At a Glance
Managing fonts is not something most people look at with eyes twinkling and heart a-racing. But Insider Software's new FontAgent Pro is one of those tools that makes managing fonts as appealing as it may ever get.
Insider Software has reinvented its FontAgent font-repair and organization program as FontAgent Pro, a comprehensive font activator and manager, like DiamondSoft's Font Reserve 3.1.1 (Reviews, February 2003) and Extensis's Suitcase 10.1 (Reviews, April 2002). Insider wrote FontAgent Pro from the ground up to take as much advantage of Jaguar as possible, and this strategy has succeeded in many subtle and surprising ways == from the simple and fast font-activation scheme, which loads user fonts first instead of last, to the Font Player preview engine, which creates font books in just a few mouse clicks.
With these improvements, FontAgent Pro can compete head-to-head, feature-to-feature, with the best that Suitcase and Font Reserve offer, and in many cases it comes out on top.
Hand Over the Reins?
The first time you launch the application, FontAgent Pro asks whether it can have control over the system fonts (this set of installed fonts must load at startup for the operating system to appear and function as it's supposed to). The default button for this option is Yes, but you might want to consider what that means before taking the plunge.
If you let FontAgent Pro take control of your system fonts, it then copies them into a new FontAgent Pro fonts folder. This allows you to use FontAgent Pro to activate, deactivate, delete, or move system fonts wherever or however you wish. FontAgent will move your original system fonts into a new folder that you can easily retrieve in an emergency.
This feature is an asset for pro designers, who often use fonts that might conflict or become confused with system fonts. But most casual users don't need to worry about such issues.
Libraries, Sets, and Secrets
FontAgent Pro's multipaned window interface is similar to Font Reserve's and Suitcase's, but FontAgent Pro has some subtle differences. On the left of the main window is the library and sets pane; its tabs are similar in appearance to Microsoft Internet Explorer's various tabs (History, Favorites, and so on). The upper right pane shows sets, and the lower right one is for previews. FontAgent's printed documentation is sparse, but font-management novices will appreciate the application's simple tutorial when they're getting started == it's located in the Secrets menu.
The easiest way to begin building a comprehensive library is simply to drag your hard-drive icon into the library pane on the left. FontAgent lets you set up multiple libraries to avoid confusion if you receive fonts from clients or other outside sources. FontAgent Pro will verify all your fonts, checking them for corruption or damage, and it will remove them if it finds problems. It will also check for duplicate or orphaned font files.
Once you have a complete library, making working sets is easy: you just drag font names to the Sets pane from the library pane. You can designate font sets as startup sets, which means they will start up with your computer.
Easy Font Previewing
The lower right pane contains Font Player, an iTunes look-alike. Font Player is actually a versatile preview engine that lets you sample type size, font color, background color, and text. Further kerning, spacing, and ligature controls found in the Fonts menu let you refine your preview.
Font Player's major drawback is that it limits you to viewing only one font at a time, unlike Suitcase, which provides an excellent multiple-font preview pane. But you can select as many fonts as you like, click on the print button in Font Player, and then save the set of displayed fonts as a PDF. The font book you produce will include all the fonts you've chosen, displayed in the format you set in Font Player.
Best of Both Worlds
As with Font Reserve and Suitcase, activating and deactivating fonts is quick and easy; however, FontAgent Pro uses different terminology. Select the font, group of fonts, or font set; then click on the On or Off button (rather than Activate or Deactivate) in the upper left of the FontAgent Pro window. Like Suitcase, FontAgent Pro works as a separate application. But if you quit FontAgent Pro, all your fonts remain active as long as you keep your computer on, or until you open FontAgent to deactivate them. In this way, FontAgent Pro works like Font Reserve.
FontAgent Pro keeps out of your way more than its rivals. And at press time, Insider Software had just added autoactivation plug-ins for QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign; however, there are no such plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator. (The company expects the Illustrator plug-ins to be available by mid-February.)
Macworld's Buying Advice
Where there were once two contenders for the title of font-management champion, now there are three. FontAgent's new activation and preview features, combined with its continued excellent font-organization and -repair capabilities, make it much more than a mere complement to Font Reserve and Suitcase. This challenger looks as though it's prepared to take more than a few rounds.
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