Font tips: Printing type samples

4. Set options for the report type you've chosen, such as Show Family and Sample Size for the Catalog report type (to cluster your fonts into their logical typeface families); Glyph Size for the Repertoire report type, and Show Font Details such as Kind, Manufacturer, Version, Designer, and so forth, for the Waterfall report type.

5. Just under the page preview, note the number of pages you're about to print. You may be printing more than you expect, because some OpenType fonts have a tremendous number of glyphs. If that happens, you may want to scroll through the page previews, choose the pages you really need, then type specific page numbers into the Pages fields.

6. Now click the Print button. You can also create a PDF of the pages too, for safekeeping and future reference, by clicking on the PDF button in the lower left-hand corner of the Print dialog and choosing Save as PDF from the menu.

Font Book is fine for printing the three types of layouts it supports. But if you need a more variety, or want to print uninstalled fonts without temporarily installing them, you'll want to look into third-party applications. The simplest and most useful ones I've found useful are Ksoft's FontCat ($20), which has several useful layouts, and PiDog Software's FontThing ($10), which prints rudimentary font samples.

Third-party font-management utilities such as Suitcase Fusion 2 and FontAgent Pro can also print font samples, but they're limited to printing one line of text per font. Linotype's FontExplorer X Pro 2.5 raises the bar for printing font specimens: it offers five professional layouts, with optional custom headers and footers, and you also can create your own custom layout.

If you use Adobe InDesign CS3 or CS4, you may want to try Chris Paveglio's ID Font Catalog. This $15 script lets InDesign create a font catalog of your active fonts. There are several layout options, including a list with family styles grouped below each font (such as bold and italic). You can omit common system fonts and select others to skip as well. If you export the catalog to PDF, the script creates bookmarks for each family.

The following utilities really stand out as professional font printing tools:

Bohemian Coding's Fontcase ($56) is incredibly cool and sophisticated, and although it has just one layout for printing font specimens, that layout is well-considered and truly useful. It's also the 2009 winner of the Apple Design Award for Best Mac OS X Leopard Student Product. (I give it extra cool points for using the pangram, "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs" instead of the usual one featuring a quick fox and a lazy dog.)

Veenix Technologies' Veenix TypeBook Creator (above) is the absolute best program I've ever seen for printing type specimens or books. You can print samples of active or inactive fonts in any of 16 classic layouts--and customize the text used in the samples. It can even categorize your fonts and then help narrow down your font choices by Serif, Sans-serif, Text, Condensed, Expanded, Monospaced or Shadow & 3D.

The recently released version of TypeBook Creator 2.4 has a unique new feature that assigns an "energy level" to each font. This helps you find fonts in your collection that are best suited for, say, a metal band CD cover versus a children's book. TypeBook Creator costs $50 for one user and up to 5,000 fonts and $400 for a multi-user license with unlimited fonts.

Type specimen books have a long, revered history among font fans. After spending some time with the tools mentioned above, I think you'll appreciate the value of type specimen books in your own work.

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