Installing and Using Mac OS X Fonts

Mac OS X offers improved fonts and font support as compared to previous versions of the Mac OS. The Quartz graphics layer renders Mac OS X fonts clearly at any size and makes it simple to use special font features such as kerning controls, ligatures, and so on. You control fonts within applications using the new Font panel. The Font panel offers lots of useful features such as the ability to create and use sets of your favorite fonts.

To learn how to work with fonts using the Fonts panel, see "Working with Mac OS X Format Menus," p. 130.

Mac OS X includes a large number of high-quality fonts in the default installation. And you can install additional fonts you want to use. Installing fonts under Mac OS X isn't much different than it was under previous versions of the Mac OS.

One difference between Mac OS X fonts and Mac OS 9 fonts is that in Mac OS 9, fonts contain both a resource and data fork. In Mac OS X, fonts contain only a data fork. Fonts with the file extension .dfont are single-fork files, meaning that all the data for that font is stored in the single fork of its file. This is the "native" Mac OS X font format. However, under Mac OS X, you can also install and use any of the following types of fonts:

  • TrueType fonts (.ttf)

  • TrueType collections (.ttc)

  • OpenType fonts (.otf)

  • Fonts and font suitcases used by Mac OS 9 and earlier versions of the Mac OS (these might or might not have a filename extension)


One of the advantages of Mac OS X font files being able to provide all their information in a single fork is that these fonts can be shared with operating systems that do not recognize files with resource forks (Windows, Unix, and so on).

There are two locations in which you can install fonts that you want to be available under Mac OS X. To make a font available to everyone who uses your Mac, log in under an Administrator account and install the font in the directory Mac OS X/Library/Fonts, where Mac OS X is the name of the your Mac OS X startup volume. Within this directory, you will see at least two types of font files. Those with the filename extension .dfont are the single-fork font files. You will also see fonts whose names do not have a filename extension.


Under Mac OS X, you can install or remove fonts while applications are open; fonts you install instantly become available to the system and any applications you are running.

To make a font available only to specific users, install the font in the following directory: users/shortusername/Library/Fonts. Within a user's Library directory, you will also see the FontCollections directory and the FontFavorites.plist file (this file exists only if the user has created font favorites). The FontCollections directory contains the set of font collections that are available to the user in the Font panel. The FontFavorites.plist file is a preference file that contains the user's favorite fonts, which are also selected using the Font panel.


Any user can install fonts into the Fonts folder in the Library folder in their Home directory.

If you have fonts installed on your Mac OS 9.2 volume that you want to be able to use with Mac OS X applications, simply drag those fonts from the Mac OS 9.2 Fonts folder to the Mac OS X System Fonts directory or to the Fonts directory within a user's Home directory.

To make a font available to a Mac OS X application, it must be installed in one of the Mac OS X Font directories; similarly, for a font to be available to Classic applications, it must be installed in the Fonts folder in the Classic startup volume you are using.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle