Take Preventive Measures and Plan Ahead – Take Control of Font Problems in Mac OS X, Tiger Edition

Chapter . Take Preventive Measures and Plan Ahead

I’m not sure how you’d measure an ounce of prevention or a pound of cure, but the philosophy holds: it takes less time and effort to prevent a problem than to fix it.

General Guidelines

Follow these simple guidelines to stay trouble-free, or at least make troubleshooting or fix-ups easier when a problem crops up:

  • Upgrade, upgrade, upgrade: First, upgrade to Tiger: its general approach to fonts and native font-handling capabilities are miles ahead of its Mac OS X predecessors.

    Next, keep upgrading Tiger versions. There’s no excuse not to, since these minor updates are free. And font management is one of the things that has changed, sometimes significantly, with each 10.4.x version. In fact, the delta upgrade (10.4.4) actually provided new versions of Courier and Monaco dfonts to correct some glyphdisplay problems with CE and CY (Central European and Cyrillic) characters.

    Finally, keep your applications updated with fixes as they become available, and upgrade to major revisions as soon as it’s financially feasible. (A major, but nebulous, font problem that lasted for months for a friend in QuarkXpress 6, no matter what we did, disappeared when the documents were opened in the beta version of Quark 7; imagine what the released version will do!)

  • Don’t remove or disable system-critical fonts: The core fonts, in /System/Library/Fonts, are Keyboard.dfont, LastResort.dfont, Monaco.dfont, Geneva.dfont, LucidaGrande.dfont, and Helvetica.dfont (and probably AquaKanaRegular.otf and AquaKanaBold.otf).

    Stealth fonts

    Keyboard, LastResort, and the AquaKanas are what I call “stealth fonts”; you’ll never see them in your Font menus, although they’re right there in your System Fonts folder. If, while in the Finder, you select any of these files and choose File > Get Info, you’ll see that their full names include a leading period, which keeps them from appearing in menus.

  • Don’t add fonts to the System Fonts folder: Put your fonts in ~/Library/Fonts, or in /Library/Fonts when you want multiple users to share them, or create user-defined libraries through Font Book. When you want to disable everything but the fonts in /System/Library/Fonts to mimic a “pure” system setup for troubleshooting, you can’t have extra fonts in it.

  • Close applications before installing, disabling, or removing fonts: Adobe programs don’t mind if you change fonts while they’re open, but it can crash Microsoft applications.

    Tip: Sneak Behind Word’s Back with Font Changes

    If you install or remove a font and then realize Word is open, or you switch into Word before you realize what you’ve done, just don’t open the Font menu. Save and quit out of Word right away. Or, switch out of it right back to Font Book and put the fonts back the way they were, at least temporarily—Word will never know that you changed things and then changed them back.

  • Validate new fonts: Even if Font Book’s validation process isn’t top-of-the-line, it’s all we’ve got (at least on a system level). Make sure you use it to validate fonts before, during, or after installation.

    Fixing fonts that fail validation

    A font fails Font Book’s validation process if the file is corrupted, but Font Book can’t fix it. There’s only one utility that I know of that claims to fix corrupted fonts: FontDoctor ($70, http://www.morrisonsoftdesign.com/).

  • Keep track of newly installed fonts until you’re sure of them: The new kid on the block is always the chief suspect when a new font-related problem crops up, so colorize (by using the Finder’s File > Color Label command), comment, rename, or use subfolders to sequester new and/or old fonts so you know which are which.

  • Make sure suitcases are packed correctly: Unattached bitmapped fonts (without companion Type 1 printer files) can wreak havoc, and multiple-family suitcases can cause confusion. Multiple fonts or typefaces disappear when one is removed is one example. Learn How to Pack a Suitcase for OS X provides guidelines for suitcase organization.

  • Use only one font manager: Never have two font managers working at the same time—and Font Book counts as a font manager. The conflicting orders and information they give the operating system, and where they look for fonts, will cause grief; you’ll have more font problems to deal with than if you had no manager at all. (Check Prep for Changing Font Managers before you switch from Font Book!)

Know Your Tools

With a few exceptions, the troubleshooting and fix-it steps I describe throughout this ebook use software tools and procedures provided natively in Mac OS X; some third-party programs help in specific circumstances. Table 2 rounds up both types of “tools,” and also includes a few that I mention elsewhere in this ebook; it shows whether the tool comes with Mac OS X, why you’d use it, and where you’ll find it.

Figure 2. Font Troubleshooting and Maintenance Tools

Archive Your Fonts and Utilities

Font problems are a fact of computer life, so no matter how well you behave, you’re bound to have some eventually. When you do, you’ll wish you could just return to yesterday, or the day before, or last week—a time when your every move wasn’t foiled by font problems.

Take a “snapshot” of your trouble-free font environment by creating archives of the most important (and most-likely-to-be-a-problem) font elements of your Mac, so you can return to yesterday. Use the Finder’s File > Create Archive command to make a zipped copy of each element; it conveniently leaves the original in place so you can continue using it. You can store the archives right on your hard drive; they don’t take much room, and they’ll be at hand should you need them. Put them in their own folder; if you have no preferred method of storing these kinds of things, I recommend that you use the top level of your “home” (user) directory—it’s what you see if you click on the house in the sidebar of a Finder window. Archive these items:

  • Fonts folders: Ideally, you should archive your Fonts folders before you make any font changes at all—but it’s probably too late for that. You might want to reconstruct the pure System and Library Fonts folders (/System/Library/Fonts and /Library/Fonts) using the list in Appendix B: Tiger Fonts for archiving. At any point that your system’s humming along nicely—and especially before you make any major font changes (additions, deletions, or reorganization)—you can archive all your Fonts folders, especially ~/Library/Fonts, which holds the majority of your fonts. Where Mac OS X Fonts Are Stored describes each of these folders in detail.

  • Adobe Fonts folders: If you use Adobe products, like Creative Suite or any of its components, you might want to archive the /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts folder. But if you decide not to bother with that, do archive its subfolder, ../Adobe/Fonts/Reqrd/Base. If you accidentally (or otherwise) erase this folder or its fonts, your CS applications won’t run at all. (See Creative Suite programs won’t launch....)

  • Font Book: Many users have been relieved to find that when nothing else worked, using a fresh copy of Font Book finally solved some vague but wicked font-related problem.

    Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? But the problem is that there’s no easy way to get a fresh copy of any system component, since the Installer doesn’t let you pick the pieces you need. While the shareware utility Pacifist (described in Reinstall System Components with Pacifist) lets you extract things from your install disc, the problem with that is that you may have updated your system since its original installation; Font Book has changed a bit with some of the Tiger updates.

    So, the best approach is to use the Finder’s Create Archive command each time you upgrade your system so you’ll have a fresh updated copy if you need it. You’ll find Font Book in your Applications folder.

  • Character Palette and Keyboard Viewer: Everything I said about Font Book applies here: sometimes a fresh copy of either of these items fixes an otherwise unfixable problem, the Installer doesn’t let you reinstall them, and copies you extract using Pacifist may be older.

    O Character Palette, where art thou?

    Neither Character Palette nor Keyboard Viewer exists as an application as we know it. The files you need to archive are CharacterPalette.component and KeyboardViewer.com, in /System/Library/Components.

Prep for Changing Font Managers

If you replace Font Book with a third-party font manager (see “Alternative Font Managers,” next page), don’t just jump in the deep end. Take some time to get things in order before you switch from Font Book—and again if you switch back.

If you’re leaving Font Book:

  1. Archive your Fonts folders. If you run into trouble with the new manager or switch back to Font Book for some other reason, you may want to restore the folders as they existed before the switch to the new manager (a font manager usually moves your fonts to different folders according to its own storage scheme). Use the Finder’s Create Archive command to archive your Fonts folders separately or together. Here’s where to find the folders:

    • /System/Library/Fonts

    • /Library/Fonts

    • ~/Library/Fonts

    • /System Folder/Fonts

  2. Archive Font Book. If you switch back, you’ll need it, but it can’t hang around in the meantime, arguing with the new manager. The zipped-up archive can’t do anything but sit there.

  3. Delete Font Book. Get rid of the non-archived copy.

If you’re leaving the third-party manager:

If you decide your font manager isn’t doing what you need and you want to switch to a new one or go back to Font Book, here’s how to make a smooth transition:

  1. Turn off auto-start options in the font manager. Change any options that set it to open at startup or in response to any specific activity (opening other applications, opening documents whose fonts are missing, and so on).

  2. Quit the font manager program and archive it.

  3. Delete the font manager application. You’ll have the archived copy, so you can always unzip it if you want it back. This keeps it from launching unexpectedly, in case you haven’t turned off all its components—which can be trickier than you think.

    If the program’s installer offers an uninstaller, use it. A real uninstaller (and there ought to be a law requiring one for every program!) deletes any extraneous pieces scattered around your drive.

  4. Make sure the core system fonts are in /System/Library/Fonts. Some managers may move the system fonts out of this folder, which is no problem while the manager is still telling the operating system where they are; but once you stop using the manager, the fonts won’t be available to Mac OS X unless they’re in one of the official Fonts folders. The core fonts are listed in the “Absolutely Necessary” section of Appendix C: The “Do Not Remove” Font List; find them and drag them back into the System Fonts folder if they’re not in residence.

  5. Prevent the out-going font manager from opening automatically. Didn’t I already address this? Yes, but if Step 1 is impossible because the program doesn’t offer an obvious way to stop itself or its components from running, and you skipped Step 3 because it’s so psychologically difficult to erase a program from your hard drive, you’ll have to do your best to ensure that the manager doesn’t pop up to “help” you after you’ve fired it. Check these three things:

    1. If the application’s icon is in the Dock, uncheck Open At Login in its pop-up menu (hold down the mouse button on the icon in the Dock to access the menu) Also, remove it from the Dock since you’re not going to be using it anymore.

    2. Go to the Accounts preference pane and, with your account selected, click the Login Items tab. Select any items related to the font manager and click the button beneath the list to remove them. Unchecking the item is not sufficient; the checkboxes are for hiding or showing items, not adding or removing them. (See Figure 1.)

      The Accounts preference pane shows two items, at the top and bottom of the list, that belong to Linotype’s FontExplorer font manager; they open and run in the background—and open FontExplorer in the background—at your next startup, even if you’ve quit FontExplorer itself and it’s not set to open at startup.

      Figure 1. 

  6. Delete the system font caches.

  7. Restart.

If your font manager has been keeping your fonts in special folders, you may have a lot of file-dragging to do to put things back for Font Book to manage. If you can’t find the fonts that your manager managed, use Spotlight in the Finder to track them down.