Insider Software has reinvented its FontAgent font-repair and -organization program as FontAgent Pro, a comprehensive font activator and manager, like DiamondSoft's Font Reserve 3.1.1 and Extensis's Suitcase 10.1. Insider wrote FontAgent Pro from the ground up to take as much advantage of Jaguar as possible, and this strategy has succeeded in many subtle and surprising ways - from the simple and fast font-activation scheme, that loads user fonts first instead of last, to the Font Player preview engine, which creates font books in just a few mouse clicks.
Upon initial launch, FontAgent Pro asks whether it can have control over the system fonts. The default button for this option is Yes, but you might want to consider what that means before taking the plunge.
If you let FontAgent Pro take control of system fonts, it then copies them into a new FontAgent Pro fonts folder. This allows you to use FontAgent Pro to activate, deactivate, delete, or move system fonts. FontAgent will move the original system fonts into a new folder that can easily be retrieved in an emergency.
FontAgent Pro's multipaned-window interface is similar to Font Reserve's and Suitcase's, but FontAgent Pro has some subtle differences. On the left of the main window is the library and sets pane; its tabs are similar in appearance to Microsoft Internet Explorer's various tabs (History, Favorites, and so on). The upper-right pane shows sets, and the lower-right one is for previews (see “Face off"). FontAgent's printed documentation is sparse, but font-management novices will appreciate the application's simple tutorial when getting started - it's located in the Secrets menu.
The easiest way to begin building a comprehensive library is to drag the hard-drive icon into the library pane on the left. FontAgent lets you set up multiple libraries to avoid confusion when receiving fonts from clients or other outside sources. FontAgent Pro verifies all fonts, checking for corruption or damage, and removing them if it finds problems. It also checks for duplicate or orphaned font files.
Once you have a complete library, making working sets is easy: just drag font names to the Sets pane from the library pane.
The lower-right pane contains Font Player, an iTunes look-alike. Font Player is actually a versatile preview engine that shows sample type size, font colour, background colour, and text. Further kerning, spacing, and ligature controls found in the Fonts menu refine the preview.
Font Player's major drawback is that it limits you to viewing only one font at a time - unlike Suitcase, which provides an excellent multiple-font preview pane. But you can select as many fonts as desired: click on the print button in Font Player, and then save the set of displayed fonts as a PDF. The font book will include all the selected fonts.
As with Font Reserve and Suitcase, activating and deactivating fonts is quick and easy; however, FontAgent Pro uses different terminology. Select the font, group of fonts, or font set, then click on the On or Off button (rather than Activate or Deactivate) in the upper-left of the FontAgent Pro window. Like Suitcase, FontAgent Pro works as a separate application. But if you quit FontAgent Pro, all fonts remain active as long as the computer is on, or until you open FontAgent to deactivate them. In this way, FontAgent Pro works like Font Reserve.
FontAgent Pro stays in the background more than its rivals. And at press time, Insider Software had just added auto-activation plug-ins for QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign; however, there are no such plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator. (The company expects the Illustrator plug-ins to be available by the time you read this.)
Where there were once two contenders for the title of font-management champion, now there are three. FontAgent's new activation and preview features, combined with its excellent font-organization and -repair capabilities, make it much more than a mere complement to Font Reserve and Suitcase. This challenger is prepared to go more than a few rounds.