Universal Type Server 2 review

Fonts are like rabbits – they seem to breed, with scant regard for the ability of their environment to sustain them. Workflows can become over-run by fonts, many of which will be redundant, and some of which may be illegal – and the larger the workflow, the more pressing the need for a font-management solution.

A while back, Extensis melded its client-server font management tools into a single product, and unveiled Universal Type Server (UTS). UTS manages font use via client software and server logins. One of its key features was, and is, that its server administration functionality is built on a Flash interface, via which fonts can be managed directly from the server, or over the network through a web browser. It also uses Apple’s Bonjour technology, meaning UTS can be located quickly and easily on a local area network.

The benefits of such an approach are most obvious for large organisations, such as major publishing groups, where hundreds of staff operate via multi-tier workflows that serve the organisation at many levels – from publishing divisions to individuals working on specific titles. And UTS can be configured from any networked Mac or PC – a boon for system administrators.

Font handling

As with version 1, UTS 2 comes in two editions: Lite, for up to 10 connected users; and Professional, for an unlimited number of users (and with a year of ‘priority’ technical support, as well as ‘upgrade insurance’.)

One new area of functionality in both Lite and Professional is the ability to police font legality across a workflow, something that will be welcomed by large organisations who not only seek to honour font-licensing agreements, but like to be seen to do so. UTS 2’s License Reporting feature analyses font licence compliance and forecasts future licensing needs, as well as preventing unlicensed fonts from entering a workflow.

And because every workflow has at least one inveterate font hoarder, Extensis has introduced a new System Font Enforcement feature, through which the server can prevent users from installing unapproved fonts.

Improved font corruption handling means the Type Client warns users when a corrupt font is added, and gives the option of scanning local fonts for corruption.

On the Client side, simplified management procedures have been designed to reduce rollout time and to ensure consistency for end-users. This is achieved via ‘pre-populate’ server connection settings for clients, so users can quickly connect. In layman’s terms, this means data fields have already been filled in when users call up the screen.

In UTS 2 Professional, Client and database design optimises server transactions, “ensuring consistent user experience even under heavy load”, while there is also enhanced backup and restore facilities, even between platforms and database engines. There is also the option to purchase an External Database Module, giving users the ability to store the UTS database in an external MySQL database, which allows larger organisations to harness the power of independent databases.

Directory enquiries

But without doubt, the headline aspect of UTS 2 for existing and new users will be the prospect of a free module worth $3,500 (around £2,140). However, this offer is available only until the end of the year.

This Directory Services Integration Module offers integration with Microsoft’s Active Directory and Apple’s Open Directory, and will streamline security administration, as well as improve directory services organisation by offering synchronisation of users and workgroups. This is a compelling prospect for larger organisations to snap up version 2 while the offer stands.

However, once the Directory Services offer expires, the prospect of forking out an extra £2,000-plus for such sought-after functionality changes UTS 2 as a proposition.

Directory Services is currently being marketed as part of ‘What’s new in 2’, along with other features
that actually are a permanent part of the upgrade.

Has Extensis missed a trick here? In making Directory Services a core part of the UTS 2 offering – rather than a must-have limited-period freebie – it would have had a genuine ‘wow’ feature to trumpet over the long term to its core audience of larger companies.

OUR VERDICT

While the Directory Services offer lasts, UTS 2 will appeal greatly to large organisations that require a powerful, flexible, and easy-to-administer font management solution. Once the special offer expires, however, UTS 2 becomes a far less compelling proposition, which in the current economic climate need a stand-out reason to run company-wide software upgrades.

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