The most important task of any font-management utility is to give you control over which fonts are available at any time. Otherwise, the system must enumerate extraneous font data at start-up and when opening and closing applications or documents, and you waste time struggling with long, unwieldy font menus. For anyone with more than a few dozen fonts, a font manager is essential. Having been acquired by Extensis, the once favored Suitcase is again an option for Mac users. Extensis Suitcase 8 works reliably, without the freezes and crashes that plagued its predecessors, but it still falls short of the competitionparticularly where its new features are concerned.
When Suitcase was owned by Symantec, it failed to remain compatible with Mac OS updates. Frustrated users turned to longtime competitor Alsoft MasterJuggler and to the newer, more complex Adobe ATM Deluxe and DiamondSoft Font Reserve. Now, both Font Reserve 2.0.2 and ATM Deluxe 4.5 autoactivate fonts for multiple applications, check font integrity, and automatically create folders of fonts for transmission with jobs to output servicesfeatures lacking in Suitcase 8.
Extensis did update Suitcase to work on any Power Mac running Mac OS 7.5.5 through 8.6. And Suitcase now lets users open font suitcases temporarily without creating a set, a time-saver for output services and people who need to open fonts briefly.
Suitcase 8 acquired its other new functions by incorporating third-party utilities. The Suitcase 8 XTension (formerly Font Fetch, from NRG Software) autoactivates fonts for QuarkXPress 3.2X and 4.0, including those in imported EPS filesa very nice feature. But the XTension works only for fonts that are already in a Suitcase 8 set, and it had trouble recognizing some fonts in our tests, even though it had autoactivated the suitcase containing the fonts. In addition, autoactivation doesn't work with other illustration and layout applications, including Macromedia FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator and PageMaker.
Suitcase 8 also ships with a special version of Insider Software's FontAgent, a stand-alone utility that resolves duplicate fonts and missing screen or printer fonts and sets up a logically organized font library. But FontAgent seems to decide which duplicates to retain somewhat randomlyin several cases, it kept an older version. It also empties the system's Fonts folder, replacing only Mac System fonts.
For users who prefer the straightforward Suitcase interface and the way it handles sets and font suitcases, Suitcase 8 is a good choice, even with its flawed third-party additions. And if you find ATM Deluxe or Font Reserve dauntingly complex, give Suitcase a look. It's still not perfect, but it has promise.
RATING: PROS: Familiar interface; easy to use; stable. CONS: Flawed autoactivation feature; FontAgent is overzealous. COMPANY: Extensis (800/796-9798, http://www.extensis.com ). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $90.
August 1999 page: 52