Update Note: This guide has been revamped for freshness and accuracy. Typeface has finally upgraded to version 3 and added a number of new features and improvements.
No matter what digital product you create, fonts make all the difference in the world. There is a reason why the New York Times and someone’s bio website do not use the same font. There is also a reason why you should not use Comic Sans on formal design.
What we are saying is this: fonts are essential. Picking the wrong font for even the right design can ruin the design altogether. But, how do you collect and manage the various fonts out there? If you use a Mac for your design workflow, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll go over:
Basics on macOS fonts
Just like every other Operating System, macOS requires many fonts to function. The system ships with a wide variety of fonts, belonging to different categories. However, only some of them are the most essential for the OS and most third-party apps to function correctly.
The list includes fonts like AppleGothic, Arial, Comic Sans, Georgia, Impact, Tahoma, Times New Roman, and Verdana, etc. If you use the iWork suite, however, you need more fonts like Chalkboard, Optima, Baskerville, Papyrus, Futura, etc. As you can guess, these are some of the cleanest-looking fonts too.
So, on an ideal day, you should not remove the mentioned fonts from macOS. Well, you can’t remove most of them if you’re using macOS Catalina, though. But, as a designer, these fonts mean nothing. You can’t make the best design using these fonts alone.
Well, that’s why macOS allows you to install third-party fonts on your Mac. According to Apple,
macOS supports TrueType (.ttf), Variable TrueType (.ttf), TrueType Collection (.ttc), OpenType (.otf), and OpenType Collection (.ttc) fonts. macOS Mojave adds support for OpenType-SVG fonts.
So, if you have a font with the extensions mentioned above, you can install it on macOS. Double-clicking on the font file will handle the installation for you. Quite simply, if you ask us.
But, you don’t always need all the fonts. You may have to disable, group, and manage fonts in general. That’s why you need a font manager in the first place.
Apple has Font Book. Do I need another font manager?
So, macOS ships with a decent utility called Font Book. This works as the native font manager for macOS as well, offering you a platform to access/manage the fonts one may have installed on the Mac. As you can see, the latest version of Font Book brings a lot of handy features.
You can not only see the list of System and User-installed fonts but also categorize them. When you select a single font, it also shows a preview of how it looks. You can also create smart collections using this utility. In the first look, you may think the Font Book is enough.
But, then, you should understand that a designer needs to handle hundreds of fonts at best. It’s when you’d start noticing some severe limitations with the Font Book utility. For instance,
- Font Book follows a traditional layout to list and preview fonts. At times, you need a comprehensive look at the fonts available on your device.
- At this point, there is no option to compare two fonts using the Font Book utility. It may be a massive limitation for many designers.
- You also get limited options while trying to manage an individual macOS font. As you can see, there are only two buttons: one to add fonts and the other to disable a selected font.
- Font Book does not work with web-based font libraries such as Google Fonts. When you are a web-based designer, this is a big let-down.
These are some of the reasons why many professionals prefer using a third-party font manager on Mac. It’s just that you should have the best of the best.
Typeface 3: the better Apple Font Book alternative
Typeface 3 is currently one of the best font manager utilities you can get for macOS. Compared to Font Book, this third-party font management app has a minimalistic and efficient interface to manage the system and user-installed fonts. You can use this comprehensive suite to manage almost every aspect of fonts on macOS.
Of course, there are so many reasons why we think this font manager is great.
Minimalistic user interface
The whole User Interface of Typeface 3 is powered by minimalism. The UI is split into two sections — one to preview fonts and one for organizing. From the left side, you can pick the category of the fonts that you need at this point. By double-clicking on an individual font, you can explore how each character in the font looks like. We’re sure the UI is the best to understand how your target text looks like.
Despite the minimal design, you can customize many aspects of this font manager. First of all, you can change the preview text and make it something that you want to see. For instance, I was trying new stylistics for our brand-name, TheSweetBits. You can enter your word, and Typeface 3 will turn all previews accordingly. This single feature can save a lot of time.
Typeface 3 makes it easy to organize fonts even if you’ve thousands of them. The app uses a system of Tags to classify fonts like Fun, Modern, PDF, and Web. There are also style-based categories, such as Monospaced, Ornamental, and Serif. As a designer, you can create tags to compile fonts for a particular project or a type of project. And, we loved how easily you can manage everything from the sidebar.
Comparison and web fonts support
Font comparison is one of the stunning features in the Typeface 3 package. Using the Quick View panel, you can compare two different fonts and how the same text looks with both fonts. When you select a font in the comparison menu, it becomes an overlay on other font designs. This app has one-click support for Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts as well.
There are also some advanced features that designers will love. Auto-activation is such a feature that can be a time-saver. Instead of activating fonts individually, apps can request access via Typeface 3. You can also do some other customizations, such as the Collection Priority mode and behavior control. While the core engine stays the same, you can optimize the performance as per your needs.
It also has some extra features that can help improve productivity. These are:
Quick tagging – This helps you quickly tag anything you write through a quick access tag panel that lets you search for tags through fuzzy searches. Hence, it makes organizing fonts a breeze of a task.
Smart sidebar – The collapsible sidebar is another feature that helps you quickly manage all your fonts and manage all the attached tags.
Variable fonts – Finally, Typeface 3 also brings in variable fonts, which allows you to customize everything from the space between the words to get the CSS values for web developers.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
We really couldn’t find any significant issues with Typeface 3.
In its own right, Typeface 3 is the best font manager for most designers. Having said that, if you are looking for advanced customization features and developer-mode stuff, Typeface 3 is not for you. There are also a few professionals who would rather have an ordinary UI.
But, as long as you fit the description, you are good with this app.
Availability and pricing
Typeface 3 is available for macOS only and natively runs on the latest M1 Macbooks. You should be running macOS 10.11 or later to use this app.
Although Typeface 3 offers a free trial, you have to pay $19.99 for the full version, or you can get the Typeface Pro version for $45 which will unlock a lifetime license for the app.
Alternatively, you can get the app as a part of the Setapp subscription, which comes at $9.99 per month.
- Simple yet elegant design
- Smart categorization of Fonts
- Works with Apple M1 Macbooks
After testing the brand-new version of Typeface 3 on Big Sur, we are even more confident to recommend the font manager to our readers. As we said, it’s an adequate choice for those who need a simple yet reliable way to manage various fonts on their Mac.
Font Explorer X Pro 7 is a professional-grade font manager that is available for macOS. Coming from our top pick, this is an upgrade pick, and it brings a wide variety of advanced features. Font Explorer X Pro 7, its latest version, is more of a complete font management solution for most people.
Truly advanced UI
As a professional designer who needs complete access to the font collection, you will love the advanced User Interface of Font Explorer X Pro 7. As you can see, the sidebar itself houses so many options to classify and manage your fonts. You can even access online font stores using the app. In short, Font Explorer X Pro 7 can become the only tool you’d need for managing fonts.
Discovery Engine is a unique feature of Font Explorer X Pro 7 that makes font organization easier. This super-intelligent engine can analyze different fonts and arrange them in an easily-accessible manner. Besides, the app can suggest pairing suggestions when you select an individual font. You can find the pairing options on the bottom part of the interface, making management more comfortable than ever.
Multiple viewing modes
Unlike Typeface 3, this advanced font manager is not restricted to a single viewing-mode. Depending on the focus material, you can choose between three viewing modes. One mode prioritizes the font preview while the other shows you as many fonts as possible. You can also change the template text and understand how the font looks in different environments — black and white.
Advanced font information
Because a professional engine powers Font Explorer X Pro 7, you get so much information about fonts and their properties. Because there is a dedicated window to manage these aspects, you can easily classify the fonts as per your needs. Although beginners may not use this feature much, professionals love how much they can do using Font Explorer X.
Because it’s a professional-oriented font manager, the reliability of the engine is just superb. We found many features that can increase your productivity in personal and team levels. The latest version supports plugins for Adobe Creative Cloud 2021. There is also a version called Font Explorer X Server, which enables intra-team collaboration when it comes to font management. Because you pay for the service, the technical/community support is excellent too.
Font Explorer X Pro 7 also has some advanced font management features that help improve productivity, and these are:
Collaborative tool – Font Explorer X Pro 7 comes with a collaborative tool that helps you maintain all the fonts you are using with any other team member anywhere in the world. Hence, it assures you that all your development tasks would proceed smoothly.
Easy access to all your fonts – It also has a font discovery feature that works in the background to scan and include all the font files on your Mac. This helps save time and improve productivity.
Automated Workflow – Finally, Font Explorer X Pro 7 also comes with an automated tool that works with all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps and helps you stick with your font. It automatically organizes all your fonts and can quickly change and improve any font used on apps such as Photoshop or Adobe XD.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Once again, we are delighted with the performance of Font Explorer X Pro 7 as an upgrade pick.
If you are into minimalistic designs, however, you may find the UI to be a little heavy. We think that should be improved in the long run. Also, some features like temporary font activation are not available on this app.
We also missed the option to one-click import fonts from sources like Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts. On the bright side, Font Explorer X Pro 7 supports a variety of commercial font libraries.
Last but not least, some people say Font Explorer X Pro 7 is expensive. Also, we found that it consumes too much system resources.
Availability and pricing
Font Explorer X Pro 7 is also available for macOS. You should be running macOS 10.13 or later to install this app.
As for the pricing, you have to pay 89.00€ for a single license of Font Explorer X Pro 7. Compared to our top pick, this is an expensive deal, indeed. However, you should keep in mind that you get a fantastic collection of features.
- Professional and enterprise-level features
- Has an automated workflow font detection tool
- Suitable for enterprise needs
- Has a 30-day free trial
- Super expensive
- It can be a little over the top for beginners
If you think you need an advanced font manager with compelling features, Font Explorer X Pro 7 is the best choice for you. Although it consumes a lot of space and system resources, the advanced font management options are unparalleled.
Other notable mentions
Here are some of the other considerable font managers in the industry. Although they didn’t make it to the top position, you can rely on them at times.
FontBase: This is a free font management app available for macOS. Just like our top pick, FontBase is powered by a minimalistic User Interface. Using the sidebar, you can explore the different fonts you have installed on a Mac. There are also options to sync your font library with online platforms like Google Fonts. At any point in time, you can add or remove font providers as well. FontBase is free for the most part, but additional features are available upon a premium subscription.
RightFont 5: A feature-rich font management app that can compete with our top picks. This manager is also using a simple User Interface with a sidebar and the preview pane. The first thing we loved is that it supports web font libraries like Google Fonts, Adobe Fonts, and SkyFonts. Of course, you can create personal libraries by importing fonts manually. RightFont 5 is only available for macOS. A single license costs $35, which is a little expensive, though.
Suitcase Fusion: A professional upgrade from minimal font managers that we have seen. More importantly, the app cannot automatically arrange your fonts based on width or style. You will have to set up different folders all by yourself. So, the setup process itself will take a considerable amount of time, which isn’t so convenient for beginners. Suitcase Fusion is available for macOS and costs $119.95, which is bonkers.
FontAgent: This app fulfills the basic requirements of a font manager for Mac. However, compared to our top pick and upgrade pick, the app seems quite old-school. It comes with the necessary options like different viewing modes and easy loading, though. We would have loved to see some comprehensive previewing options in the package. A standard license of FontAgent 9 is available for $99. If you need multi-device sync, that costs extra too.
Wordmark.it: A web-based font manager that you can use as an ad-hoc option. On any day, this site cannot replace the dedicated font managers we have covered above. Nevertheless, there are times when you want to handle basic fonts without installing an application. In those situations, you can count on Wordmark.it as it works well. Wordmark.it is free to use for the most part, but additional features come at $2 per month.
Tips for picking a font manager
So, you have seen the best font managers for Mac. But how do you pick the right one for your needs? Well, here are a few tips that can help you. We have made these tips into a few questions you can answer — and decide.
What kind of designer are you?
Your expertise in the world of design matters a lot while choosing a font manager. If you’ve just started and need a place to organize your font collections, you’re better off with something like Typeface 3 or FontBase. On the other hand, if you want to delve into the world of fonts and customize every detail, you have to choose an advanced font manager like Font Explorer X Pro or Suitcase Fusion. You can always toggle these options, but we recommend a gradual upgrade.
Which software do you use?
Every design, be it graphics, UI, or web, has a preferred set of software for their workflow. If you are getting started, you may be adding software solutions to the list. Anyway, you have to consider this software while picking a font manager. In case you didn’t know, many font managers can integrate with software suites like Adobe Creative Cloud and iWork suite. Having a font manager that can work with these tools on-demand is a huge relief.
How many fonts do you have?
The size of your font collection — or the potential collection — also plays a role in deciding which is the best font manager for your needs. Because not all font managers are made alike, some of them can handle heavy-duty tasks better than others do. So, if you have a vast collection of fonts, say of 2000+ fonts, you need an advanced manager. On the other hand, if you have a well-curated collection, you can survive with the ultra-minimal font managers we have covered.
Do you use web-based platforms?
If you use web-based platforms, such as Google Fonts or Adobe Fonts, you need a font manager that offers support for both. For instance, Font Explorer X can work with several online font libraries, including the paid ones. Similarly, Typeface 3, our top pick, has a one-click import feature to download all the fonts from Google Fonts. If you value these features, you should ensure the support first.
(How much) Do you want to pay?
We have covered both free and paid font managers for Mac in this article. Even in the paid section, you can find products that vary between $20 and $150. Depending on the style and features that you prefer, you can pick any of these font management tools. Some advice here, though. The right font manager can boost your productivity like anything, just like an underpowered font manager can slow you down. So, we recommend understanding your needs and choosing the product accordingly.
On top of all these, you should also consider the basic concepts like security, privacy, and reliability. You can do this by choosing products from trusted developers, which is the case for all software suites we’ve recommended above.
Tips for managing fonts on Mac
If you have found the right manager, here are some font management tips for Mac that you can follow.
Refine font collection – You should always try to refine your collection of fonts. While it’s good to have thousands of fonts in your Mac, they also add load on the system. Even when you have tens of categories, finding the right font may take time. So, you should try to refine the collection by removing duplicate/similar fonts.
Make use of Web Fonts – Using web fonts libraries is also an excellent way to keep font management under control. Simple sync with Google Fonts can give you a comprehensive collection of suitable fonts. This is way better than downloading and installing individual fonts from the web.
Transfer all fonts to a single folder – Instead of using the predetermined directories on macOS, transfer your fonts to a new folder. This is going to help you in the smooth management of fonts, even without a dedicated manager. Even in the worst case, you can open up this folder and delete the files — thereby removing the fonts.
How do I manage my fonts on Mac?
Managing your fonts is easy, and all you need to do is run the Font Book app on your Mac or go to the library folder and look for the “Fonts” folder, or you can also use any other third-party app such as Typeface to manage all your fonts quickly.
Where do fonts go on a Mac?
All your fonts are stored in the library folder. You can view the folder by holding down the “Option” key and then clicking on Library. Finally, look for (Library/Fonts), and you will see all the available fonts.
Do fonts slow down, Mac?
Fonts are small files that don’t impact your Mac’s performance. However, if you have many fonts, it can get a little choppy as all your apps would need to scan through a lot of fonts to select the one to use.
What font does Apple use?
Apple uses their proprietary “San Fransisco” or SF font, first released back in 2015. It is present across all your Apple devices which makes the experience consistent and rememberable.
How do you download fonts on a Mac?
Downloading fonts on Macs is as easy as downloading the font from your browser, going to the download folder, running the .ttf file, and installing the fonts by clicking on the “Install Font” button. Finally, just use a font manager and select the font as default.
How do I turn off protected fonts on a Mac?
You can remove or disable all the protected fonts on your Mac. Just run the Font Book app and then click on a font. Now, click on the “Disable” button or the “Remove” button to turn off the protected fonts.
We have shared everything that helps us effectively manage and use fonts on macOS. We have made even the product picks based on our months-long experience. And, we have been using many of these programs for years. This means we could see the font manager as a beginner and advanced designers.
Due to these factors alone, we are confident that Typeface 3 is an excellent font management solution for all of our readers. Even if you need advanced control, you can live with it. It’s just that there are some extra-feature-rich upgrades in the market.
As we have said, always choose a font manager that suits your needs. Getting an advanced font manager by paying more than $100 doesn’t make you’re a Pro at fonts. Understanding this, you should choose a manager that you need.
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