This page tries to provide a comprehensive overview of the way fonts are handled by Mac OS X 10.6. It covers the following topics:
- What is new in Snow Leopard when it comes to fonts
- Font types that are supported by OS X
- Fonts that are included in OS X 10.6
- Locations where fonts can be stored
- Font search order
- Fonts that should never be deleted in Snow Leopard
- Other sources of information
Before diving into OS X 10.6 specific font information, here is a quick recap of the strong points of OSX in general when it comes to font handling:
- The operating system can load an unlimited number of fonts and supports a wide range of different font formats.
- 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 Snow Leopard?
These are the most important font and text related improvements in Mac OS X 10.6:
- The core operating system routines have a number of new or updated text handling mechanisms.
- There is a built-in spell checker.
- The ‘Substitutions’ mechanism can automatically replace text, for instance replacing (c) by © or TM by TM.
- Improved support for bidirectional text makes it easier to mix left-to-right text with text from languages such as Hebrew or Arabic that are written right to left.
- Unicode is upgraded to version 5.1.
- The ‘Font smoothing style’ option in System Preferences > Appearances no longer has ‘Light’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Strong’ settings but only a checkbox to enable or disable font anti-aliasing. Many people dislike this simplification. There are even third party monitors for which this option incorrectly isn’t displayed. A work-around is available here.
- There are a set of new fonts included in Snow Leopard:
- The most interesting one is called Menlo, which is a monospaced font for use by developers or techies in applications like Terminal. It replaces Monaco as one of the default system fonts, even though a TrueType version of Monaco still ships with the OS.
- The other new fonts are Chalkduster and a set of CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) fonts named Heiti and Hiragino Sans GB.
- For TrueType fonts there is an additional file packaging format that is used, called TrueType Collection. A .ttc file contains a number of related typefaces, such as the regular, bold and italic variants of a particular typeface, in one single font file. Apparently Macs already supported this format since Mac OS 8.5 but it is only now being put to use.
- OS X 10.6 ships with less fonts in Apple’s dfont format. Some of the fonts that are bundled with OS X are no longer dfont files but either .ttf or .ttc files.
- FontBook has changed slightly:
- Most OS X applications lost some weight and that is also true for FontBook. It now takes up 4 instead of 18 MB.
- Unconfirmed: Snow Leopard expands upon Font Book to provide full Auto Activation of any fonts requested by any application, using Spotlight to track them down.
Font types that are supported by OS X
- Type 1 – Check the ‘Troubleshooting’ section below because of major issues with Type 1 support in OS X 10.6.
- Multiple Master
- TrueType (both Mac and Windows versions)
Fonts that are included in OS X 10.6
Apple has not (yet) published a full list of all the fonts that ship with Snow Leopard. My own overview can be found here.
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 ‘Advanced typography’ document.
Fonts that should never be deleted in Snow Leopard
Apple has not yet published a list of fonts that should never be deleted in OS X 10.6. The overview below is based on the assumption that such a list would be virtually identical to that of OS X 10.5 Leopard. Check if an official list has been published and make sure to back-up your system before you delete system fonts in Snow Leopard.
- Helvetica LT MM & HelveLTMM
- Monaco.dfont (maybe this can be deleted now that Menlo replaces it as the default fixed width font)
- 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 for instance use a PostScript version of Helvetica instead of the .dfont version.
Troubleshooting font issues
Snow Leopard has its share of font related problems, many of which have been solved by now.
- System update 10.6.7 includes four fixes for displaying OpenType fonts and printing from Preview. It addresses an issue in which some OpenType fonts don’t display correctly in certain applications. Secondly it resolves issues printing from Preview. The update also fixes an issue with PDF files not opening in third-party PDF viewing applications. Last but not least 10.6.7 resolves invalid font errors when printing to PostScript printers.
- Another troublesome issue seem to be font spacing changes which cause text reflow when using Type 1 fonts. Check this thread and this one. MacUser UK has a nice summary.
- QuarkXPress has released the QuarkXPress 8.12 update to fix some additional font reflow issues caused by the use of tabs or lock to baseline.
- If you intend to use a third party font management tool, it needs to be compatible with OS X 10.6. Check with the vendor web site.
- If you cannot enable font smoothing for a third party monitor, check this work-around. It also includes a trick to change the level of anti-aliasing.
- MacFixit has a general list of issues that people run into.
Other sources of information
This fake FontBook report is pretty funny.