Category Archives: Handy Tips

Top 50 Font Countdown

As a designer, I am always interested in what other fonts people are using and what is new in the world of type.

MyFonts.com offers two different lists for you to find out what is hot in type. They are a pair of Top 50 countdowns, except instead of music, they show what the best selling typefaces are.

The first is a Top-50 list of their best-selling fonts from the previous month. As expected there are a lot of classics in that list including Helvetica, Swiss and Frutiger. While this is interesting it certainly does not get us close to the leading edge of font design.

They have a second list however, Hot New Fonts, that lists the best selling fonts new to MyFonts in the last 50 days. On this list are some fresh offerings from smaller font foundries that you may not have seen.

If you are looking for some fresh faces (typefaces, that is) for your latest project, this is a great place to start.

Using TTX to rename fonts

One of the most problematic issues associated with font management is how to manage font conflicts. Font conflicts come about when you activate a font with the same name as a font that is currently activated. If you have seen an alert like the one below you know what I am talking about.

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Your operating system and your applications recognize fonts by name and name alone. So even if you have two very different versions of a font, but they have the same name, the operating system cannot discern between them.

This font name has nothing to so with the font in question’s file name. If the issue were that easy we could rename fonts in the Finder and the problem would be solved. It just isn’t that easy.

There are tools available that allow you to rename a font, such as FontLab Studio or Fontographer, but those tools can be cost prohibitive and oftentimes might not be worth the investment to make changes on just a handful of fonts.

There is an option in the open source world that can help. FontTools/TTX is a tool that converts OpenType and TrueType fonts to XML and back again. You can download FontTools/TTX here.

FontTools/TTX is a command line tool that once set up can be very easy to use. In our example we are going to use an OpenType version of Helvetica Neue Roman.

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Ordinarily, activating this font in a third-party font manager would result in an alert that the font conflicts with the Helvetica Neue font that resides in the /System/Library/Fonts/ folder. What we are going to do is change the internal name of the font so it will no longer conflict with the system version of the font and can appear in our font menus, along with the system version of Helvetica Neue.

Since TTX is a command line tool, we will need to launch Terminal, which is found in the Utilities folder in your Applications folder.

Once you launch Terminal, type “ttx” (no quotes) and  space, then drag the font from the Finder into the Terminal window. Terminal will automatically add the path to the font file. The results in in the Terminal will look like the screenshot below:

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Once the path is added, hit return. TTX dumps the font tables into XML and saves the file in the same folder containing the original font.

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This new .ttx file can be viewed in any text editor. In our example we are going to use TextEdit.

Once the file is open in TextEdit we need to find the name of the font. The quickest way to find this is to search the document for “fullname” (no quotes). If your search is successful you will find a line like the one below:

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This is the name of the font as it appears in the font menus.

The next step is to carefully select the font name inside the quotes. Then, we want to replace all the instances of where the previous name is referred to with our own. I opted to annotate the name with two letters “FG,” so the new font will be named “HelveticaNeueFG” and appear in our application’s font menus as such.

In order to do this we use TextEdit’s Find and Replace feature to change every instance of the name as shown in the screenshot below:

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Once you have entered our search and replace criteria, select “Replace All.”

Note: If your font has a name that would commonly be used in a font file such as “Glyph” or “Asterisk” you may get some unwanted text replacement and possibly produce an unusable .ttx file. In these cases you should manually scroll through the font file and replace the instances where the name listed.

Then save the file. Make sure it is saved as plain text with the extension .ttx. I also opted to change the font file name in order to differentiate the font from the original in the Finder.

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Because TTX is smart enough to know the difference between a font file and an XML file, we can run the same command we used earlier to convert the XML file to a font. To do this, Open Terminal, type in “ttx” (no quotes) at the prompt with a space, then drag the newly created .ttx file into the Terminal window.

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TTX converts the XML to a new OpenType font file in the same folder as a .ttx file.

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The newly created font can be added to one of your system font folders or to a third-party font manager and be activated without conflict.

The font will now also appear in your font menus under it’s new name, as it appears in Adobe InDesign in the screenshot below.

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While this is not an ideal solution, and there are certain problems that will be created  if you rename fonts in this manner (such as possibly violating the terms of your font license agreement), this is one way to address issues such as one reported in an earlier FontGeek post concerning Snow Leopard, InDesign and Helvetica Neue.

Note: I mentioned earlier in this post that TTX is easy to use once it is installed. I did not have any luck using the binary installer available on the download page and only got the app installed after downloading the source files, running the python install script, then running TTX and moving the files to the locations required on the drive as I ran into error messages. While this was somewhat difficult, I did get it to finally run.

Another Note: Since this article was posted, we have added a new post that guides you through the steps of installing TTX that hopefully will take some of the pain away. That post can be found here.

More FontAgent Pro and Applescript

In an earlier post I wrote about AppleScript and how we can automate some common tasks using it with FontAgent Pro. Here is a script that allows you to take advantage of one of FontAgent Pro’s cooler features–adding comments to fonts to use as search metadata.

You can manually add comments to fonts in FontAgent Pro by performing Get Info on a font (Command + i on the keyboard) and adding data to the comments field.

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Once you have added the comment information, you can use the Filter tool in the All Fonts view to search for the fonts by Comment in your collection. You can also use Smart Search to search your fonts by Comment and even save the results as a Smart Set.

But, if you noticed something about this process, there is no easy way to add comments to a bunch of fonts at one time. This is where AppleScript comes in.

Download and unzip the file linked here and place the script in the /Library/Application Support/FontAgent Pro/Scripts/ folder to get it to appear as “Comment Last Import Fonts” in the FontAgent Pro script menu.

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When you run this script it will present you with a dialog where you can batch add comments to all the fonts contained in the Last Import set in FontAgent Pro.

The situation where this comes in very handy is if you are working at a job where you would like to tag fonts for individual projects as you import them. This script would be useful in this workflow because when you import your fonts into FontAgent Pro, in addition to adding them to a library of your choice, they are also automatically added to a set called Last Import. After that you can run the script by selecting it from the Script Menu in FontAgent Pro and add the comments you would like to attach to those fonts when prompted. In the example below, I added a job number and also opted to add the date to the Comment field as well.

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After the script has run, you will be alerted that FontAgent Pro had added the comments entered to the font’s listing in FontAgent Pro.

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Now when we do Get Info on one of these fonts, we can see that the comment information has been added to the font where it is searchable, as mentioned earlier, in FontAgent Pro.

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Other cases where this would come in handy is with FontAgent Pro Server. As an administrator, you can add Comment information before uploading fonts to FontAgent Pro Server, then set up Smart Sets on the client-side that would automatically update the contents of of those sets using the comment metadata provided.

This script is editable and can easily be customized to fit any workflow. So once again, the fun does not have to stop here.

Stay tuned to FontGeek as I plan on regularly adding more scripts and other font-related workflow solutions.

Put all your fonts in a “Smart Folder”

If you are a graphic designer chances are you have been collecting font for years, and these collections can get huge. Chances are they are not neatly organized in one folder. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to gather them all in one location?

Well you can. With Spotlight, the Mac OS X search utility, you can create a Smart Folder where all your fonts can be easily found.

First go to Finder and type Command + f (or select File>Find… from the menu bar). this will open a new Search window. Make sure you have “This Mac” selected in the Search bar so you are searching the whole system.

Spotlight can use regular expressions so if you you type in the line below (or copy and paste), it will find every font on your Mac that Spotlight has indexed.

kind:truetype OR kind:outline OR kind:suitcase OR kind:opentype

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This returns a list of all your fonts on your machine. Now if you hit the “Save” button, you can give your give your Smart folder a name and Save that. Notice that you can opt to add the Smart Folder to your sidebar where you will have easy access to it every time you launch a window.

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This is very cool because not only are your fonts listed in one location, if you are running Leopard, you can select a font, hit the space bar and with Quick Look, get a preview of the font.

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Then, you can click on the up or down arrow on your keyboard to change the preview to the next font in the list. Depending on the size of your collection, you now have a great way to kill a few hours wistfully going through your fonts, fondly remembering the project where you first used Filosofia, or cringing at the memory of a brochure you created when the client insisted you use Comic Sans.

Are you telling me you haven’t deleted Comic Sans from your collection yet? How embarassing…