FontExplorer ☠️

FontExplorer X is retiring. It doesn’t mean users (like me!) need to stop using it this instant or anything.

Your software will continue to work as usual, but please be aware it will no longer be updated or supported after June 30th, 2023

That’s a year away still, but I wouldn’t expect any updates or improvements during that time, me.

I think its worth a little reflection on why FontExplorer X, and the general category of “Font Management Software” exists. The big problem they solve? Too many fonts. This could be because you’re a designer. You might have hundreds of fonts. Thousands! But there are other jobs that have this problem. I worked in Digital Prepress for ages, the job of preparing digital documents for real printing presses, and dozens of jobs from different designers crossed our desks every day. We were forever activating and deactivating the fonts used in those projects. Our systems would have been a font disaster if not for the predominat font management software at the time: Suitcase.

In any case, you don’t want that many fonts actually active on your system. Couple reasons:

  1. It makes the font selection menus in design apps super big. That can lead to self-made poor UX in finding the font you need.
  2. Too many active fonts could slow down or even crash some design software.

I have a feeling #2 has become less of an issue over time. It was a known problem and I imagine design software (generally) or even OS’s themselves have found workarounds to this. Don’t quote me on this, but I just haven’t seen the “my computer has become unusually slow because of all my fonts” thing in a while.

But #1 is still a thing. I find my own fonts a little much to navigation through sometimes, in design software that only shows my own local fonts.

Adobe Illustrator font menu, including previews which I imagine are extra computationally hefty.

But in software that co-mingles what they offer plus my own local fonts (Figma), plus without a preview, it’s a mess in there.

Figma: you gotta know what you need going in.

Design software, at least any that I know of, doesn’t do much to help you choose. There is no organization of the fonts. Say you need a spicy italic? Where are my THICk BOIs? Which are my symbol fonts? Font management software allows you to group and organize things however you want. But more!

  • Organize fonts into groups (either manually, via tags, or both)
  • Offer a variety of different previews to help you explore/choose (custom text, lorem ipsum, character palletes, different sizes, etc)
  • Activate/deactivate fonts on the OS
  • Keep actual font files organized on the OS
  • Integrate with cloud services
  • Search
  • Offer pairing suggestions
  • Clean up duplicate fonts
  • Probably more stuff I can’t even think of

I would think these would be a staple bit of software on all designers computers (at least Macs, I don’t know other OSs very well), except for one thing: macOS comes with software called Font Book.app. The original came out way back in 2003 (Panther), so there has been time for users to get used to it.

Font Book has the basics like Collections, previews, and activation/deactivation.

Free and good enough tends to win in the software game.

If you want more though, what’s left in the font management software arena?

  • Typeface looks nice. Robin seems to like it.
  • Extensis, the makers of ye old Suitcase, have a new thing called Connect Fonts.
  • Monotype, makers of FontExplorer X has some new thing they say they are coming out with, but I’m not sure I’d trust that as they company who literally just threw in the towel on a font manager.
  • RightFont looks fairly nice.
  • As does FontBase.
  • FontAgent looks ok if a little old school.

I’ve never extensively used any of those, so those are just knee jerk reactions. I’ll probably give Typeface a shot first.

It’s sort of weird to me Adobe never got in on this.

Thoughts?

3 responses to “FontExplorer ☠️”

  1. I’m bummed they’re retiring it! It’s been my app of choice for many years. I used to use Suitcase back in the day until I found FontExplorer. I’ll have to check out those alternatives, Typeface and RightFont look interesting.

  2. Nick Sherman says:

    One font organization technique I think is highly underrated is just organizing the font files directly in the system fonts folder with Finder tags and/or sub-folders. Even with thousands of fonts installed on my computer, I haven’t found a need for font management software in a long time.

  3. Luke says:

    FontBase pressures you too much to upgrade, and it’s not reliable. I switched to Typeface recently, much better app.

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