Apple announced a October 26 release date for Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) today, along with more detailed information on the new system, including over “300 New Features”. Let’s look a little closer at the features in the Fonts category and give them snarky grades based on their potential value.
Printable Font Book
Print out comprehensive previews of your fonts, including sample text in varying sizes or all available glyphs. Just select fonts in Font Book, choose Print from the File menu, and select any of the three built-in report types.
Grade: B This is one of the more common requests generated by our young, font hoarding culture. It’s kind of something that should have been in Font Book 1.0, and any other font manager can print catalogs, but it will be interesting to see if the new Font Book can do it better. For a quality type reference there’s always this FontBook. I whole-heartedly recommend it without bias.
Quickly access the fonts you use most often. Fonts are grouped according to your default language preference.
Grade: B- it’s unclear how this will look, but it sounds like it might be handy for those who do multilingual or non-Western language work.
System Font Protection
Never worry about accidentally deleting a system font. Leopard will warn you when you’re about to perform an action that will remove a required font.
Grade: C Another request I often hear from OS X users. There are so many fonts installed by the system and other software that most folks are bound to want to weed some of it out. The problem is that dumping a required system font can lead to headaches down the line. Apple has provided OS X font lists that note which fonts should not be disabled, but it will be nice to finally have this safeguard built into the system.
Use new built-in fonts such as Arial Unicode, Microsoft Sans Serif, Tahoma, Papyrus Condensed, and Wingdings.
Grade: F Sorry, Apple. Papyrus Condensed does not qualify as a “feature”. And it’s easy to poke fun at Arial Unicode, Wingdings, and Microsoft Sans Serif, but they might be of use, if only for compatibility with websites developed for Windows. The more serious issue is what’s missing in this list. Beyond basic OpenType support in Cocoa apps, Apple has all but ignored typography since OS X was born, seven years ago. What was going on in Cupertino while Microsoft was developing ClearType and commissioning premier type designers to create universally acclaimed fonts for Windows Vista? Steve Jobs, the guy who gave a graduation speech lauding his own pioneering efforts in typography, should be embarrassed to watch Microsoft showing Apple how to do it right.
Automatically activate fonts as you need them. When an application requests an installed font that’s currently disabled, Leopard activates that font and keeps it active until the requesting application quits.
Grade: A The third-party font managers (Suitcase, FontAgent Pro, Linotype Font Explorer) have given it a valiant try, but automatic font activation should really be a system-level operation. If Leopard’s auto-activation is fast and accurate it is easily the system’s best new font feature.
Take advantage of new Braille support for VoiceOver with Apple Braille Regular, Apple Braille Outline, and Apple Braille Pinpoint fonts.
Grade: B I am blessed to have my sight so I don’t know the value of this feature, but I applaud any advances in accessibility.