Need guidance on how to network a single font library for 5 computers in one studio

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by lindsayanng, Feb 6, 2012.

  1. lindsayanng macrumors 68000


    May 4, 2008
    East Haven, CT
    So I have 3 27' imacs, a 21" imac, a mini, and two macbook pros (which don't NEED to connect but it wouldnt be terrible).

    I want to stay without legal usage rights for the fonts we purchase, which from what I understand, networking is within legal rights.

    I have no idea where to start. Currently each computer has it's own font library. There's likely a HUGE chunk of duplicates and ones that are unique to each computer. I am thinking about doing a diff/merge on all of the folders to come up with a master library that I could serve from either one of the computers or a harddrive.

    I am open to suggestions as to what to use to get this to happen. Honestly I've owned a graphic design firm for some time and our font management is atrocious so as it stands, there's no system.

    ANY direction is hugely appreciated.

    The programs we use the most are the adobe Creative Suite. Currently using Fontbook to manage fonts but would buy new software to make this happen. All computers run Lion.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. thankins macrumors 6502

    Oct 25, 2007
    You can use Dropbox - just read this here :) You have to use FontCase app - but it is an amazing app and much better to look at then the OS X Font app

    Here is the text:

    Font management is the nightmare of a lot of designers, and for good reasons. There are many different types of font formats for different uses, and it’s really difficult to keep up with updated versions of our fonts. PostScript Type 1, TrueType, OpenType PS, Font SuitCase, it never ends.

    Although there are fantastic syncing services out there for all types of user data (contacts, email, calendar events, keychains, etc.), there doesn’t seem to be a user-friendly and easy solution to sync fonts between computers. Here is the solution I figured out that worked best for me so far.

    Tools of the Trade:

    More than one Mac;
    A Dropbox account;
    A Fontcase license;
    A bunch of fonts;
    An Internet connection (duh!);
    Some time to spare.
    For this article, I will assume that you downloaded and installed Fontcase and Dropbox on all the computers you wanna sync your fonts accross.

    Ready? Let’s go.

    The Process in 30 Seconds

    If you’re already familiar with Font Book, Fontcase, Dropbox syncing and all this stuff, here’s a simplified version of the process:

    Delete all unnecessary system fonts from all your Macs;
    Consolidate and import all of your user fonts in Fontcase (on one Mac);
    Move your Fontcase vault to Dropbox;
    Open Fontcase on your second computer;
    Locate the existing Fontcase vault in your Dropbox folder;
    Profit! (activate fonts as needed)
    Need a little more guidance? Read on.

    Cleaning Up the Mess

    If you want your font management to be really impeccable, you need to perform an extra step at the beginning (this is especially crucial for people who work in prepress).

    Mac OS X comes with a lot of different typefaces to support as many languages as possible. There are, however, very few that we actually need and the ones we don’t are just bloating our system.

    Depending on which version of Mac OS X you are running, the required fonts are slightly different. Here are the required fonts for Mac OS X Lion:

    Apple Color Emoji.ttf
    Helvetica LT MM
    Times LT MM
    This is how your Font Book should look after you’ve deleted nothing but the required fonts:

    Feel free to delete or export any fonts you find in the [User]/Library/Fonts directory. This folder contains all the fonts that you installed on your system.

    If you don’t use Lion, please consult Kurt Lang’s Font Management in OS X article for the list of required fonts for your version of OS X.

    This step needs to be performed on ALL computers before proceeding to the next step.

    DISCLAIMER: Be VERY careful when deleting system fonts. Certain fonts (such as Lucida Grande and Helvetica) can completely mess up your Mac if you touch them. I am not responsible for any lost data, corrupted hard drive or system, or any deficiencies that this manoeuver may encounter. COMPUTER NINJAS ONLY.

    Building the Fontcase Library

    What we need to do next is collect all your own fonts. The ones that do not come with your system and that you downloaded from the Internet, basically (we’ll call them User Fonts, because that’s how they’re called, duh). For that, we will use Fontcase — think of it as iTunes, but for your fonts instead of your music. It creates a library (also called a vault) in which it organizes and maintains the file structure automagically (much like the iTunes Music folder). Pretty cool, huh?

    Launch Fontcase for the first time. It will ask you if you want to import fonts already installed on your system. Uncheck system fonts and leave the other options checked. This will facilitate the consolidation process.

    If you have fonts elsewhere on your computer that are not installed, feel free to import them into Fontcase. Everything is in one place now–no more font files all over the place!

    When the main interface launches, deactivate all fonts. Those which are activated are marked by a green bar underneath the font’s name.

    Then, open the [User]/Library/Fonts and delete everything there is left there (those are now duplicates, since Fontcase imported them all in the step before).

    Moving the Library to Dropbox

    This is the last step (I promise!). Our font collection is imported in Fontcase, our Font Book is cleaned up and ready to rock, now we need to incorporate our secret ingredient: Dropbox! *confetti everywhere*

    In Fontcase, go to File → Preferences and click the “Move” button at the bottom of the pref pane. This will allow you to move the Fontcase library to your Dropbox folder. It doesn’t matter where you put it in the Dropbox folder, as long as it’s there. Wait a few minutes for the sync to complete.

    Then, open up your second computer (on which you cleaned up the system fonts already, if this applies to you) and open Fontcase. This time, uncheck all importing options and proceed to launch Fontcase. Navigate to File → Preferences again and choose Locate this time. Fontcase will ask you where is the library you want to link to. Navigate to your Dropbox folder and find your Fontcase Library.vault file.

    That’s it! Your fonts are now synchronized.


    This syncing solution is not perfect, and there are things you should keep in mind when using this workflow:

    Never have Fontcase launched on more than one computer at the same time—this could corrupt your library;
    Although your library is backed up on Dropbox’s servers, make sure you back it up as often as possible—you never know when bad things will happen.
    Useful Resources

    Font Management in OS X, by Kurt Lang course: Font Management
    Did I forget something? Do you have any questions? Shoot me a reply on Twitter or feel free to send me an email.

    VIEW →
  3. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I've put fonts in places where I could access on another computer, but this method does not allow you to SHARE them. If two people open the same font it could create problems.

    I use FontExplorer X Pro by Linotype; it's got kind of an Aperture-like interface so that you can have different sets, and it will autolaunch sets for Adobe stuff.

    They sell a server, but I think it's like over € might actually be cheaper for you to buy dupes of the fonts. That is the sort of thing the Big Boys use.

    I haven't tried FontExplorer with Dropbox, but it could work. I've had difficulty with font caches that seek fonts that were no longer available, so you might have to purge those on occasion. And turn off the auto activation, or you could wind up with more than one user per font.

  4. lindsayanng thread starter macrumors 68000


    May 4, 2008
    East Haven, CT
    Dropbox most likely will not work for me. I have a LOT of fonts and whole they aren't always on the folder is massive and isn't it slow to serve using an external server??

    I really don't need the fonts in the cloud where I can access them from anywhere, I just want to access them via any computer on my LAN inside of the design studio.

    Rob- when you say "used" by both do you mean active used within a document? Or being used by a program that is turned on and has them active?

    I guess technically we are the "big boys". We run a higher end design studio with multiple employees - I'm just not ready to drop $1000 on server software because I'm not entirely sure I need it.

    Also, any additional thoughts on how to merge all of the libraries and make a master?
  5. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I sprung for FontExplorer primarily so it could help me organize the fonts, and it did. But the process was pretty similar to what thankins described. It's rather tedious and exacting, but you have to do it. Fonts are expected to be in certain places and when they aren't it causes problems; a good font organizer helps with this. If you go to the FontExplorer FAQ you'll see the install and setup sequence: it's more than just an installation because it will run scripts that consolidate all the found fonts in proper places. I assume some of the others will do the same.

    I've seen some folks try to use one FontExplorer fonts folder; the problem, as noted in the Dropbox solution, is that two people having the same file open can be risky. And yeah, you would need the font to display the font in a document, although if it were embedded there that wouldn't be a problem.

    I'd suggest you run a demo of the product without allowing it to move or consolidate all your fonts and then try to share the folder where it stores fonts; maybe that'll work. I've found that Linotype doesn't offer much help on this use because they wanna sell the server....

  6. lindsayanng thread starter macrumors 68000


    May 4, 2008
    East Haven, CT
    Robgendreau - Thanks for the suggestions. I definitely will download a few trials but there are so many out there with so many mixed reviews that I got overwhelmed.

    When you say that two people can't be using the font at the same time, can they both be activated at the same time on multiple computers but just can't be used at the same time??

    UGH this is such a huge pain in the butt. I'm amazed that there isn't a solution for smaller design firms. I don't need a true server solution because I dont need the "fonts everywhere" thing but just fonts on all computers inside an internal network.

    I think I might just hire someone to come and merge all of the font libraries and remove duplicates and stuff so we can have one master library on an external drive and then see if I can either put that master library on ALL computers (so 5 copies of the same library) and then just do a merge every quarter as we acquire new fonts... The issue then becomes licensing. I am going to have to look into seeing if it's ok to do even though it's the same "owner" and on the same network and they never leave our ownership/
  7. lindsayanng thread starter macrumors 68000


    May 4, 2008
    East Haven, CT
    So in doing some search (i was trying to find out if there were plugins that allowed font activation from within Illustrator) I found this app that was given an award at MacWorld and featured in Layers Mag.. Does anyone have any experience with it??

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