Working with Fonts in OS X


Mac OS? X has pre-installed fonts and allows users to install new fonts in various locations throughout the operating system. Even Classic (Mac OS 9) fonts can be accessed from within Mac OS X which can add another level of confusion and problems when dealing with legacy fonts. In some instances, applications may crash when accessing the font menu if a bad font is encountered or other font conflict exists.


Minimum: Mac OS X (any version)
Recommended: Mac OS X Tiger or newer


The first step to understanding Mac OS X fonts is to know where they are installed in Mac OS X. The potential range of problems and solutions to font problems is as vast as the number of fonts out there which you might be using. Rather than reinventing the wheel here, we feel it's more practical to provide you with a summary of some of the articles we've reviewed on the subject of Fonts in Mac OS X. Depending on the nature of your problem, those articles will likely shed light on the cause and possible solution -- if they don't , well consider the research time well spent in increasing your knowledge base and understanding of how fonts work in Mac OS X!

Updated: May 27, 2004: Apple has provided this online tutorial on Managing Fonts in Mac OS X Panther - the tutorial includes both text and quicktime movies and covers the basics of font management in Mac OS X. Some of the articles linked below cover details also addressed in this tutorial.

Apple Knowledge Base and Website Articles:

Visiting Apple's Knowledge base and performing a search for mac os x fonts will also produce many other links which may be useful but the above links are a great place to start.

Other websites dealing with Fonts in Mac OS X:

What to do:

Having Crashing Problems?

Every application keeps a crash log which is located here: UserDomain/Library/CrashReporter. Within the CrashReporter folder is a list of every crash log for every application. Simply double click a crash log file (e.g. Finder.crash.log) and it will open the Console Application. It can also be helpful to send the crash log to the technical support staff of the particular application you're having problems with.

If you are having problems with an application crashing when accessing the font menu, you may have a bad or duplicate font or other font conflict. To determine if the crash is font related check the applications crash log and look for words or descriptions such as 'kerning' , 'glyph', 'font', 'text', and so on. Any reference to a font related term could be an indication you have a bad font or other font conflict.

Font Management Tools:
If you're having crashing problems as described above, or are looking for tools to help you manage the huge number of fonts you may have in Mac OS X, here are few suggestions:

  • Font Book XTNL URL is an application included with Mac OS X Panther (10.3) or newer. You can use Font Book to manage fonts, remove and add fonts as well as show you where a particular font is stored. Font Book can also display a specific font location in the Finder which can be helpful to move fonts and to understand the font filing structure of Mac OS X. If you suspect a font might be causing a problem, remove the suspect font from an active location and try launching the application again.
  • Font Doctor XTNL URL Is a great tool for diagnosing font problems such as Font ID Conflicts or other hard to find font problems which can be causing problems with an application.
  • SuitCase XTNL URL Extensis makes a great font management tool and also has features for repairing various font problems.
  • Font Agent Pro XTNL URL From Insider Software, this is another font management and repair utility for Mac OS X.
  • We hope that helps

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