Review: FontAgent Pro 5 industrial-strength font manager now offers cloud option
By Jay J. Nelson
At a glance
FontAgent Pro 5 is an industrial-strength font manager with an interface that’s simple enough for beginners, but with features powerful enough for graphics pros. Version 5 adds helpful new features to an already powerful feature set, and an attractive CloudServer subscription option that eliminates upgrade fees and gives you access to a powerful online font server hosted by Insider Software.
FontAgent Pro has been a favorite among creative professionals because of its simple interface, designer-friendly features, and robust handling of potential font problems such as corrupt or duplicate fonts.
But when you start clicking around, lots of deep capability is revealed. For example, there’s a Smart Search feature that lets you search for any conceivable combination of font attributes.
The Keyword Search feature lets you use common terms such as Typewriter, Western, Retro, or Holiday. It finds matching fonts on your local hard drive or network, and also shows commercial fonts available for sale. I found it to be remarkably accurate and helpful, but not every single font out there is included in the results—and there’s no way to edit the keywords for a font. You can, however, choose Update Font Profiles from the Tools menu to get the latest font information from Insider Software, such as width, weight, slant, and other information that helps FontAgent Pro assign the unique font identifier used in auto-activation.
The Font Classifier, a sometimes-overlooked feature from version 4, lets you browse fonts by category, and also assign or adjust categories of fonts. Categories include Text Sans Serif, Text Serif, Display, Script, Art and Pi, and System. You can use the None category to find fonts that haven’t been classified yet.
The Glyph View feature shows every glyph (character) in a font, optionally filtered by glyph type such as Currency Symbols, Punctuation, or Basic Latin. Just click and drag a glyph to insert it into your current document.
Scripting is a huge new feature: FontAgent Pro 5 has an expanded its AppleScript dictionary and includes several helpful scripts that you can use or customize. A scripting kit is included, so you can examine all the commands available in the dictionary, along with sample scripts and explanations of how to customize them.
One of the scripts is deceptively powerful: Get Open Source Fonts grabs 650 free Google Fonts whose quality has been reviewed and approved by Insider Software. Apparently, some of Google’s free fonts don’t behave well on Macs, so Insider leaves them out. As Google adds more fonts, Insider will review them and occasionally update the set, which is currently a 50GB download. When Insider Software updates FontAgent Pro, users are alerted, and if the Open Source font collection has been changed, users will be instructed to download and add the updated font collection—FontAgent Pro won’t allow duplicates, so only the new fonts will be added.
If you’re new to FontAgent Pro, you’ll appreciate the new AutoGather feature, a script named Find Fonts, which invokes a standard Mac OS X search and opens a Finder window containing all the font files. You can then drag any or all onto FontAgent Pro to import them. FontAgent Pro will then verify the integrity of the fonts and import the healthy ones.
FontAgent Pro offers system-wide auto-activation of fonts as you open a document that uses an inactive font. Special plug-ins are included for Adobe InDesign, InCopy, Photoshop, and Illustrator CS3 through CS6, as well as QuarkXPress 6 through 9. These plug-ins use proprietary technology to precisely identify the exact font and version used in a document, as many fonts have identical names or have been updated over time.
Many times, programs crash because of font-related confusion. The usual fix is to delete the font caches for the system and for the applications that create them—including apps from Adobe, Quark, Microsoft, and CUPS (printing) spool files. They’ll automatically be rebuilt when the system restarts or an app relaunches. FontAgent Pro includes Insider’s Smasher 2 utility, which can delete these caches for you, either manually or on a regular schedule. In my experience, this can truly eliminate many otherwise mysterious crashes.
For many years, the Workgroup Edition of FontAgent Pro has allowed individual users to share their fonts across a local network without using a dedicated server. And its powerful Enterprise Server software not only serves fonts to individual users, but also tracks font usage—a legal safety measure required by some font licenses. With CloudServer, Insider is essentially hosting its Enterprise Server on its own servers, which eliminates the need for users to maintain a server locally.
For a subscription cost of anywhere from $42 to $64 per user per year, you’re guaranteed to have the latest version of FontAgent Pro (Mac or Windows), without worrying about upgrade costs. Each user also gets access to the fonts allowed them by your FontAgent CloudServer administrator. The administrator uses either a local copy of FontAgent Pro or a Web browser to add and remove fonts, create and edit font privileges for each user or workgroup, generate reports, and so forth. Individual users can also use the Web browser interface to see previews of fonts on the server before requesting them.
Having all your organization’s fonts served from one collection eliminates problems with users having duplicate or alternate fonts, since they’re all coming from the same source. Approved fonts are automatically downloaded to user workstations when requested, and removed when necessary. Notably, the Server versions of FontAgent Pro allow access to multiple libraries of fonts at once. This lets you keep fonts for various clients in separate libraries, even if they’re duplicates. To avoid problems, only one copy of a duplicate font can be activated on a workstation, even when using multiple libraries.
If you’re already using FontAgent Pro and want to use Adobe’s Creative Suite CS6 apps, you’ll want to upgrade to version 5 for its auto-activation plug-ins. Even if you’re using older design software (or none at all), version 5’s new interface and features make the upgrade worthwhile—especially if you want an easy way to get the best fonts in Google’s free Web fonts collection. New users will appreciate the AutoGather feature, which automatically locates all the fonts on your Mac.
The CloudServer option offers an affordable way to keep your FontAgent Pro software up to date, and to create a company-wide font server without having to dedicate your own hardware to the task.
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