FontAgent Pro 3.0.2, by Insider Software
Posted: 7-Sep-2005

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Insider Software Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Terry Telke Class: UTILITY

Overview
FontAgent Pro 3.0.2 Standard Edition is a font management utility for Mac OS X. FontAgent Pro will locate fonts, move the fonts to a single location (if selected), and import the fonts into a library. FontAgent Pro provides management of fonts by grouping them into libraries, sets or nested sets. Fonts that have Kern, Ligature or Baseline changes are managed as separate fonts. Fonts may be viewed from FontAgent Pro or from printed samples for easy font selection. Fonts can be kept to a minimum by only activating the needed fonts for better application performance, and fonts may also be exported for press or prepress purposes. FontAgent Pro handles several types of fonts including: Type 1 PostScript, Macintosh TrueType, Windows TrueType, OpenType and OS X dfont.

Requirements
FontAgent Pro requires Mac OS X Panther or Tiger.

For this review, FontAgent Pro was running on a G4 450 Mhz and an iBook 933 Mhz (used for font sharing) running 10.3.9.

Price
$99.95

Setup
I ran the FontAgent Pro installer, and by default it installs into your applications folder. The FontAgent Pro assistant guides you through the initial FontAgent Pro launch. I enabled multiple font libraries, automatic font activation and activation in classic preferences. I finished up the installation by importing fonts into the default library 'My fonts'. The font library can be named by using the pull down menu and selecting 'Create a New Library'. If a drive is selected in the Import window as the location, then all fonts on the drive are discovered and imported into the font library, with a few exceptions. Corrupted fonts can lead to system problems, and with FontAgent Pro, corrupted and duplicate fonts are not imported. In addition, if the 'Delete original fonts after importing' is selected, the fonts are consolidated in the FontAgent Pro font library.

For installation on the iBook I used a 30-day trial edition. Upon the first attempt, the installer unexpectedly quit. After a restart of the iBook, the installation proceeded normally. I later activated my version of FontAgent Pro with a license code.

In Use
I recently bought some fonts on CDs and wanted to use them, but did not want to go through each font folder to find the font I wanted. FontAgent Pro provides an easy way to select the desired fonts by providing on screen or printed views of the fonts. Once you narrow the fonts of interest, the Font Compare provides a brief view of the fonts to aid in font selection.

In term of processing these fonts, FontAgent Pro provides an excellent font management tool. It provides several views of the font format, a named list of all your fonts and the ability to manage your fonts by organizing them into libraries and sets (or library subsets). In addition to logical organization of the fonts, FontAgent Pro physically moves the font collection to a central location on the disk. Font text samples and character sets can be viewed or printed in any font color and background color. I was able to easily find and choose the font styles I wanted. In addition, FontAgent Pro may have solved a system stability issue by discovering that I had some corrupted fonts. I was unaware of these and probably had them around for a long time.

The FontAgent Pro main window includes a toolbar with buttons across the top, a left pane that displays the fonts, a right top pane that displays libraries, sets or sharing, and a lower right pane that displays the Font Player or Font Compare. These panels are re-sizeable to suite your needs. Many of the font activities can be performed in any of the panels.

The font import can produce a detailed report of the import. The import of my old fonts identified several problems. I had corrupted fonts, duplicate fonts and missing screen fonts. I have been carrying these fonts along since System 5 (or maybe earlier); it's good to get rid of them. Problem fonts are not added to the FontAgent Pro font library, and are instead moved to a "Problem Fonts" folder.

After importing fonts, I reviewed the fonts in the Font Player panel using the keyboard arrows to cycle through the fonts. Some of my fonts looked to be missing some characters, and so I deleted these old fonts.


FontAgent Pro main window


The FontAgent Pro toolbar buttons provide functions for activating or deactivating selected fonts, sharing or unsharing selected fonts, creating new libraries or sets, importing fonts, and deleting fonts.

The left window pane is where the fonts are displayed, activated or deactivated, and share or unshared. You have the choice of viewing 'All Fonts', 'Libraries' or 'Sets'. This panel also allows the searching for a font. The default is to search by font name. Clicking on the magnifying glass arrow brings up the following selection for searching:


Search font window


If the display of all fonts is too daunting, the fonts can be filtered, which can be done by font status (Active, Auto-activated, Deactivated, Shared, Not Shared or Verified Failed) or by font type (PostScript, Mac True Type, Open Type, Windows True Type, Apple dfont).

Usually fonts are displayed in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) format; however, some fonts names are hard to read, so there is a checkbox that allows you to turn this off. I noticed that the WYSWYG display of the fonts is not always correct (see figure below). Fonts may also be displayed by family, using the 'By Family' check box. The up and down arrow buttons increase or decrease the font size in the display.


Incorrect WYSWYG font display


When a Set is deleted, the fonts remain in the library. Only the Set is deleted. The fonts can be deleted by selecting the fonts and deleting them individually.

The fonts can also be sorted by clicking on the column heading, and the columns may be resized and reordered. The left most column is the activate/deactivate status icon and button. Clicking on the icon will toggle the font from deactivate to active, or vice versa. Activating a font allows that font to be available for use by other applications. Microsoft Word seems to have an issue with the font activation notification. I don't know how the notification is accomplished, but the font needs to be active before Word is launched for the font to show up in Word's font list. The share/unshared status icon and button provides for sharing the font with others on the network. The font type is easily identified by the icon which is part of the Name column. There are also columns for Foundry and Library. Not being a graphic artist, I did not find the Foundry column that useful.


All Font display in Left Panel


The font selection can be synchronized with the display of the font format in the lower right panel.

In one test, I loaded a CD of fonts to a firewire disk and created a new library and imported 1504 fonts. When importing fonts, be sure and select the desired destination library (see figure below). If not selected, then the library in the pull down button is the library that the fonts are added to. I probably could have imported the fonts directly from the CD because the fonts are copied to the FontAgent Pro library. Some of the fonts were reported as duplicate, and the duplicate fonts are not imported but placed in the Problem Fonts folder in the library. When browsing the Problem Fonts folder, I found corrupt fonts that were not reported in the import report, so it appears that the report may not always be complete. The Library import window also has several checkbox selections that control importing of the font. The delete original font is a great feature allowing FontAgent Pro to gather all the fonts into a single location. Once I selected the hard drive and performed the import, all the fonts on the drive, with the exception of the System Fonts, were moved to the FontAgent Pro library.


Library import window


FontAgent Pro's top right window pane provides another view of the fonts and font organization. Fonts can be displayed by 'Library', 'Sets' or 'Sharing'. The library and set views are the same as in the left panel. A font selection in these two lists are synchronized. Fonts may be dragged and dropped between this panel and the left panel to organize the contents of libraries or sets. This is so much better than the old Font/DA mover of Classic Mac systems.

The 'Sharing' button allows fonts from one computer to be shared with another computer on the same network. The fonts that have been selected as shared on the host computer are listed and available on the target computer. The sharing capability works well. As fonts are shared on the host computer, they show up on the target computer. If the fonts were activated on the host computer, they become activated on the target computer (aka, fonts are made available in applications on the target computer, such as Word). When sharing, the notification that new fonts are available also works great in Word. However, if fonts are activated on the same computer that Word is running, Word does not add the fonts to its fonts list. Word needs to quit and be re-launched to have the font show up in the font list (just as mentioned above). On the other hand, TextEdit did not have to be relaunched to have the fonts show up in its font list. Fonts listed in the sharing panel may also be activated and imported on the target computer by clicking on the appropriate buttons.


Font sharing panel


FontAgent Pro's lower right window pane contains the Font Player or Font Compare. I found the Font Compare display of several fonts to be extremely useful for choosing fonts.

The Font Player displays the selected font, and if more than one font is selected, the fonts are viewed like a slide show using the player controls. Font Player text controls are:

  • font size
  • sample text entry
  • display of the upper/lower case letters, numbers
  • sample text
  • paragraph of some text
  • font and background color
  • print fonts

Font Player navigation controls are:

  • add the font to the Font Player set
  • play the fonts backward
  • step backward 1 font
  • stop the Font Player
  • step forward 1 font
  • play the fonts forward
  • control the speed of the Font Player


I did not see a lot of value in the slide show capability, nor was I able to figure out how to change the paragraph's text. The print button prints the selected fonts using the current Font Player selected text button (user text, alpha numeric or paragraph) in the font and background color chosen.


Font Player panel


The Font Compare displays the selected fonts name along with sample text. Font Compare controls are:

  • font size
  • sample text entry
  • font and background color
  • print fonts

I did a print to PDF that resulted in a 90 page PDF file.


Font Compare panel


There were times when cycling through fonts using the keyboard arrows in font compare view resulted with incorrect font displays. This turned out to be a problem with the fonts, because after I ran the font verify tool, the font files were identified as not being found. I re-imported the fonts and the problem went away.

Under Preferences, the General tab provides check boxes to enable FontAgent Pro to manage the System fonts. However, while browsing the FAQ's on the web site, I noted that several fonts are needed by the system to be active prior to the application activation. The solution is to place the font in System fonts. Base on this, it may be better not to enable this capability. The 'Show multiple libraries' checkbox provides or removes the panel buttons that control the selection of the libraries.

The Activation tab provides checkboxes for activation selections. 'Enable auto activation' activates a font when it is needed as long as the font is in the FontAgent Pro library (FontAgent Pro does not have to be running). To get the font to auto activate, the computer needs to be restarted after making this selection. Auto activate is not available in Classic mode. It would also appear that fonts that are auto-activated are not auto-deactivated. 'Verify fonts before activation' verifies the fonts when imported. 'Activate fonts in Classic' will activate fonts in classic mode just as they are activated in OS X. 'Include manually activated fonts' provides the fonts that have been manually activated or a set or library to be activated when the computer is restarted. 'Include auto-activated fonts' activates the auto-activated fonts at computer start up.


Preferences - Activation tab


Under the Font menu, I was not sure how to use the 'Kern', 'Ligature' and 'Baseline' functions, as the menu items were disabled. The 'Show Fonts' displays the font window (see below).


Font window


FontAgent Pro includes a 'Buy Fonts' item under the Tools menu. This option brings up the
www.fonts.com web page where you can search for more fonts to purchase. The 'Startup Set' menu item enables the selected set as the startup set activated at computer start up.

FontAgent Pro provides an extensive Help menu item. If the help function does not answer your question, then the User Guide PDF included with FontAgent Pro should. There is also a useful Quick Start PDF.

Interface
The FontAgent Pro user interface is a typical OS X interface with 3 resizable panels and a tool bar. The tool bar has mouse over hints that provide additional descriptions of the button's function. When selecting the font or fonts in the left window pane, I was able to immediately view the font format in the lower right window pane. Once several similar fonts are selected, the Font Compare in the lower right panel is nice to view or print the details of the fonts, allowing for the selection of just the right font.

While I did not see much use for the Font Player slide show capability, I did think that the ability to see the format of all the characters of the font may be critical to picking the right font. Once the font or fonts are selected, they can easily be activated by the tool bar button or individually by the activate icon button.

FontAgent Pro crams a lot of functionality into the user interface, and by doing so, some of the features are not initially obvious. What was not obvious are the icon buttons for activate/deactivate and share/unshared. Once familiar with these buttons, the interface is easy and efficient to activate needed fonts. The activate icon button is available in all of the three panels. The activate button is also available at the library and set level, where all the fonts in the library or set are activated.

I especially liked the ability to drag and drop the fonts, sets and libraries from the one panel to the other panel. This makes the organization of fonts a breeze. Anyone who has more fonts than the ones provided by Apple could easily benefit from FontAgent Pro, especially when you need to rapidly and efficiently locate desired fonts.

FontAgent Pro needs to correct the proper WYSWYG display of all fonts. Also, font auto activation activates the first font found by that name, which may not be the actual font that needs to be activated. Finally, when I was cycling through the fonts using keyboard arrows, FontAgent Pro quit. This happened when I had a problem with the font files.

Summary
FontAgent Pro is a great font management utility. It can easily locate and move fonts, and is a great tool for consolidating your fonts. When importing fonts, FontAgent Pro detects corrupted fonts and does not import them. Corrupted fonts can also be identified in the system library, providing visibility when to delete bad fonts in order to improve system stability. With FontAgent Pro, you can view and manage your fonts by grouping them into libraries, sets or nested sets. Fonts may be viewed or printed for easy font selection. The active fonts can be kept to a minimum to improve application performance. FontAgent Pro includes extensive help by way of the integrated Help Viewer as well as the Quick Start Guide and User Guide PDF documents. There are a few interface issues, but nothing earth shattering. For getting a handle on font management, I cannot think of a better tool than FontAgent Pro.

Pros

  • Consolidation of fonts
  • Identifies duplicates fonts
  • Identifies and does not activate corrupted fonts
  • Prints font book
  • Good documentation

Cons

  • The WYSWYG font displayed in the library or set list is not always correct
  • Import report not complete
  • Auto font activation could be improved
  • Some stability issues when bad font files are in use


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice