I love fonts and have a huge collection. But as I transition to publishing both family history and “for sale” publications online, I’m getting quite an education in the fine print of font licenses. What is a font license? It’s the terms and conditions stating where and how you can use the font you just bought or downloaded. No, you do not own that font. You have been licensed to use it – subject to the terms of said license. Confused? Don’t feel alone.
Recently I was getting ready to buy one of the glorious fonts at OldFonts.com, but fortunately before I forked out $40 for my font I actually read the terms of the license. Their license agreement does not allow embedding fonts in PDF files. This means I can’t distribute an electronic PDF publication (either a document or a scrapbook page) that includes this font, because it must be embedded in the PDF file so people who don’t have the font installed on their computer can view it as I created it. As much as I love that font – I was willing to pay $40 for it – it’s of little use if I can’t use it in my family history projects.
Now that I’m paying more attention to the licensing agreements attached to both purchased and free fonts, I’ve found that there are significant differences between them. I’ve purchased many scrapbooking fonts with “personal” licenses which are much more limiting than “commercial” licenses. So, how do I keep track of which fonts are which and what limits I have in using them? With the help of a font manager application.
A font manager program serves many purposes – license agreements just add another reason you need one. If you’re like me and have collected thousands of fonts, there’s no way you can install them all and then wade through them from the font picker in your word processing or image editing software. And then there’s the performance issues of having tons of fonts installed on your computer at the same time . . .
A font manager helps you organize your font collection, install and uninstall fonts on a project by project basis, browse your collection to find the perfect fonts for a project and compare similar fonts to select the one that will work for your purpose. A good font manager will provide a means to organize fonts by type – serif, san-serif, script, etc. – as well as categories that make sense to you – wedding, handwriting, holiday, baby, and such. Take advantage of these organizational capabilities to include license categories – no-embed, personal, unrestricted, etc. – so you will see at a glance which fonts can be legally used for a specific project.
Another useful feature found in most font managers is the ability to see what specific text looks like from one font to another. Sure, all of them give you the ability to see the complete character set, but only looking at your specific text will show how those characters interact with each other in each font.
The font manager shown here is Font Case ($56, Mac). Other Mac font managers include Font Sleuth ($15) and Font Explorer X Pro ($79). Windows font management applications include Printer’s Apprentice ($25) and Typograf ($35). Extensis offers Suitcase Fusion 2 ($99) for both Mac and Windows.
Fonts can make or break the design of a writing or scrapbooking project. Being able to organize your font collection so you can easily find the perfect font – both visually and legally – will make your creative life even more enjoyable. Oh, and if you’re looking for well-designed fonts with commercial licenses that include embedding, take a look at the MacFonts (cross-compatible with Mac and Windows) collections.