As a graphic designer and then as a type designer, I've talked to lots of people about fonts over the years. Lots and lots and lots of people. I've been both the asker of questions and the answerer. I've been the complete novice and the expert. And I've noticed that there are certain topics that just make people at all levels of their careers kind of nervous or uncomfortable. Chief among these is font management software.
People who know what font management software is and does feel overwhelmed by it. People who don't know what it is or what it does wonder if it really even helps with anything.
So I thought I'd do a little series here on font management software. Today I'll just hit on what it is and what it can do, but in the coming weeks I'll also tackle what your best options are right now and how you can get the most out of it.
I'll start today with the basics.
What is font management software (FMS)?
While PCs and Macs both come with default ways to install new fonts, the built-in software doesn't give you much control over those fonts. The more fonts you install, the tougher it can be to manage everything using just the built-in software.
In short, dedicated font management software (FMS) helps users organize, install, and preview fonts. It can can do things Windows and MacOS can’t.
While each font management software developer will sell you on many more advantages than these, here are my own top four reasons for using (and recommending) font management software:
- You can tag your fonts using FMS. Tag (and browse) by client, style, license type, font source, designer, etc. In some FMS, you can even give each font a star rating so you can easily track your favorites.
- You can activate and deactivate fonts. The more fonts you have installed and active, the greater the toll on your system. FMS can help speed up your system by allowing you to deactivate any fonts that you don't need right now. This can also significantly speed up your workflows in other ways -- imagine if your font menu only showed you the fonts you actually need for the project you're actually working on. It's life-changing. Most FMS can also auto-activate fonts when you open the files that need them, so if you don't happen to have the font you need activated at the time, you don't have to do it yourself.
- If you work with clients, you can use FMS to preview fonts with them.
- Some FMS even allows you to sync fonts between multiple computers. If you work on a desktop and a laptop, for example, and you've ever run into the situation where you open a file on your laptop that needs fonts installed only on your desktop, this will save you so much time and angst.