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FontExplorer X Pro 5 review: A better way to manage your font collection

Jay J. Nelson | Aug. 10, 2015
Creative professionals must continually update their font management utility to keep up with new technologies and new versions of design apps--that's just a fact of our creative life. FontExplorer X Pro 5 supports all the newest technologies and apps, and runs faster than before while providing smarter organization and new design features.

font explorerx pro 5 mac icon

Creative professionals must continually update their font management utility to keep up with new technologies and new versions of design apps--that's just a fact of our creative life. FontExplorer X Pro 5 supports all the newest technologies and apps, and runs faster than before while providing smarter organization and new design features.

The welcome tour

The first new feature you encounter after upgrading is a Welcome Tour. This may seem like a trivial feature, but fonts have become extremely complex and FontExplorer Pro is an extremely robust program. Unlike the old days, when "font management" meant activating and deactivating fonts and grouping them into sets, modern font managers also must deal with multiple desktop font formats, multiple web font formats, fonts that mysteriously arrive over the Internet but are invisible on the user's machine (Adobe's Typekit, for example), fonts being served from local font servers, and so on. In addition, users can now buy and install fonts directly from retailers such as FontShop, Fonts.com, Monotype, and others.

A modern font manager must handle all these issues while remaining user friendly--and FontExplorer X Pro 5 succeeds on all these fronts. If you skip the Welcome Tour, it's available later under the Help menu. (The Help menu also links to FontExplorer's comprehensive online usage manual and support site.)

New look

The first visual change you'll notice is the removal of almost all color in the interface, and a flattening of all the icons. While this attempt at keeping up with the OS X (and iOS) interface is commendable, some organizational efficiency is lost because color would help most people identify interface items more quickly. However, you can still apply a color label to any font for your own organizational purposes.

FontExplorer Pro 5 has several new timesaving and fun-making enhancements, including a new Font Tile view. This new view displays a few characters in each font, making it easy to find a font that has a specific flavor or quickly scan for appropriate fonts for a specific typographic logo.

The most commonly used display settings are now available in an optional panel on the right side. Checkboxes let you enable the visibility of various features, such as a font's label, rating, activation state, and whether to show missing PostScript printer fonts and invisible fonts. A slider controls the size of font tiles, and when not viewing font tiles you can enable WYSIWYG display of font names, style linking and font family grouping.

In the bottom preview panel, you can control how the previews are colored and tinted, whether the font's built-in kerning values are used, and apply your own tracking values to bring the letters closer together or move them farther apart. You can also edit or create preview phrases, including various languages (great for multilingual publishing), numbers (because some fonts don't include numbers), common ligatures such as ff, fi, fl, ffl, st and sst (because some fonts lack ligatures), and special characters such as $, &, @, and curly quotes (either to find the best one of these characters from a selection of fonts or to determine if a specific font includes it).

 

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