Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard & fonts

This page provides a comprehensive overview of the way fonts are handled by Mac OS X 10.5. It covers the following topics:

  • What is new in Leopard when it comes to fonts
  • Font types that are supported by OSX
  • Fonts that are included in OS X 10.5
  • Locations where fonts can be stored
  • The font search order
  • Fonts that should never be deleted in Leopard
  • Troubleshooting font issues
  • Other sources of information

Before diving into OS X 10.5 specific font information, here is a quick recap of the strong points of OS X in general when it comes to font handling:

  • The operating system can load an unlimited number of fonts. The main limitations are the patience of the user while scrolling through an endless list of fonts or while waiting for the system to have digested that information itself.
  • No additional tool such as Adobe Type Manager is needed to visualize fonts. OS X has its own versatile font renderer.
  • Fonts are managed on three levels: system, network and user.
  • Nested font folders are supported, making it easier to classify fonts.

What is new in Leopard?

Mac OS X 10.5 includes a number of font related improvements. The most interesting ones for prepress users include:

  • You can print out comprehensive previews of your fonts in Font Book.
  • Using Quick Look you can easily preview fonts from the Finder.
  • System font protection is a mechanism that makes it impossible to delete essential system fonts. Leopard will warn you when you’re about to perform an action that will remove a required font. In a prepress environment this can be a hassle as people routinely replace frequently used fonts such as Helvetica by their own or a customers version. You can find a (somewhat tricky) work-around in this thread on
  • There are additional fonts included: Arial Unicode, Microsoft Sans Serif, Tahoma, Papyrus Condensed & Wingdings. The main advantage of having these fonts is that they get used a lot in Microsoft Office documents. Cross platform compatibility just got a little easier.
  • Font Auto-Activation automatically activates fonts as you need them. When an application requests an installed font that’s currently disabled, Leopard activates that font and keeps it active until the requesting application quits.
  • The OS-level text layout and typography system got a major overhaul, resulting in better typography for applications that rely on the OS for this. The support for some advanced OpenType features such as contextual alternates or mark attachment has also been improved.

Font types that are supported by OS X

Fonts that are included in OS X 10.5

Unfortunately Apple no longer publish a full list of all fonts that ship with Leopard.

Locations where fonts can be stored

  • Users>user name>Library>Fonts – This is the best place to store your personal font collection
  • Library>Fonts – the system’s main font collection, meant for fonts that should be accessible to any user of the system
  • Network>Library>Fonts – the font collection shared across the network
  • System>Library>Fonts – the core set of system fonts
  • If you are using a font management tool, fonts can be stored at other locations as well.

Font search order

When a certain font is needed, the computer will search for that font in a certain order:

  1. Some applications such as Adobe InDesign have their own font management routines and their own font folder. When such an application needs a font, it will always first search its own font folder.
  2. Users>user name>Library>Fonts
  3. Library>Fonts
  4. Network>Library>Fonts
  5. System>Library>Fonts

There are web pages that mention a different access order. The above list is taken from an Apple document.

Fonts that should never be deleted in Leopard

  • AppleGothic.ttf
  • AquaKanaBold.otf
  • AquaKanaRegular.otf
  • Courier.dfont*
  • Geneva.dfont
  • Helvetica LT MM & HelveLTMM
  • Helvetica.dfont*
  • HelveticaNeue.dfont*
  • Keyboard.dfont
  • LastResort.dfont
  • LucidaGrande.dfont
  • Monaco.dfont
  • Osaka.dfont
  • OsakaMono.dfont
  • Symbol.dfont*
  • Times LT MM & TimesLTMM
  • Times.dfont*
  • ZapfDingbats.dfont*
  • HiraMinProN-W3, HiraMinProN-W6, HiraKakuProN-W3 & HiraKakuProN-W6

The fonts marked with an asterisk can be replaced by other versions of the same font. This means you can use a PostScript version of Helvetica instead of the .dfont version.

Troubleshooting font issues

Cleaning the font cache is a good idea whenever you run into problems with Leopard’s font handling. You can do this manually or use a utility like Font Finagler. Tidbits ran an interesting article with general background information about known issues with the OS X font cache. Apparently opening a PDF that was created with pdftex, a utility used in the TeX application,  can trigger the font cache bug on an OS X machine.

There is a known problem with Helvetica Narrow appearing as a substitute font for Helvetica. Read all about it here.

Other sources of information

The Take control book about Leopard font management can be an interesting read. This page summarizes some of the issues of OS X 10.5 font handling.

21 thoughts on “Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard & fonts

  1. 1.
    How do I move a font listed in the font book to the library?
    I’m on a new iMac with Leopard.
    2. I have an ancient iMac with a font that I’d like to move. How?

  2. I have a font conlict with Helvetica Neue Condensed (57). I need the font. How can I resolve the ID Conflict?

    1. Hello Maureen!

      I have the same problem with Helvetica Neue Condensed (57)
      Do you resolved the problem?

      thank you!

  3. Patrick, how old are those fonts?

    I do not know of any clear pattern, but older PS fonts are often not supported in Leopard.

  4. I just switched over to Leopard from 10.3. I am a book designer and I have several books in progress that use Post Script “expert” fonts. Leopard does not recognize any of these and I’m stuck. Any ideas?

  5. “I’m a bit confused as to how the ‘font activation’ thing works. Can I dump a LOT of fonts somewhere, from where they will be activated by, say, Illustrator when it requires one of them, without this overloading the system? Or is it advisable to use some font activator/management software?”

    Adobe apps have their own font folder – which you can use to auto-load a font only when that particular app is open. Most of the time you’ll want fonts for multiple apps, but if you only need it for Illustrator, this might be the way to go. Obviously once you get a few 100 fonts, load time will slow and moving fonts out of the auto-loading folder and using a font manager would be a good idea.

  6. Hi, I want to download new fonts from online in addition to the fonts I already have on my new macbook pro, but I cannot figure out how. I dragged them into the font folder, but none of them show up in microsoft word. Thanks, Eddie.

  7. Hi,

    In Tiger, I allways work with fonts such as “wingdings”, “wingdings 3”, etc. and always the fonts woked fine. In Leopard, the same fonts, has missing characters, and the system, or I don´t know what, replace some characters with this ASCII squares… I don´t know how to fix the problem, and it´s a terrible thing! It seems like in the Leopard they the character map, or unicode, or I don´t know, was changed.

    Is there anybody to know what could be the solution for this problem?


  8. Is the function of changing the actual display font used with/under desktop/ window icons completely gone? (OS X 10.5)

    Changing the font size is easy enough, but I cannot find anything about changing the actual font.

    The main problem I have is my Dashboard application uses a white outline-based font that is almost impossible to read. I cannot find anything about how to alter the default font to something more readable.

  9. I updated the above page with John Galt’s excellent feedback. Regarding the other questions: they don’t ring a bell so I cannot help you with them. This site is not really suited for this type of questions but if you would post support issues on the b4print font forum at then I am sure the prepress gurus there will try to help you out.

  10. I wonder if anyone has seen this? We’ve had OS X Server 10.4 running for years, using it to share fonts via network/library/fonts. We are in the midst of upgrading the workstations to 10.5. Most of them have gone fine. But on one machine, Font Book shows no Network in the Colections area. But, if we go, via the Finder, to /Network/Library/ we do see the Network font folder –

    Any suggestions would be great,

  11. Can anyone help me? I’m a simple user and when I go to Pages to write a new document, all the fonts listed on the font list do not appear in the actual font they are, so it’s time consuming to have to keep viewing each one. Is there a setting where they can be permanently viewed in the font as connected to its title? My previous Macs had this feature and I like just seeing the font samples as I’m searching for the right one.

  12. Fonts on MacBook using Leopard are not displayed in Font name. They were on old system. What can I do to see them in their actual display?

  13. Where is your information coming from?

    1) The file extension “.ott” that you list for AquaKanaBold and AquaKanaRegular is attributed to an OpenOffice template file format, not a font. Did you mean .otF?

    2) The AppleGothic.dfont that you refer to in your above list of fonts that should never be deleted in Leopard is NOT referenced in this official Apple document, “Mac OS X 10.5: Fonts list.”

    There is an AppleGothic.ttf (TrueType Font) but no dfont. There is also an Apple LiGothic Medium.dfont.

  14. My fonts will not remain active for some reason, within my suitcase. I have them set to permanent, and the still go inactive when I shut down and start back up. Anyone experiencing this?

  15. I’m a bit confused as to how the ‘font activation’ thing works. Can I dump a LOT of fonts somewhere, from where they will be activated by, say, Illustrator when it requires one of them, without this overloading the system? Or is it advisable to use some font activator/management software?

  16. Regarding school fonts: I assume you mean the fonts that look as if they are handwritten italic script fonts, they way we all learn to write at school? The fonts supplied by are OpenType fonts, so they should work fine with Leopard. Since OS X supports all modern font formats, I wouldn’t expect problems with other libraries either.

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