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 Extreme graphics layer renders Mac OS X fonts clearly at any size and makes using special font features such as kerning controls, ligatures, and so on easy. You control fonts within applications using the new Font panel. The Font panel offers several 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. 154.

Mac OS X includes a large number of high-quality fonts in the default installation. You can install additional fonts you want to use.

You use the new Font Book application to manage the fonts on your Mac.

Understanding Mac OS X Fonts

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, but in Mac OS X, fonts contain only a data fork. Fonts with the file extension .dfont are single-fork files, meaning 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 advantage 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 fonts are installed under Mac OS X. To make a font available to everyone who uses your Mac, it is installed 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 are 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, it is installed in the following directory: users/shortusername/Library/Fonts. A user's Library directory also contains the FontCollections folder. The FontCollections directory contains the set of font collections available to the user in the Font Book application and the Font pane.


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

If you have fonts installed on a Mac OS 9.2 volume that you want to be able to use with Mac OS X applications, you can use the Font Book to install those fonts so they are available under Mac OS X as well.

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.

Configuring Fonts with the Font Book


The Font Book application is new to Mac OS X with version 10.3. This application enables you to manage all the fonts installed on your Mac. You can organize fonts into collections and enable and disable individual fonts or font collections.

When you open the Font Book application, you see three panes by default (see Figure 8.11). The Collection pane shows you the font collections on your Mac; collections are a means to gather fonts into groups to make them easier to select and apply. When you work with the Mac OS X Font panel, its fonts are organized by collection. You can use these collections to group fonts into smaller, focused groups to make font selection easier and faster. Many collections are installed by default, and you can create your own collections. The center pane is the Font pane, which shows the fonts that are part of the collection selected in the Collection pane. The right pane of the window is the Preview pane, which shows a preview of the font selected in the Font pane.

Figure 8.11. The Font Book application enables you to manage the fonts on your Mac.


To learn how to access fonts you manage with Font Book from within applications, see "Working with Mac OS X Format Menus," p. 154.

Working with Font Collections

You can use the default font collections included with Font Book and create your own collections.

To view the fonts that are currently part of a collection, select that collection on the Collection list. The fonts it contains are listed on the Fonts pane. You can expand font families shown on the Fonts pane by clicking the Expansion triangle next to that font (see Figure 8.12).

Figure 8.12. Here, you can see that I have created a collection called brad's fonts and placed the fonts I use most frequently in it.



If a bullet appears next to a font's name, multiple versions of that font are installed. To remove the multiple versions, select the font and select Edit, Resolve Duplicates. This causes Font Book to turn off the duplicate fonts (see Figure 8.12).

If you select and expand the All Fonts collection, you see the following three sub-collections:

  • User? This collection contains fonts accessible only to the current user.

  • Computer? This is the collection of fonts available to all users.

  • Classic Mac OS? These are the fonts available in the Classic environment if you have one installed on your Mac.

If you select the All Fonts collection itself, you see all the fonts installed on your Mac, regardless of the sub-collection in which they are stored.

Adding a Font Collection

To add a font collection, do the following steps:

  1. Click the New Collection button (the plus sign) below the bottom of the Collection list. Select File, New Collection, or press graphics/mac.gif-N. A new collection appears on the list; its name is selected and ready for you to edit.

  2. Type the name of the collection and press Return. The collection is created.

  3. View other collections, such as the All Fonts collection, to see all the fonts installed on your computer.


    To locate a specific font, select the All Fonts collection and type the font name in the Search tool on the Font Book toolbar

  4. Drag a font you want to install in the new collection from the Fonts pane and drop it on the collection in which you want to place it.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to add more fonts to the collection.

Editing Font Collections

After you have created a collection, you can change it in the following ways:

  • Double-click the collection name and edit it.

  • Select the collection; select a font you want to remove from the collection; and select File, Remove Font. Click OK in the Confirmation dialog box; the font is removed from the collection (the font remains installed on your Mac).

  • Select a font within a collection and click the Disable button below the bottom of the Font pane or select Edit, Disable Font. Click Disable in the Warning dialog box. The font is no longer able to be selected from within applications. The word Off appears next to the font to indicate it has been disabled.

  • Select a font that has been disabled and click the Enable button or select Edit, Enable Font. The font is again available within that collection from within applications.

  • Select a collection and click the Disable button below the bottom of the Collection pane. Click the Disable button in the warning dialog box. The collection is no longer selectable within applications. The word Off appears next to the collection to indicate it has been disabled.

  • Select a collection that has been disabled and click the Enable button below the bottom of the Font pane or select Edit, Enable Collection. The collection is again available within applications.


If you use specific sets of fonts in specific applications, consider creating a font collection for each application and placing the fonts you use within it. Then, you can easily choose fonts from this group by selecting the application's font collection.

Configuring the Font Book Using Preferences

Using its Preferences dialog box, you can configure the following Font Book preferences:

  • Install options? You can use the Installing fonts radio buttons to select which location is the default for fonts you install. (You can make a different choice for specific fonts you install.)

  • Disable options? You can disable collections to hide them from within applications. If you click the "just the collection" radio button, only the collection itself is hidden. If you click the "all fonts in the collection" radio button, the collection is hidden along with all the fonts included in it (so those fonts can't be used even if they are also part of other collections).

  • Copy option? If you check the "Always copy font files when installing" check box, a copy of the font's file is installed and the original file is left where it was. If you don't check this check box, the font file is moved to the appropriate location.

Configuring the Font Book Window

You can also configure the Font Book window itself in the following ways:

  • Select Preview, Show Font Info. When you do, information about the selected font appears underneath the Preview pane.

  • Change the size of the font preview in the Preview pane by either selecting a size on the Size pop-up menu or dragging the vertical slider along the right side of the pane. If you select Fit on the pop-up menu, the preview size is adjusted so you can see all of the preview within the pane.

  • Change the relative size of the panes by dragging their resize handles.


    The panes are limited to certain relative sizes. If you try to make a pane larger but are unable to do so, increase the size of the Font Book window itself and then make the other panes larger. You should then be able to resize the first pane.

  • Change the size of the Font Book window by dragging its resize handle.

  • Change the configuration of the preview shown in the Preview pane by selecting one of the options on the Preview pane. The Sample option shows each letter and number in the selected font, whereas the Repertoire option shows all the characters included in the selected font. The Custom option enables you to type characters in the Preview pane to preview them.

Installing Fonts with the Font Book

You can use the Font Book to install fonts by performing the following steps:

  1. Select File, Add Fonts (graphics/mac.gif-O). The Choose File sheet appears.

  2. Move to and select the font you want to install.

  3. Select the installation option for the font. If you want the font to be available only to you, click the "for me only" radio button. To make it available to everyone who uses your Mac, click the "for all users of this computer" radio button. To make the font available to Classic applications, click the "Classic Mac OS" radio button.

  4. Click Open. The font is added to the All Fonts collection within the sub-collection related to the choice you made in the previous step. You can add it to other collections and work with that font with Font Book and from within applications.


To see where a font is installed, select it and select File, Show Font File (graphics/mac.gif-R). A Finder window opens that shows the file in each location in which it has been installed.

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