available RAM, so this limit was increased to 512. Designers, however, often wanted or needed to have more fonts open at once than the OS would allow; especially for projects like a catalog. The solution (more like a workaround) was to enclose fonts in a suitcase. The suitcase itself was counted as only one item by the OS in the Fonts folder; so you could open dozens or hundreds of fonts by enclosing them in a suitcase. Having fonts enclosed in a suitcase was also the only way the Mac OS would recognize fonts before OS X.


Using suitcases has become unnecessary on today's computers with gigabytes of RAM and more capable operating systems. You see that with OpenType fonts. Each typeface of a font (italic, bold, etc.) is a file unto its own (those with a .ttf extension) rather than being placed together in a suitcase. Not that the usage of suitcases has ended. It's a very convenient way of keeping a font set together. Apple's .dfonts are suitcase files which contain the individual TrueType fonts for that family of fonts. There are four types of suitcase fonts currently in use:


1) Mac legacy TrueType suitcase fonts from OS 9 and earlier. These are 8 bit fonts limited to 256 characters, or glyphs. The suitcase can contain up to 999 individual TrueType or bitmap fonts. They can be of any font family. All data is stored in the resource fork of the fonts. It's not at all unusual to see a mix of fonts found in programs such as greeting card and banner makers. They'll give you a font suitcase named something like "Card Designer Fonts". You see just the one item on your desktop, but contains as many individual fonts as they put in it.


2) Type 1 PostScript fonts. These are two part fonts. One file is a suitcase containing all of the low resolution bitmap screen fonts. The rest are the outline printer fonts. As an example, here's Adobe Garamond:


Adobe Garamond








The first file (which I highlighted in green) is the font suitcase of bitmap screen fonts. The rest are the individual outline printer fonts. Both must be in the same folder in order to work. When placed in a Fonts folder or activated with a font manager, the OS or manager only looks in the suitcase for the available type faces.


If you have the printer outline font for the italic version of a font, but the screen font for the italic face is missing from the suitcase, then the italic font will not work. If you have the outline fonts without the matching suitcase, then none of them will work. In reverse, if you have the suitcase screen font for bold, but not the bold outline printer font; the bold font will show up as available in your font lists, but the printed output will be very low quality because the system will be forced to print the font from the 72 dpi screen resolution bitmap font in the suitcase. Screen fonts in the suitcase that are missing the matching outline printer font are known as orphaned fonts. All data for Type 1 PostScript fonts is stored in the resource fork. They also are are 8 bit fonts limited to 256 glyphs.


3) Apple TrueType .dfonts. They are essentially the same as the legacy Mac TrueType fonts from OS 9 and earlier with three major differences: (a) the data is stored in the data fork of the font rather than the resource fork (b) they are Unicode fonts and (c) like OpenType fonts they are 16 bit fonts which can contain 65,536 glyphs, however they are not OpenType fonts as they have a different font table.


4) TrueType Collection. These fonts have a .ttc extension. Similar to a .dfont, it is a suitcase containing multiple TrueType fonts. Apple (for the most part) has moved to this suitcase type in Snow Leopard and later.


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FFIL and LWFN. What are they and which is which?

There are a fair number of explanations to be found on the Web as to what FFIL and LWFN stand for, but in a nutshell they are the Type codes of the respective files. At the time Type 1 PostScript fonts were created, the Mac OS kept track of what type of file it was, and which application owned it, by its resource fork Type and Creator codes. The Type code of a font suitcase is FFIL. For the outline printer font, it's LWFN. OS X can still use them, but Type and Creator codes are being replaced by a more modern method known as Uniform Type Identifiers.


Many Type and Creator codes have a meaning attached to them while others don't; or at least not an obvious meaning. For Adobe Photoshop, an EPS file saved by the application has the meaningful Type code of EPSF; but the Creator code for any file saved from Photoshop is 8BIM. I'd never heard what that was supposed to stand for, if anything. So while there may actually be a phrase that FFIL and LWFN are an acronym for, from what I've been able to find they are nothing more than the assigned Type codes.


While you could call a .dfont an FFIL file since it is a suitcase, it's not a Type 1 PostScript suitcase. Having a different Type and/or Creator code is what helps the Mac OS keep similar items from being opened in the wrong application or defined incorrectly. In reality though, .dfonts don't normally even have Type and Creator codes.


A reader informed me that he was a beta tester for Photoshop v 1.01b. That version added 8 bit color support, which was huge at the time. The Creator code for Photoshop then became 8BIM, short for 8 Bit Image Map. A former employee of Adobe has confirmed the most commonly seen meanings for FFIL and LWFN found on the Web. They are: LWFN = LaserWriter Font, FFIL = Font File. (Thank you both for your contributions.)


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External vs. internal font names

How many free TrueType fonts have you downloaded and found that many of them show up in your font lists with the name "New"? There is a reason for that. With all fonts the name of the file you see on your desktop has absolutely nothing to do with the names that show up in your applications. That is controlled solely by the font's internal name. Those free fonts were likely created by someone who (1) didn't know they needed to, (2) forgot to or (3) simply didn't care about assigning a proper internal name to their creation. Windows TrueType fonts in particular, even those included with commercial applications, are a constant source of this type of confusion. It's not at all unusual for a Windows TrueType font to have a file name of TT145B3.TTF, but shows up in your application as its internal name of "Bumblebee". To be fair, this can be a problem with any Mac font suitcase, also, because there is no easy way to tell how many fonts are in the suitcase or what names they'll produce in your font lists until activated.


Thankfully the designers of Mac fonts have almost always been kind enough to give the fonts they create descriptive file names, like the Adobe Garamond example above. Still the name of the suitcase is no true indicator of the font names that will show up in your programs, but historically this has been the case on the Mac.


Assigning the internal name is something the font's creator must do when using a font creation program such as FontLab or Fontographer. You can also use these programs to change the internal name of a font, or assign one where the original creator of the font did not. Like those three hundred free fonts you have that all show up in your font lists as "New".


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What is a font conflict?

In order to understand how font conflicts occur, it was first necessary in the previous section to explain internal font names. The shortest explanation of a font conflict is that two or more fonts you have activated are declaring the same internal font name to the OS.


Fonts are actually little programs, or as once described by an Adobe representative, "Plug-ins for the OS". Fonts don't just sit on the hard drive waiting to be called on. When you activate them, each individual font takes up a small amount of RAM; which (among a few other things) is needed to load the internal name the OS displays in your applications. If you are opening a suitcase, more RAM is used because multiple names must be created at once; especially if it's a suitcase containing more than one font, such as a TrueType Collection, .dfont or Type 1 PostScript font can have. If the suitcase contains 30 fonts, it will open 30 separate tags in RAM.


So let's say you activate a font with a file name of Courier and its internal name is also Courier. Then you activate a second font with a file name of "Courier Plus", but the designer made its internal name Courier. You now have two fonts declaring the same name internal name of "Courier" in RAM with the now obvious conflict; more than one active font saying it is Courier. When you go to choose them in your application, how can the OS or the application possibly know which one you mean to use? The answer of course is, they can't.


Various things happen when you have font conflicts. Sometimes the font you just opened with the same internal name will take precedence over the one that was already open. Other times the font that was already active with that name will be the one to continue to show up in your programs, the new one won't. Rarely, if ever, will you see more than one font with the same name show up in your lists. More likely, active fonts with duplicate internal names won't show up in any program. Quark XPress is very good at having fonts disappear from its lists when there is a conflict. This is not a bad thing and I wish more applications would do that. It's essentially letting you know immediately that you have a font conflict by not showing you a font you're expecting to see in its list of available fonts.


While OS X, 10.5.x Leopard (and possibly all newer versions of OS X) no longer supports the Classic environment, it will still see any fonts in an OS 9 /System Folder/Fonts/ folder. So if you are experiencing font conflicts and can find no cause for them in the standard OS X Fonts folders, check to see if an OS 9 folder for Classic is still on your system. I can no longer test it, but this also may apply to Snow Leopard and later.


Conflicting internal names is exactly what the font problem is between Apple-supplied versions of Helvetica in Leopard through Mavericks and older Type 1 PostScript fonts. Apple gave almost every individual typeface exactly the same internal name as the Type 1 PostScript versions. Since the OS protects the system fonts from being disabled, you can't open your preferred versions of Helvetica. This can be circumvented, however, by following the instructions in Section 5.


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Are you a good font, or a bad font?

Other than not being able to see a font you expected to, what is actually happening behind the scenes when you have a bad font? There are more problems that can occur with fonts than just conflicting internal names.


One issue is damaged fonts. Just like an application, fonts take up space in RAM. Typically it is a small amount of RAM; however a damaged font, just like a damaged program, will do things it is not supposed to. With fonts the most common issue from becoming damaged is a memory leak. A font may normally only take up a few Kbytes of RAM, but a damaged font can step outside the amount of RAM the OS thinks it is supposed to be using and take more. When this happens the font may overwrite data being used in adjacent RAM by another active application or the OS itself. Suddenly, data the OS or an application may need, or be looking for is gone; overwritten by the damaged font. Disabling the font might release the RAM back to the assigned program or the OS, but the damage is already done. In the case of an application, you will need to shut it down and relaunch it in order for it to behave correctly again. The OS will likely require a restart.


All other font issues are in how they are built. Free fonts are the number one source of these font problems. Free fonts known to be bad are Alien League and Brady Bunch. Both have an incorrect internal name. There are several name fields that need to be filled in by the font's creator. Among them are the PS Font Name, Full Name, Menu Name and FOND Name. In the case of both fonts mentioned here, three of the fields have the same name as what the font is supposed to be, but both have Arial in the Full Name. So both conflict with the real Arial font. Another 'bad font' is Radioactive. It has an incorrect PS Font Name which causes it to conflict with Times New Roman. These are three I know of, but I'm sure there are many more.


If you want to see the effects of this (it's harmless, but annoying), download the Brady Bunch font and activate it. You can easily find this font by using "font+Brady Bunch" (without the quotes) as a web search. Google makes heavy use of Arial in the text it returns for a search. When you display such a page, Brady Bunch gets in the way of the regular Arial (Roman) font. Arial Bold will still be correct since that's a different internal name and a separate font, but all regular Arial text will display in the Brady Bunch font. Now that you've seen it, deactivate the Brady Bunch font, toss it in the trash and everything will return to normal.


Newer info on the Alien League font: I don't know if it's due to this article, but Alien League has been updated and can now be downloaded from most sites as a correctly functioning font. There are still bad copies out there, but they are actually getting very difficult to find. You can't go by the name of the font since both a bad copy and a fixed version are named alien5.ttf. Without a font editor to view the internal names with, you can't really know which is which without activating it and seeing if Arial suddenly gets trumped by Alien League.


With any font, there are multiple common errors they can possibly have. These issues can include outlines that make up the shape of a character having far more points than necessary to define a curve, having segments which overlap, paths running the wrong direction, and/or have stray anchor points. If you are unfamiliar with vector drawing, you draw a shape by placing down points. Between the points are Bézier line segments. You continue to draw your shape until you come around to your first point and close the path by connecting the last anchor point to the first. A path in Photoshop is an example of a vector outline, as is any such shape drawn in Illustrator. Fonts shapes are drawn the same way.


Free fonts may be poorly designed (and thus earn a 'bad font' rating) due to the lack of effort by their creator. Many are done by drawing characters by hand with pen and paper, scanning them into the computer and then using a tracing program to create the paths. These result in rough fonts using hundreds to thousands more anchor points than necessary to create the outline shapes. Problem is, most people make no attempt to clean them up, but instead just drop the resulting paths into the font they're creating. Yes, it saves a lot of time creating your font, but the end result is the junk they are.


Unnecessary points make the vector to raster processor work a lot more than it should have to when displaying the font to your screen and printing. Granted, computers do this so fast you'd have a hard time measuring the time difference between a well drawn font and a poor one, but it's still an indication of quality over a slap-it-together font. Overlapping segments (Bézier lines) cause a break in an outline that shouldn't exist. If a path is running the wrong direction (the outer path must be created in a clockwise direction, and the next inner path counter-clockwise), various things happen, depending on the character's shape. For example, take the letter 'A'. Depending on correct or incorrect drawing of the outer and inner paths (for the hole in the middle), the character may display as just a solid triangle where the hole is, but invisible where it should be solid. A stray point is an anchor point that connects to nothing. Stray points can be particularly bad for RIPs. When the RIP comes across one, it sees the point, but it has no other instructions then what to do with it. It can't draw anything since a single anchor point goes nowhere and isn't a shape unto itself. It's not a line, so the RIP can't draw one. The RIP can't fill a shape since there is none. The automated error handling of a RIP may be able to handle the problem, but otherwise may cause it to crash.


While there are a handful of good free fonts out there, the vast majority are worth exactly what you paid for them. For an excellent source of free fonts, head to Font Squirrel. I've downloaded and examined quite a few randomly chosen fonts. All are very well made. The owners of Font Squirrel vet the fonts you find there, so only the highest quality free fonts are made available.


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Fonts you can and cannot use in OS X

Fonts which can be used in OS X:


Apple Data Fork Fonts (.dfont) - A Unicode TrueType suitcase variation which allows for 65,536 characters per font.


Mac legacy TrueType - Also a TrueType suitcase font, normally with no file extension. 8 bit fonts limited to 256 characters.


Mac Type 1 PostScript - Paired fonts comprised of a suitcase of screen fonts and the individual outline printer fonts. Most often without any file extensions. Sometimes the suitcase of screen fonts will have an extension that helps define that it is the screen font suitcase, but aren't otherwise necessary. The file name extensions found on some suitcase files vary between .bmap, .scr and a few others. Originally, 8 bit fonts with a 256 glyph limit. Encoding options were updated later to allow for some extension of the number of allowed glyphs.


An example of a Mac Type 1 PostScript font can be seen in section 10 with Adobe Garamond. As you can see, "paired" doesn't necessarily mean only two items. There is always just one suitcase of screen fonts, but there can be any number of printer fonts. Each printer font will have at least one matching screen font within the suitcase.


Multiple Master (Mac OS X 10.2 and later only) - A Type 1 PostScript variant. Rarely used in production. While older versions of Preview and the Acrobat Reader do depend on certain Multiple Master fonts for their operation, they are no longer produced by Adobe and have been declared obsolete.


OpenType (.otf .ttf and .ttc) - Unlike the majority of fonts between the Mac OS and Windows, OpenType fonts are Unicode and have the advantage of being cross platform compatible. They are 16 bit fonts capable of having up to 65,536 characters. Files with a .otf extension, which contain only CFF data will always be a PostScript font. TrueType OpenType fonts will have either a .ttf or .ttc extension. (Unfortunately, this is not always true. Adobe's guidelines allows developers to use .otf for a TrueType structured OpenType font if they wish. So just by looking at it, it is impossible to know whether or not the .otf font you have is actually a PostScript font.)


'Impossible' sometimes has a workaround connected to it, so there are ways to find out if the .otf font you have is actually a PostScript font. Activate your OpenType fonts and then launch Quark XPress. In the list of fonts, Quark separates OpenType fonts by type. A TrueType font will have the standard green and black OpenType icon. PostScript OpenType fonts will be shown with a red and black icon. Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5 also note which type of fonts they are. A PostScript font will be shown in the Type column as OpenType - PS, and a TrueType version as OpenType - TT.


Windows TrueType (.ttf) - The Windows version of the original 8 bit, 256 character TrueType fonts.


Windows TrueType Collection (.ttc) - Windows version similar to Mac TrueType suitcase fonts. They can contain more than one TrueType font in a single package. This is again referring to the original 8 bit version, even though the same .ttf and .ttc file extensions are used for the OpenType versions.


Fonts which cannot be used in OS X:


Apple bitmapped fonts from OS 7.5 and earlier


Linux Type 1 PostScript - Paired fonts with .pfa and .afm extensions.


Type 3 PostScript - A fairly short lived PostScript variant. They allowed for the full use of the PostScript language such as shading, color and fill patterns. However, they lacked hinting, an important typography attribute. Obsolete.


Old, very old third party bitmapped fonts. Way back before TrueType or Type 1 PostScript fonts. There were no outline vector fonts for printing. Each point size for a typeface had to be built as a high resolution bitmap file from a companion program, or purchased separately. Good riddance.


Fonts which can "sort of" be used in OS X:


Windows Type 1 PostScript - Paired fonts with .pfb and .pfm extensions. Normally, these fonts have never been able to be used on the Mac; not in OS9 or OS X. Technically, you still can't. You can't open them with any font manager or use them by directly placing the fonts in one of OS X's or OS 9's standard Fonts folders, but the Adobe applications (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) starting with the CS2 suite can indeed read these fonts. Place them in the /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts/ folder and you will be able to use Windows Type 1 PostScript fonts with (and only with) the Adobe programs. The CS4 through CC versions do not create the Fonts folder mentioned, but all you have to do is go to the /Library/Application Support/Adobe/ folder and create a new folder named Fonts. An example of a Windows Type 1 PostScript font is as follows:





This particular font is Dorchester Script MT. All Windows Type 1 fonts consist of two files for one complete typeface. A .pfm file for the font metrics, and a .pfb file for the binary data. You must have both in order for the font to work. If there were a bold version of this font, you would have another uniquely named matching pair of .pfm and .pfb files.


Fonts for Classic (OS 9):


Because OS 9 expects fonts to be created a certain way, it cannot use some fonts that OS X can. Legacy TrueType from OS 9 and earlier and Type 1 PostScript fonts have their data in the resource fork, which is where OS 9 expects to find the font data. The OS X .dfont, while it is a TrueType font, cannot be used in OS 9. This is due, at least in part, because the data is in the data fork of the font; hence OS 9 sees nothing. The same is true of Windows .ttf TrueType fonts. The data in is the data fork rather than the resource fork, so OS 9 again sees nothing. Very few applications for OS 9 were ever updated to understand OpenType fonts. Windows Type 1 PostScript fonts are completely incompatible and cannot be used by either OS 9 or X, with the above exception for the Adobe applications.


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Font manager reviews

I've used (or at least tested) every font manager mentioned in this article. To help you make a more informed choice as to which one you may want to use, I'm going to list the pros and cons of each one as I see them. This is not an exhaustive review, but focuses on the more common features or omissions that make a given font manager easier or harder to use. Reviewed here are the most current versions available at the time of writing, so some features may not be available depending on the version you are using. They are; FontAgent Pro 6, Font Book in OS X 10.9 Mavericks, FontExplorer X Pro 4.0.1, MasterJuggler 3.0.4, and Suitcase Fusion 5 (16.2). Since Classic (OS 9) went away with Leopard in late 2007, I'm no longer going to to mention it.


If there is a font manager not mentioned here, it has either been discontinued (in which case I will remove the review), or is too simplistic to bother reviewing. A fair number of commercial font packages will include such basic font managers. They turn fonts on and off, and that's pretty much it.


FontAgent Pro




1) Copies all fonts you activate to a separate location in your user account. Therefore, even if you remove the original font or no longer have access to it, you can still activate the font from its working folder.

2) Has a method to create libraries which contain same named fonts as in other sets.

3) Reliable automatic font activation.

4) Ability to manage system fonts.

5) Font Savant technology virtually ensures auto activation will open the correct version of a font. MagicMatch will give you close optional choices when the original isn't available.

6) Now includes Smasher.




1) Fonts cannot be activated in place. Everything is copied to its working folder.

2) Cannot manage system fonts without moving all of them to a special location.

3) Will not let you choose which font to activate when trying to turn on a conflicting font that is already active in another set.


Font Book




1) It's free.

2) Can create font sets.

3) Resolves font conflicts. Much better control in Lion through Mavericks than previous versions.

4) Can deactivate fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ and ~/Library/Fonts/ folders to prevent any application from seeing them.

5) Can create Library sets to open fonts in place.

6) Has an automatic activation feature.




1) Different library sets can contain the same fonts, but they must be linked from exactly the same location in order to activate them.

2) Resolving fonts always favors those in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. This makes it impossible to activate another type of font with the same name without having to first manually remove the conflicting font in the System folder.

3) The "All Fonts" listing does not actually include all fonts.


FontExplorer X Pro




1) Can create full sets that include font names already listed in other sets.

2) Can deactivate fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ and ~/Library/Fonts/ folders to prevent any application from seeing them.

3) Can activate fonts in place. No need to create copies of the fonts you activate.

4) Can also be set up to behave like FontAgent Pro and copy all activated fonts to a working folder to be managed from there.

5) Has an automatic font activation feature.

6) Let's you decide which font to activate when opening a conflicting font.

7) Greatly improved interface and options in the paid version.




1) Auto activation only looks for the correct internal font names. You could activate the wrong version of a font on an existing project.






1) Can create full sets that include font names already in other sets.

2) Activates fonts in place. No need to create copies of the fonts you activate.




1) Makes no attempt to resolve font conflicts. Nor does it give you a function to do so. You must search through the list of fonts in its interface manually to find and resolve them yourself.

2) Makes no attempt to stop you from activating fonts that will conflict.

3) No auto activation feature.

4) Cannot deactivate fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ or ~/Library/Fonts/ folders.

5) Is still a PowerPC only app. Cannot be used in OS X Lion, 10.7.x or later.


Suitcase Fusion 5




1) Can create full sets that include font names already in other sets.

2) Can activate fonts in place. No need to create copies of the fonts you activate.

3) Has a reliable automatic font activation feature.

4) Font Sense technology virtually ensures auto activation will open the correct version of a font.

5) Let's you decide which font to activate or keep active when opening a conflicting font.

6) Individual fonts in a suitcase can be activated or deactivated rather than all or nothing.

7) Can deactivate fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ and ~/Library/Fonts/ folders to prevent any application from seeing them.

8) Has a vault option if you prefer to store copies of fonts that have been added.

9) Can control conflicting system fonts automatically.

10) Quickmatch feature helps you locate fonts which are similar to each other.




1) Conflicting fonts cannot be acted upon individually.


Font Book is included with OS X, so you can play around with it as much as you want. FontExplorer X Pro, Suitcase Fusion 5 and FontAgent Pro all have versions you can download and use as fully functional software for 30 days. Plenty of time to run them through the paces. MasterJuggler 3 is the only offering that requires you to purchase the product in order to see what it can do. No trial software is available. MasterJuggler also hasn't received an update in years.


I included "Can manage system fonts" as a plus for FontAgent Pro only because the software is supposed to be able to do that. In reality, it doesn't do it very well. OS X does a very good job protecting fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder from being deactivated. This can be a plus since it prevents the less knowledgeable user from turning off critical fonts, especially Lucida Grande.


Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5 have solved the issue with the Helvetica system fonts. You don't need to move, or remove any fonts from the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder if you don't want to. There is no longer an option in the preferences as to what to do with the system fonts, but if you activate (for example) a Type 1 PostScript version of Helvetica (which will conflict with Apple's versions) Suitcase Fusion 2 through 5 automatically turn the system Helvetica fonts off! When you deactivate your preferred version of Helvetica, Suitcase automatically turns the Apple versions back on. See section 5 for more details.


Part of the original point of this article was to work around the inability of most font managers to disable fonts in the two main Fonts folders from their interface. By manually reducing the fonts on your system to only those listed in Section one, it won't matter that you can't control the remaining fonts; and you shouldn't be trying to deactivate them anyway. That makes it a plus for Suitcase Fusion 5, FontExplorer X Pro and Font Book to be able to deactivate fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ or ~/Library/Fonts/ folders from their respective interfaces; especially if you are uncomfortable about moving fonts out of those folders.


I consider full font sets a very big plus. When you have multiple projects going at once, you want to have a single set for each project that includes every font it uses, not just those that don't already exist in another set. That makes your stop to your font manager a quick and painless process when you can simply turn off set three and turn on set ten. No need to search the other sets for fonts you still need activated. I also consider activating fonts in place a major plus. If you can activate a font right from where it is, why bother copying it to another folder as Font Book and FontAgent Pro insist on doing? The only advantage to that is if the fonts reside on removable media when you first activate them, so you may not have access to the originals later. But to avoid that, all you have to do is copy the fonts to your hard drive first. It's not like they take up a lot of space.


Font Book in Leopard through Mavericks now allow you to open fonts in place by using Library sets. But there are still limitations to how you can add fonts. See below.


If opening fonts for OS 9 (Classic) is still important for you, and you don't like manually moving fonts in and out of OS 9's /System Folder/Fonts/ folder to activate/deactivate your fonts, then your only choices for font managers are FontAgent Pro 6 and MasterJuggler 3. With the Intel based Macs making OS 9 virtually obsolete, I wouldn't be surprised if a future release of these two titles removes that ability. Starting with OS X Leopard, Apple has eliminated support for OS 9 entirely; so whether or not a font manager still supports Classic is a moot point if you're using Leopard, 10.5 or later.


So here are my recommendations based on what I consider important. Please note that some of these descriptions may not apply to the version of a given font manager you are using. They are based on the versions which were current at the time of writing and may be minor to drastically different from older versions.


1) Suitcase Fusion 5: Suitcase has been around for a very long time and it shows by its polished, easy to use interface. Excellent font activation that will not let you create font conflicts. Top notch auto activation with Font Sense to virtually guarantee the exact same font will be activated that was used before in a document. Full font sets. Choice of which font to activate or keep active when you try to activate a font that conflicts with one that's already on. Activation of fonts in place. Suitcase Fusion 5 is incredibly stable. It is almost impossible to make it crash, even with the worst fonts. Suitcase Fusion 2 and later have eliminated the potentially dangerous option of deleting your original fonts after adding them to the vault. Adding fonts to the vault now always leaves the originals intact.


Handling of conflicting fonts has been simplified. You choose in its preferences whether fonts you've just activated get turned on and the current active font off, or the existing font in use stays on. It's an all or nothing choice; so you can't do it on a font by font basis as you can in FontExplorer X Pro, or earlier versions of Suitcase. I always turn sets on and off, with each set having every font I need for a project in them; so this is never an issue for me. Others may find it constricting. This is actually a fairly recent change in this program's behavior. Before Fusion 2, you used to be able to choose font-by-font whether to activate or skip on each conflicting font. Perhaps the function will return if enough users request it. Fusion 3 added a font cache cleaning option within the interface. Version 4 introduced Quickmatch. To see what other goodies Extensis has added to Fusion 5, download the user guide from their web site.


When Extensis acquired Diamond Soft, they were able to add the best features of Font Reserve to Suitcase, hence the name Fusion. Notably from Font Reserve, Suitcase inherited Font Sense and the ability to deactivate individual fonts within a font suitcase. Before, you had to either enable or disable the whole suitcase. Suitcase Fusion 5 can control fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ and ~/Library/Fonts/ folders. I would recommend you remove all but the most basic fonts listed in section one to get your system down to only the fonts it needs in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. It's up to you then whether or not you want to empty out the /Library/Fonts/ and ~/Library/Fonts/ folders since they can be controlled from within Suitcase Fusion 5.


Suitcase Fusion 5 continues to be my favorite font manager. The interface and preferences are even more intuitive than the original OS X versions or the initial version of Fusion. If you've used Suitcase for a long time, you feel like something's been taken away in the sparse looking interface of Fusion 2 through 5, but it's still a very powerful program with even better options and features; while at the same time removing other interface choices that really weren't needed. The new interface makes it even easier and almost goof proof to use while still being, I think, the best font manager available for pros and novice users alike.


2) FontExplorer X Pro: If Suitcase no longer existed, I wouldn't hesitate a moment to use this manager. Full font sets. Full choice of which font to activate or keep active when you try to activate a font that conflicts with one that's already on. Allows you to deactivate fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ or ~/Library/Fonts/ folders. Activation of fonts in place.


During its initial setup you get a check box to "Organize Font Files". This is where you determine how you want FontExplorer X Pro to handle your fonts. If you leave the box unchecked, then fonts are always activated in place. Turn the check box on and it operates in the same manner as FontAgent Pro, by copying or moving the fonts you add to its own storage space in your user account. If you change your mind later how you want FontExplorer X Pro to handle fonts, you can open its preferences and click on the Advanced tab. At the top you will find the same options you had during the first use setup.


Unlike FontAgent Pro, you can keep fonts that have been removed from the interface in storage, if you're using that option. A check box in the Advanced preference settings allows you to determine if items removed from the interface also removes the associated fonts.


FontExplorer X Pro has a much improved interface (though still very busy compared to Suitcase) and new features. Compared to the original free versions, I find it less cluttered than before, and therefore easier to navigate.


Auto activation is reported to be spotty. Fonts that should open with a document don't. If it still relies only on seeing the correct font name, then you could open the wrong version of a font and not know it. Suitcase Fusion 5 and FontAgent Pro have a method of avoiding this possibly very expensive error. Regardless of that, FontExplorer X Pro has a large number of options to fully control your fonts.


3) FontAgent Pro: Auto activation is very reliable. Stable program that rarely crashes. Copies all activated fonts to another location, which I don't find necessary. To create full font sets use the Libraries option. You can't do this with Sets. In the program preferences, turn on the option to "Enable multiple libraries". It won't work if you're thinking "Suitcase" and try to drag and drop your fonts into the Sets window. You must drop them into the Libraries window. In this way, you can always create full font sets in FontAgent Pro.


There is a potentially severe fault using Libraries. I created a folder filled with random fonts and then copied that folder to another location. I dropped each folder of fonts into their own Library. Since they were exactly the same, they should create font conflicts if you try to turn both Library sets on. They didn't. FontAgent Pro impossibly showed all fonts as active in both sets. Examining the fonts where FontAgent Pro stores them showed why. There is only one copy of each font regardless of how many entries there are of an identical font in the interface. So you aren't really turning on duplicate fonts. Conflicts will only appear if you try to activate different fonts that have the same internal names. This is both a good and bad thing. It's nice to have one known good font used for all sets. It's bad when a client sends you a modified font which then doesn't get added to your font storage folder because one by that name already exists. That's a disaster in the making.


In a more recent change to how FAP handles its stored fonts, it now lets you create separate subfolders for each library of fonts you add, instead of automatically sorting them by name. This allows you to have multiple sets of stored fonts which can have identical fonts. Big problem, though. The interface still lets you turn on what should be conflicting fonts as before. I once again imported two identical sets of fonts and FAP created duplicate copies of every font under their own subfolders of the storage area. I turned one set on, then the other. As with the previously tested versions, both sets showed as being active, which is impossible without creating font conflicts. And as before, FAP said nothing about conflicting fonts. So even though you can now have multiple copies of the same fonts in storage, if one by that name is already active, that's the one which will be used; any subsequent request will be ignored. All of this happens without the program telling you the font it just labeled green (for active) was never actually turned on because another (identically named font) is already active.


If you remove any fonts, sets or libraries from the interface, FontAgent Pro will also delete the related fonts from its storage location in your user account.


Version four's Font Savant technology, which is similar to Suitcase Fusion's Font Sense, makes FontAgent Pro a strong contender. Having auto activation open exactly the same fonts as before is extremely important in a production environment, saving you from both lost time and income because the wrong version of a font caused text to reflow. When the original font cannot be found, MagicMatch will show you the closest alternative it can find.


All in all, a nice font manager. But its biggest failure is that it never does anything to warn you that a font you think you turned on hasn't been when another font by that name is already active. This can be a tremendously costly error in production.


4) Font Book: Simple, but effective. The Leopard version is identical to Snow Leopard. Allows you to deactivate fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ or ~/Library/Fonts/ folders. However, lack of being able to easily choose which font to disable for a font conflict, limits its use to the casual user. No complete font sets. Copies all activated fonts to another location, using the original method.


Library sets do allow you to activate fonts in place without fonts being copied to the Fonts folder designated in Font Book's preferences. There are problems, however. While you can create multiple Library sets that include the same fonts, they must be from the exact same location. Adding identical fonts from different locations will add them to the Library set, but then you can't activate either one once they've been deactivated.


When you have conflicting fonts, those already installed in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder always win. The opposite fonts will always be the ones disabled. All others in the /Library/Fonts/ or ~/Library/Fonts/ folders can be controlled, but you must do things in the correct order. If you tell Font Book to automatically resolve conflicts, the fonts which are currently active are always the ones to remain active. If you want the conflicting font enabled, you must first deactivate the active font. Then you you can activate the opposite font. This is true even in the conflict resolution interface.


Lion through Mavericks adds a greatly appreciated font conflict resolution interface. Instead of just blindly turning one font or the other off (you have no idea which one, and it doesn't tell you), it presents a screen of the conflicting fonts. You can choose each in turn and select "Reveal in Finder". The folder the font is in will open and the file itself is highlighted. You can now make an informed decision as to which font should be deactivated.


Now if only it worked. The conflict resolution screen isn't as straight forward as you would think. Just like disabling a conflicting font from the main screen, the currently active font is always the one to remain active. Even when using the option to Resolve Manually. It doesn't matter which font you highlight, the inactive font remains that way. So manual doesn't do anything different than automatic. Be very careful if you turn on Font Book's preference to move conflicting fonts to the trash. For example, let's say you have a font in the /Library/Fonts/ folder deactivated, and an identical font active from somewhere else (which you can do in a Library set). Now turn the font in the /Library/Fonts/ folder on. Since the font which was already active is always the one to remain on, when you resolve the conflict, the font in the /Library/Fonts/ folder will be deleted! Not kidding. Right out of the main Library folder. So not just you, but every user account on that Mac loses access to that font.


All of those extra Asian fonts that show up in Font Book's interface, which aren't anywhere in any of the various Fonts folders, are actually buried in the Font Book application package itself. These Asian fonts are referred to as stub fonts (the name of the embedded folder). They don't show up in your applications as fonts you can use, but Font Book still lists them as grayed out, non controllable fonts. I see no purpose for them at all, but there they are.


The way Font Book lists fonts continues to be a confusing mess. You would think "All Fonts" would actually show you all fonts listed in its interface. It doesn't. Neither "All Fonts" or the "Computer" heading will show you a single font that was added in a Library set. You must click on each Library set you have created in order to see what's active or inactive for those fonts.


Font Book's main downfall is how easily its database is corrupted. When that happens, you suddenly can't activate or add some fonts, deactivate those which are already active, have fonts show up in some applications but not others, etc. The only fix is to restart in Safe Mode and back again with a normal restart to clear Font Book's database. This is an okay font manager for light home use, but not a production environment. Font Book is improving, but is still sorely lacking in overall ability.


5) MasterJuggler: I rather expected a font manager from a company that produces the indispensable DiskWarrior to be much better than this. A font manager that won't stop you from activating conflicting fonts even from its own interface is useless. You may as well not use a font manager at all and manually move fonts in and out of the /Library/Fonts/ or ~/Library/Fonts/ folders.


In its favor, MasterJuggler is a very stable program that does what it does do very well with full font sets and handling even bad fonts well. But it is very much a font manager that requires the user to fully understand how font conflicts occur, how to avoid them and how to resolve them on your own.


It seems Alsoft has abandoned MasterJuggler even though they still sell it. Its last update was 3.0.4 on June 1, 2005 and is still a PowerPC only app, which makes it completely unusable in Lion, 10.7.x or later. Suitable only for users of Snow Leopard, 10.6.x or older.


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How to handle font caches

All types of software create and maintain cache files. The purpose of a cache file is to access frequently used data faster than it can usually be obtained from its original location. Since we're talking about fonts, we'll use them as an example. Any font activation causes the OS to create cached data of those fonts. This data is optimized for both faster retrieval and rendering; much faster than it would be to access the fonts themselves every time a call is made to draw a font to the screen. If over time you use a particular font less, even though it's active, the cached data for that font may eventually be removed from the cache in favor of those being used more frequently. If you use the font again, its data will be added back into the cache in the assumption that the data will once again be needed more often. Hence, cache data is something that is always in flux whether it's font data, data for the OS itself or any other program that use various types of caches.


Because that data is read from and written to so often, the data is bound to have errors introduced at some time. When that happens, you see odd problems. With fonts, it's almost always garbled text caused by corrupt font caches. These can easily be cleared from the system with Font Finagler. Download and run the application. First click the "Inspect Font Cache Files" button, then the "Clean Font Cache Files" button. You must then restart your Mac. Other utilities that can clear your font caches are Font Nuke, Cocktail, YASU and OnyX. The last three are powerful utilities which can do far more than just cleaning font caches. If you are not familiar with these applications, then I would caution you in their use as you could cause your Mac to become non functional, requiring a reinstall of the OS. Font Finagler is the safer choice as it performs only the one function. However Font Finagler hasn't been updated for a while. Last I tested, it doesn't work in Snow Leopard or later. I now prefer OnyX for this task.


Suitcase and FontExplorer X Pro both come with cache cleaning tools. With Suitcase Fusion through Fusion 2, it's the bundled Font Doctor. The option in Font Doctor is under Tools > Clean Font Caches. Suitcase Fusion 3 through 5 have included a cache cleaning choice in the main application so you don't have to launch Font Doctor. With Suitcase Fusion 3 through 5 in the foreground, the option is under File > Clean Font Caches. This is a very thorough cleaning. It clears the OS X font cache files, and those for many third party apps which maintain their own separate font cache files. A nice addition starting with FontAgent Pro 5, Smasher is now included as part of the package. No need to purchase it separately.


FontExplorer X Pro has its tools broken down into three options:


(1) Clean System Fonts Folder


This choice refers to the entire system, not just the System folder. What this tool does is move any font that is not installed as part of OS X to a new folder on your desktop. A very quick and easy way to separate the OS X supplied fonts from those you've added. (Lion and later duplicate this feature in Font Book). This can be very helpful when you're having trouble tracking down font issues. Once you run this option along with cleaning cache files and the remaining fonts are still misbehaving; then you know you need to at least reinstall the OS X supplied fonts. See the instructions at the bottom of this article to see how.


(2) Clean System Font caches


Clears all font cache files for both the system and the active user account.


(3) Clean Application Font caches


Specific to clearing font cache files created by the Adobe apps, Quark XPress and Microsoft Office.


Notes on cache files:


One fairly common problem that occurs with corrupt font caches (particularly in Tiger for some reason) are fonts in Dashboard widgets suddenly being drawn as outlines instead of solid text. Clearing the font cache files usually fixes it.


There is a right way and a wrong way to remove cache files. Font Finagler and OnyX force you to do it the right way by restarting immediately afterwards. So why is this right? As just noted, cache files are accessed frequently. If you remove any type of cache file and attempt to continue working, you could easily have just pulled the rug out from under an application that was reading (or worse, writing) to a cache file that was removed during the cache cleaning operation. The consequences can be anywhere from minor to disaster. The rules for clearing cache files are simple, but need to be followed to avoid potential data loss.


1) Quit all running applications. This is not optional - do it. While it doesn't hurt to leave your font manager running, as long as it's in a static state (not actively being used in any way), the only 'program' running should be the OS itself. If you want to really be certain, shut down your font manager, too.


2) Use any of the utilities linked to in this section to remove the font cache files (Suitcase Fusion 3 through 5, and FontExplorer X Pro can also remove font cache data from an option within the application). If the program you use does not automatically force a restart, don't take that to mean it's okay to continue working. Restart your Mac immediately. Under no circumstances should you ever skip restarting after manually removing any type of cache data.


Rules do have exceptions, and one is Microsoft Office. It has its own font cache data which can be removed without restarting your computer. Though you still must first shut down any running Office applications. After closing all Office apps, remove the following files:


For Office X and 2004, the location is:


~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office Font Cache (11)


For Office 2008, the location is:


~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2008/Office Font Cache (12)


For Office 2011, the location is:


~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2011/Office Font Cache


The Office 2011 Service Pack 2 (version 14.2.0) changed the location of many preference files, including the font cache data. It is now located at:


~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Preferences/Office 2011/Office Font Cache


After removing the file, you can then launch any Office application to have it rebuild its font cache data.


In OS 10.5.x Leopard through 10.9.x Mavericks, you can also remove font cache files using the Terminal application.


Close all running applications. From an administrator account, open the Terminal app and enter the following command (or copy/paste it from here):


sudo atsutil databases -remove


Enter your administrator password when prompted.


This removes all font cache files maintained by OS X. Both for the system and the active user account. After running the command, close Terminal and immediately restart your Mac.


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Font 911

Q: "I removed Lucida Grande while cleaning out my fonts. Now my Mac won't boot. Help!"


A: There are three ways to get this critical font back onto your Mac.


1) Turn your Mac on and hold down the mouse button. This will cause the DVD/CD drive door to open so you can insert the OS Install disk that came with your Mac, or a retail copy if you purchased it separately. After placing the disk in the tray, close the drive by nudging the extended tray with your finger. Press and hold the power button until the Mac turns off. Wait a few seconds and press the power button again. Immediately hold down the C key to boot to the Install disk in the DVD/CD drive. Do not release the key until it is clear you have started up your Mac to the disk. Run the OS installation, making sure to choose the Archive and Install option. Also make sure to choose the options to maintain your user settings. With Snow Leopard, run the standard install to preserve your third party apps and settings. Once the install has finished, you can restart and your Mac should once again be able to boot to the hard drive. Your system will be at whatever level the disk you have is. So if your Install DVD/CD disk is 10.3.3, that's what version of OS will be on your Mac. You will need to download the appropriate Combo Updater from Apple's site to restore the system to a higher version.


2) This method is much less invasive or time consuming. The only drawback is that you need access to another Mac running the same basic version of OS X (Panther, Leopard, etc.), and your Mac must support FireWire Target Disk Mode. Macs which support this function are listed in the Apple Knowledge Base Article HT1661. Place the non functioning Mac next to a working Mac and connect the two directly to each other using a standard FireWire 400 or 800 cable. It doesn't matter if the Macs are on or not. FireWire is a hot plug-able connection and so will not damage anything by doing so, though it is easiest to have both Macs off to start with. If the functioning Mac is not already on, turn it on first and wait until it is in a ready state. If the non working Mac is on, turn it off by pressing and holding the power button until it shuts off. Turn on the non booting Mac. Immediately hold down the T key to put the Mac into FireWire Target Disk Mode. Keep holding the T key until a large FireWire icon appears on the monitor. The hard drive of that Mac will now appear as a removable drive on the working Mac. Open it as you would any other disk and copy the Lucida Grande font from the working Mac to the same location on the non functioning Mac. The location is /System/Library/Fonts/. Once copied, dismount the hard drive of the Mac in FireWire Target Disk Mode by highlighting its icon and pressing Command+E. Or drag its icon to the Trash, which will change to an Eject icon. Turn the non working Mac off again using the power button. Disconnect the FireWire cable. When you start your repaired Mac again, it should boot. Once started, run Disk Utility to Repair Permissions as the fonts in the System folder will have incorrect settings.


3) The third method is similar to the second. And that is to have an external FireWire drive with the same version of OS X installed. To use this method, your Mac must support booting to a FireWire device. Macs that support this feature are listed in the Apple Knowledge Base Article HT2699. Intel based Macs also support USB booting, as per article HT1948. Have your non functioning Mac off. Press and hold the power button if necessary to power the computer down. Connect the external FireWire (can be FireWire 400 or 800) or USB drive to the Mac and turn the external drive on. Wait 10 seconds or so to give the drive time to get to a ready state. Turn on the Mac and immediately hold down the Option key. Continue holding the key until you get a screen showing which drives have a bootable system on them. This will take a minute or so as the Mac tries to determine if there's a network drive attached. Once it is done searching (the normal arrow mouse cursor will appear), select the external drive by double clicking on its icon. The Mac will boot to the external device. Once ready, you can then copy the LucidaGrande.dfont from the external drive to your main drive as described in method two. As the Option key method of booting is a temporary choice, you don't need to open the System Preferences and reselect your main drive as the startup disk. Simply restart and your Mac will boot to the internal drive. Perform a Repair Permissions on your system when it has finished starting up.


Q: "The fonts in Safari and many other applications are a garbled mess, or Safari and other applications won't launch."


A: A common cause of applications not starting are corrupt fonts. But Helvetica Fractions in particular is known to cause problems, as is Times Phonetic. Don't just disable these fonts in your font manager, but physically remove them from your system and try your applications again.


Q: "What in the world is with the letter A in a box?"


A: Are you seeing a strings of characters like this image where there should be text in your web browser, email or other app?



The most common cause is that your font cache data is damaged. When that happens, the OS opts for the last resort to display something, anything there. Appropriately, this text is from the system font LastResort. Usually, all you have to do is restart your Mac. If that doesn't do it, then clear the font cache files from the system using Terminal, as described at the bottom of the previous section.


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Determining if fonts are causing problems with applications

This can be difficult, as the problem could be related to fonts, preference files, system files, or a combination of the three.


First move all fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ and the ~/Library/Fonts/ folders to a new folder on the desktop. If you have pared your fonts down to the minimal list, this will leave only the basic fonts active in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder (see list above in Section 1).


If your applications are still having problems, you then you need to determine if the problem is damaged system fonts or preference files. To do so, open the System Preferences. Click on the Accounts icon and create a new user account. Log in to that account and run the applications you are having trouble with. If they are still not operating, then it is likely that your system fonts are damaged or possibly the OS.


Your next least intrusive step is reinstalling the fonts using the method below in the section, Reinstalling your fonts, or obtaining them from another Mac or external drive using one of the methods above.


If after all this your applications are still not functioning, then other basic OS system files are damaged; which only a reinstall of the OS can repair.


If your applications are now working correctly in a new user account, but you are still experiencing problems:


Then the preference files in your original user account may be what is damaged. There is no easy way to fix this, either. At least not one that will keep you from losing all of your individual preferences for each application. I suggest you open the Preferences folder in your user account and move everything in that folder to a new empty folder on your desktop; so the original is empty. Restart your Mac and login to your normal account. When the Mac is ready, you can remove the new account you made for testing in the first step if you tried that.


At this point, everything about your desktop will look as it did when you first installed OS X. The Dock, your desktop image, everything. For those applications that need certain preferences present to avoid having to reinstall them, you can try copying those particular preferences back from the folder you created on your desktop containing your original preference files and see if they work. If not, that preference file is damaged and you may need to reinstall the application. Others will simply let you reenter the serial number when it needs to create a new preference file.


Why you wouldn't just reinstall the OS? Because your preference files would still be damaged if you reinstalled the OS, preserving your settings. If you performed a clean install, then your preferences would be gone and replaced with new ones. So you either will have accomplished nothing with a reinstall, since your original damaged preference files will still be there; or you will put yourself at the same point you would be if you had simply removed your preference files. Except it took you a lot longer to do the latter because you did a complete clean reinstall of the OS rather than just empty the Preferences folder.


Another option: You can also move all user fonts to one location to determine if only fonts are the problem. Move all fonts in the /Library/Fonts/ and ~/Library/Fonts/ folders to a new folder on your desktop. If your applications run normally, then one or more of your now disabled fonts is causing the problem. It doesn't matter if the application uses a particular font or not; a damaged font can cause memory leaks and other memory related problems. Copy or move five fonts at a time into the /Library/Fonts/ folder. If behavior problems return, then one or more of the fonts you reactivated are damaged. Replace as needed.


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Reinstalling your fonts

It is possible to restore your fonts without resorting to a reinstall of the entire OS.


First, download Pacifist. Insert the first OS installation CD or DVD. Start the utility and click on the "Open Mac OS X Install Packages" button. Keep feeding the application the CDs or DVDs of your Panther through Snow Leopard Install disks as it asks for them. If you have a set of DVDs that came with your Mac, the first disk should be the only one you need. After Pacifist has finished reading all of the packages, select the package that has the fonts you want installed and click the Install button on Pacifist's menu. Only that package will be installed to its default location. For a complete set of fonts, reinstall both the /System/Library/Fonts/ and /Library/Fonts/ folders. All fonts you install from Pacifist will overwrite any identical fonts on your hard drive in the default locations, replacing any damaged fonts in the process. If you have copied or moved any of the default fonts to another location, they will still be there and will need to be deleted manually. All in all, this method is much quicker and easier than doing an entire reinstall of OS X to get your fonts back where they belong.


Notes on restoring fonts on Macs that shipped with Lion through Mavericks:


These Macs do not come with any media for restoring the OS. You boot to the emergency partition by restarting and holding down Command+R. From there you can restore the OS or erase a drive and reinstall. A full install package for Lion or Mountain Lion is 4GB in size. Mavericks is 5.3 GB. The entire hidden recovery partition is only 650MB. That tells you right away that this is not an entire system. If you do an erase and install, as much of the OS as is possible will be installed from the recovery partition. The rest will be downloaded from Apple's servers and installed.


I wanted to see what fonts could be restored from the recovery partition. The result is that they are in a hidden .dmg file. In that disk image is a folder named /System/Library/Fonts/Base/. Of the 245 fonts Mountain Lion ships with, only 51 fonts are in this folder. This one folder is actually a combination of fonts which normally go into the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder, and others in the /Library/Fonts/ folder. It's not easy to get to. You need to first modify Disk Utility's preferences so it will show hidden partitions so you can mount the Recovery drive. Then you run a Terminal command to show hidden files and folders. It's not something a novice should attempt, so I'm not going to explain the entire process. There are so few fonts to recover from there anyway it isn't worth the effort.


So whenever you get the opportunity to download an entire Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks system through the App Store (as in a system update), do so. When the download finishes, it will want to install the OS. Immediately press Command+Q to quit the installer. You can then backup the full installer to a DVD, flash drive or external hard drive. Then you have it and can use the following instructions.


Font locations for Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks:


This is quite a bit different as Apple does not sell a CD or DVD for Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks. Lion is available on a flash drive. These instructions assume you copied your Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks download to a DVD or other location to save for future use. I haven't seen a flash drive version of Lion, so I can't comment on how that may work.


Right click on the Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks installer and choose Show Package Contents. Double click the Contents folder, and then the SharedSupport folder. Double click the file InstallESD.dmg to open the disk image. A disk image drive icon will appear on the desktop. Double click the desktop icon to open it. In the resulting window, double click the Packages folder. Open the Essentials.pkg with Pacifist. You can do this by dragging and dropping the .pkg file onto Pacifist's interface.


For the System folder fonts, expand Contents of Essentials.pkg > System > Library > Fonts and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


For the Library folder fonts, expand Contents of Essentials.pkg > Library > Fonts and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


Font locations for the Leopard and Snow Leopard retail disks:


For the System folder fonts, expand Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of EssentialSystemSoftware > Contents of EssentialSystemSoftwareGroup > Contents of BaseSystem.pkg > System > Library > Fonts and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


For the Library folder fonts, expand Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of EssentialSystemSoftware > Contents of EssentialSystemSoftwareGroup > Contents of Essentials.pkg > Library > Fonts and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


The Additional Fonts are in two separate locations. Expand Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of AdditionalFonts.pkg > Library > Fonts, or Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of AdditionalFonts.pkg > System > Library > Fonts, depending on the set of additional fonts you want to restore.


Font locations for the Tiger retail disks:


For the System folder fonts, expand Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of BaseSystem.pkg > System > Library and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


For the Library folder fonts, expand Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of Essentials.pkg > Library and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


Fonts locations for the bundled Tiger and retail Panther disks:


For the System folder fonts, expand Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of EssentialSystemSoftware.mpkg > Contents of BaseSystem.pkg > System > Library and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


For the Library folder fonts, expand Contents of OSInstall.mpkg > Contents of EssentialSystemSoftware.mpkg > Contents of Essentials.pkg > Library and highlight the folder "Fonts" by clicking on it once. Click "Install" at the upper left of the Pacifist window.


You will also find a main package named Contents of Fonts.mpkg. You do not need to restore these fonts unless you have need of the extended set of Asian and foreign language fonts. Also, you can expand each "Fonts" folder in Pacifist to select individual fonts if you only want to restore one, or a few.


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