Font Management Woes

For the last few weeks, I’ve been having a lot of issues with my font management software. For a Web or graphic designer, a good font management program is very important so I’ve been scrambling to find solutions.

I had been using Extensis Suitcase for a long time but the Windows version doesn’t have a proper search feature and that is something that can really help when you are looking for fonts for a project. That’s why I had been experimenting with other apps. One of those apps was Proxima Software’s FontExpert. But the thing is, both have pros and cons and I basically used one for a while and the other for a while then back again. Want examples of things one does well while the other doesn’t? here it goes:

Suitcase Pros:

  • It is a mature app with a polish that is hard to beat
  • It has a very streamlined and easy to use UI
  • It comes with automatic font activation plugins for both Illustrator and InDesign and, coupled with is FontSense technology, they work very well.

Suitcase Cons:

  • It lacks a search feature in the Windows version
  • It is harder on resources than FontExpert as it uses a resident service that start with every Windows boot.
  • It’s activation process depends on the infamous “Bonjour Service” (more on that later).

FontExpert Pros

  • It has a very extensisve feature set that includes tagging and categorizing fonts and searching them.
  • It offers access to detailed information for each font.
  • It is very light on resources

FontExpert Cons

  • Its interface can be confusing, especially its implementation of Groups and Worklists and what each is used for. Suitcase is a lot easier to deal with in that regard.
  • Documentation is lacking
  • It has an auto activation plugin only for InDesign and the CS3 version is flaky. It was preventing InDesign to load for me so I had to uninstall the plugin.

Up to a few weeks ago, I was using Suitcase because, even without search, its operation was more trouble free and it really worked well with InDesign and Illustrator when I openend a filed that used fonts that were uninstalled. But one day, it stopped loading on Windows startup or manually. After a bit of detective work I realized that the issue was tied to the “Bonjour Service“. No matter what I try, I cannot get that stupid service to start and Suitcase depends on it being started to start itself.

I tried downloading the latest version of Bonjour from Apple but that won’t start either. I have made no change purposefuly to my machine that could explain this. Maybe some kind of Windows update is preventing Bonjour to start but I have no idea why and no amount of Googling has given me a solution. Extensis are no help.

I had no choice but to uninstall Suitcase and install FontExpert. But I started having problems with that too. Fonts would not display correctly within the app nor within applications using them even if they were activated. They defaulted to a basic sans-serif that looked nothing like the typeface I was using. So I was screwed and I needed to find another font management application. I’m starting a new project these days and it includes the creation of a logo  so I need to look at a lot of fonts…

After a bit of research I found Hi-Logic MainType. It looks a bit like FontExpert but more streamlined and its Group features is directly linked to folders on your machine which is a lot closer to how Suitcase worked. All fonts display correctly in it and it has a “filter” feature that helps find fonts based on several criteria and it seems to work quite well. I’ll see how it works for me over time.

In the meantime, if any of you that read this blog have experienced problems with the Bonjour Service failing to start or have heard of a solution to that problem then please, post a comment here. Suitcase is not the only app depending on it and I would love to fix this issue on this machine.

4 thoughts on “Font Management Woes”

  1. Thanks Juan,

    FontExplorer is the one app I wanted to try but they haven’t released the final Windows version yet and they removed the beta from their site. As soon as that is out I’ll try it for sure.

  2. I tried FontXplorer and Font Xpert, and finally settled for MainType.
    FontXplorer was buggy beyond belief, and wreaked havoc in my fonts folder. (I still have phantom fonts that won’t uninstall). FontXpert had loads of neat features- too many in my opinion. Maintype seemed just the thing for me, the perfect replacement to my trusty old typograf.

  3. Thank you very much for sharing your experience Kemie. I’ll still try out Fontexplorer X when the final Windows version comes out but for now I’m back to FontExpert and it’s working well for me. I still miss the Font Loader plugins from Suitcase in Illustrator and InDesign though…


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