capsule review

SUITCASE 10.1

At a Glance
  • Extensis Suitcase 10.1

    Macworld Rating

If you thought managing your fonts was confusing or difficult in Mac OS 9 and earlier, then the very idea of having to do it in Mac OS X may give you shivers: the new OS poses several font-management problems, and the built-in Font Panel looks more like an Aquafied version of System 4.1's Font/DA Mover utility than a state-of-the-art font-management application. This is where Suitcase 10.1 comes in. With a familiar interface and a knack for doing what it's supposed to--quick, on-demand activation and deactivation of fonts, with a minimum of conflicts--this new version is a winner.

Suitcase Does It Better

Suitcase 10.1 solves one of the most frustrating parts of handling fonts in Mac OS X--not knowing where to access and store them. In OS X's confusing font-storage system, fonts can live in at least four different places. For instance, you can have systemwide fonts in the System: Library: Fonts folder and at the same time have fonts in your User: Library: Fonts folder. And each of a Mac's users can have a unique set of active fonts. There can be shared fonts and network fonts. You can also keep fonts in their original OS 9 folders. But with Suitcase 10.1, you don't need to employ this complicated system. As in the good old days, you can store a font where you want, and Suitcase sorts and accesses it for you.

Suitcase 10.1's interface will be familiar to anyone who has used Suitcase 8 or higher. If this is your first experience with Suitcase, consider yourself lucky to be starting with this version. It's so easy, you probably won't even need to look at the manual. All the hard work is done under the hood, and there's no need to tangle with the command line.

What's New?

Thankfully, you won't notice a lot of changes in this new version, other than how to get it started. Most important, Suitcase runs as an application in OS X, rather than as a control panel or an extension. If you quit Suitcase, it will close any fonts you may have opened via the application. After installation, Suitcase will launch automatically at system start-up. You can, however, undo that default setting either by selecting the appropriate option during installation or by changing it in the Preferences panel.

If It Ain't Broke

After you install it, Suitcase 10.1 greets you with its familiar three-pane view. This uncomplicated window gives you all the font access and preview information you'll need. The default pane setup is the same as it has been since version 8: the Sets pane is at the top of the left-hand side, the Fonts pane is beneath that, and the Preview pane is on the right side. Just as with previous versions, there are several customizable view settings. You can hide or resize any of the three panes.

After your initial setup, the application window is hidden. You activate this window via the Dock or the application icon in the Suitcase folder. But as long as the Suitcase icon is in the Dock, you don't have to start the whole application in order to activate a particular font set. Simply clicking on and holding the icon in the Dock will make a list of your font sets appear on screen. You can select any font set you've already created directly from the Dock.

Easy Font-Set Creation

You can make font sets with Suitcase's Add To button or by dragging and dropping fonts or font folders directly into the Sets pane from the Finder. Suitcase will let you know if there's a font conflict and allow you to either deactivate the offending set on-the-fly or use a dialog box that instructs you on a proper course of action.

In the Preview pane, you can choose to view font families in one of several different ways: Waterfall (three sample lines of type in increasing size), ABC 123, Paragraph, or QuickType (a single line of type). You can choose to preview at almost any point size. Text in Paragraph and QuickType is fully customizable. The QuickType option lets you see exactly how a line of text will look in as many fonts as you choose from either the Sets or Fonts panes.

Suitcase 10.1 hasn't forgotten about auto-activation. It installs Suitcase XT, its convenient auto-activation extension for QuarkXPress and Adobe Illustrator. Suitcase XT has been around since version 9. It not only locates and activates missing fonts but also checks for duplicates and opens embedded fonts that have been placed in EPS files.

Suitcase 10.1 works in OS 9.1, OS X's Classic environment, and OS X 10.1. Unfortunately, Suitcase also installs MenuFonts, a small utility that creates WYSIWYG font menus in most applications. Running MenuFonts in OS 9 can create an incompatibility: the Chooser won't work if MenuFonts loads before ATM does. The way around the problem is to either deactivate MenuFonts or reorganize the load order in Extensions Manager. We had no such problems, however, with MenuFonts in OS X.

Bridge the OS Gap

If you must work in both the Classic environment and OS X, you don't have to worry about losing your activated OS 9 fonts. Suitcase 10.1 has a consistent interface in both systems, and it installs a new feature called Suitcase Bridge. This keeps automatically activated fonts in both Classic and OS X functioning when you must cross the gap between operating systems.

Macworld's Buying Advice

In this time of transition from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, it's important that we have the fundamental utilities available to us. For professional designers and those who need to organize and access numerous fonts, Suitcase 10.1 helps make the transition smooth. It's the first comprehensive font-management application for OS X to come out of the gate--and with its ease of use and comprehensive font-management capabilities, Suitcase 10.1 sets the pace at a full-on sprint; the Mac's other font-management applications will now have to catch up.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Excellent previews
    • Uncomplicated and powerful font-set management
    • Easy and familiar interface
    • Fast font activation

    Cons

    • MenuFonts incompatibility in OS X's Classic mode and OS 9
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