FontAgent Pro 2.1
At a Glance
While OS X may have reignited the font wars, those battles are now fought in small skirmishes. The three big font managers on the market -- Insider Software's FontAgent Pro, and Extensis's Suitcase ( ; February 2004) and (formerly owned by DiamondSoft) Font Reserve ( ; February 2003) -- are all top-notch in terms of functionality and ease of use. Each approaches OS X's peculiar font challenges in its own way, and each has its own merits, depending on how you like to work. Deciding which one is best for you comes down to user interface and application-specific refinements in features such as previews and font activation.
FontAgent Pro 2.1's evolutionary new features -- autoactivation, font subsets (called Cascading Sets), and Classic font activation -- keep it in-line with its competitors.
Its network-sharing protocol, Fontezvous, is a clever solution to small-studio problems.
FontAgent Pro's Aqua interface and new icons are similar to those of most new OS X apps. Upon examination, you'll see that the inspiration for FontAgent Pro's triple-paned window is iTunes. Font libraries and sets are located on the left and upper right. In the lower right pane is the program's distinctive Font Player, which lets you view fonts in real-life circumstances, and a new Font Compare tab.
Font Compare is FontAgent Pro's take on customizing previews, for testing a number of typefaces back-to-back. It's similar in concept to Suitcase's easy preview functions, but it's not as intuitive; you must choose the fonts and place them in the same set to compare them.
FontAgent started out as a font-repair and -organization utility, and it still has superior repair and organization functionality.
As in earlier versions, the program examines the fonts it imports, and it moves corrupt fonts to a separate Problem Fonts folder. FontAgent Pro then generates a report, so you can go in and clean out your font detritus.
Version 2.1 has a few thoughtful additions, such as a WYSIWYG button that lets you preview your fonts in list view without having to run Font Player. Unfortunately, there's no way to resize the type in the list.
Networking with Fontezvous
FontAgent Pro 2.1 bypasses the font-server model that its rivals have adopted, to leverage the Mac's zero-configuration networking utility, Rendezvous. Instead of requiring a dedicated server, Fontezvous facilitates peer-to-peer font sharing. Once sharing is activated on networked computers, you can import, preview, and activate fonts through the Sharing tab in FontAgent Pro.
The only aspect of FontAgent Pro that puzzles me is its insistence on moving or copying fonts when importing them. Unlike Font Reserve or Suitcase, which ask where your fonts live, FontAgent wants to move or copy them for you, potentially taking up hard-disk space and creating unnecessary font duplication. For one user, this isn't much of a problem, but if you're one of many users on a Mac, the ensuing redundancy is primitive.
Macworld's Buying Advice
FontAgent Pro 2.1's all-in-one organization, activation, and repair facility is topped only by its clever and easy font-sharing feature. Despite some nagging flaws and inflexibilities, it's an excellent choice for a small studio or an individual user.
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