Beta Beat: Fontcase

Christina Warren
C. Warren|12.21.08

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A few months ago, a teaser appeared for a new Mac OS X font management app, Fontcase, developed by Pieter Omvlee and with an UI design by Laurent Baumann. Fontcase is designed to replace Apple's Font Book utility, which is not only a mediocre font management app, but has a less than nuanced interface.

For the last several months, Fontcase has been in private beta. Today, subscribers to the Fontcase newsletter were invited to download the latest beta. The app is very close to completetion, with a release date scheduled for sometime mid-January 2009, after Macworld. I used a few version of Fontcase while it was in private beta, and as a typography nut, have really been looking forward to this release.

First off, the interface is just beautiful. This won't be surprising to anyone who has seen Laurent's work in the past, but it is worth mentioning because of just how elegant and Mac-like the application feels. I think I've used almost every font manager available for OS X and Fontcase is certainly the most attractive.

When you open Fontcase, you are given the option to import your System and user fonts (basically everything that is already in Font Book). If you use Linotype's FontExplorer X , you can also import sets and meta-data directly from that application. You can share font collection via Bonjour to other computers on your network.

After importing fonts (which you can do by dragging folders to the Library or via a menu command), you can rate, tag and organize your fonts into smart folders or collections. You can also add notes to a specific font. The program elegantly shows you what the font looks like, using a character view, the traditional waterfall and a "body text" view that shows what the font looks like in blocks of arranged text. Activating a font is as simple as either right-clicking and selecting Activate/Deactivate or clicking on the check button that appears at the top of the program.

Although I had no problem imorting my system font folders, when I tried to import a large font folder, the Fontcase beta did choke. I have no doubt that this will be improved before the final version is released, but it is worth pointing out.

Although most font management applications for OS X are aimed at the professional design community or users with lots and lots of fonts, Fontcase really seems best for regular users or users with moderate sized collections. I say this because Fontcase doesn't handle activating or deactivating of system fonts, nor will it autoactivate fonts (as far as I could tell) in other applications. Instead, it is a superior front-end to the built-in Font Book, with the added advantage of making organzing, tagging and sharing fonts much, much easier.

For the last several weeks, I've been using Insider Software's FontAgent Pro 4, and I have to say, it has become my favorite font management utility. Of course, that utility comes at a price ($99 for a single license), but if you have an extremely large font collection, as I do, it becomes necessary.

If your font collection isn't in the 10,000+ range (I'm at 14,007, myself) -- Fontcase is a great Font Book alternative.

If you haven't subscribed to the Fontcase newsletter, you can still do so at the Fontcase website and receive a link to the beta download.

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