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 forums.b4print.com.
- 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:
- 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.
- Users>user name>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
- Helvetica LT MM & HelveLTMM
- Times LT MM & TimesLTMM
- 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.