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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.

Especially handy are the OpenType settings, which let you quickly see the intelligence built into an advanced OpenType font. For example, some fonts can automatically choose alternate characters based on their position in a word or sentence. Or, they may include characters optimized for small caps, fractions, subscripts and superscripts. These and other OpenType features can be instantly previewed on any sample text.

Plug-ins, previews, and more

Professional graphic design software such as Adobe InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator, Photoshop, and QuarkXPress require special plug-ins if you want your font manager to automatically activate the correct version of a font used in an existing document. FontExplorer X Pro 5 supports the newest releases from Adobe and Quark (CC 2015 and QuarkXPress 2015 respectively), as well as earlier versions. (The two-year-old FontExplorer X Pro 4 supports up through CC 2014 and QuarkXPress 10.)

Historically, Photoshop has presented a unique challenge to font managers trying to automatically activate fonts as you open documents, and the problem continues today. Specifically, fonts in layered TIFF files are not activated when opened in versions of Photoshop from CS5 to CC 2014. (If you convert the file to PSD format, the fonts will auto-activate.) Similarly, when any version of Adobe Illustrator opens a PDF or EPS file, missing fonts are not detected.

As with previous versions, FontExplorer X Pro 5 lets you preview any block of text on any web page, using any font you've added to FontExplorer. Just enter a URL into FontExplorer's built-in web browser, click a block of text on the web page, and choose a new font. When you find a combination you like, FontExplorer can generate the CSS code required to use it, and create a new FontExplorer set that contains only the fonts you used.

Version 5 now supports Web Open Font Format 2.0 (WOFF 2.0), which delivers 30 percent smaller file sizes and faster loading times. You can now activate, deactivate and preview WOFF 2.0 fonts just like any other font.

Every OpenType font uses the Unicode standard to organize its glyphs (characters), and FontExplorer X Pro 5 can show every one of the tens of thousands of possible glyphs available in each font. This is particularly handy if you want to view the additional 250 picture characters included in the latest Unicode 7 emoji fonts.

FontExplorer X Pro 5 is noticeably faster than previous versions when previewing or activating fonts--a welcome improvement.

Font rentals and purchases, and server support

The advent of font rental services such as Adobe's Typekit and Monotype's SkyFonts added an entirely new level of complexity to font management. Font files from these services are invisible on your computer, so font managers previously couldn't manage them. But in version 5, FontExplorer X Pro now can activate and deactivate fonts from these services, and show you the fonts you've downloaded--even the old ones you removed using those services. This makes it much easier to access previous fonts, without needing to fire up those services' utilities or websites.


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