An up-to-date font management utility is a necessary tool in every creative professional’s toolbox. While not as huge an upgrade as the previous version, FontExplorer X Pro 6 ($99, $49 upgrade) adds a variety of helpful new features for modern designers.
If you skipped version 5, you’ll appreciate the Welcome Tour, available under the Help menu. FontExplorer Pro is an extremely robust program, and version 5 added many powerful new features. The Welcome Tour includes an overview of the product, its key features, what’s new, and how it interacts with Monotype’s FontExplorer Server product (sold separately).
Enhanced font tools
In previous versions, FontExplorer allowed users to assign categories to each font. Version 6 brings a new user interface for classifying fonts and many new sub-categories, all of which can be used to build smart sets.
If a font is available in the Monotype libraries and you have an internet connection, FontExplorer can automatically assign categories for you. (Monotype’s libraries include more than 20,000 fonts from most font foundries.) In my testing, FontExplorer successfully classified almost all of the fonts from major foundries, some of the fonts from smaller foundries, and very few of the strange display fonts I’ve collected over the years.
The Font Tile View introduced in FontExplorer Pro 5 displays a word or two in each font, making it easy to find a font that has a specific flavor. In version 6, the Enhanced Font Tile View lets you display the first two letters of the font name in each tile.
You can now also view detailed font information when you mouse over each tile, add rounded corners to the tiles, change their foreground and background colors and even gradually change the background color from the first to the last tile.
In previous versions, FontExplorer always created a new Set from fonts you import together. In version 6, the Import preference lets you define whether or not a new Set is created when importing fonts.
The “Detect Fonts in Documents” feature scans a document without opening it, displaying a list of the fonts used in that document. You can then choose to activate or deactivate fonts used in that document, create a new Set from those fonts, or generate a report. In addition to document types commonly used by graphics professionals (pdf, eps, svg, svgv, indd, idml, icml, icmt, ai, pages, key, rtf and rtfd), version 6 can now detect fonts in these additional 19 document types:
- docx, dotx, pptx, ppsx, potm (Microsoft Office Open XML)
- odt, fodt, ott, odp, fodp, otp, odg (Open Document)
- sxw, stw, sxi, sti, sxd (Open Office 1.0)
- sketch (Sketch)
- sla (Scribus)
As in previous versions, FontExplorer X Pro 6 lets you temporarily replace the fonts in blocks of text on any webpage. When you find a combination you like, FontExplorer can generate the CSS code required to use it, and create a new FontExplorer set that contains only the fonts you used. That’s an amazing feat in itself.
In version 6 you can now edit the text on the webpage and view the page as it would appear in several different web browsers, devices and operating systems.
Professional graphic design software such as Adobe InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator, Photoshop and QuarkXPress require special plug-ins if you want your font manager to automatically activate the correct version of fonts used in an existing document. FontExplorer X Pro 6 provides plug-ins for the newest releases from Adobe and Quark, as well as earlier versions.
Unicode 9 support
OpenType fonts use the Unicode standard to organize glyphs (characters), and FontExplorer X Pro 6 can show every one of the 128,172 possible glyphs available in Unicode 9.
This is handy for finding and viewing the 19 symbols for the new 4K TV standard or the 72 new emoji characters, including new smilies and people, animals and nature, and food and drink.
FontExplorer X Pro 6 can function as a client to the new FontExplorer X Server 3 (available as a separate product). When connected to the server, users can now enjoy new abilities including automatic and manual font classification, labels, ratings and comments.
The server administrator controls permissions for each client, including exporting server fonts, availability of online font stores and other client capabilities. (Windows users may use the current FontExplorer 3.5.1 to connect to FontExplorer X Server 3.)
While version 6 is a relatively minor upgrade, the features carried over from version 5 are tremendously powerful. This version’s support for macOS Sierra, plug-ins for the latest apps from Adobe and Quark, and detection of fonts in Microsoft Office documents make version 6 a worthwhile upgrade for most users, and a necessary one if you skipped version 5.