Jay J. Nelson
| on November 12, 2014
Price When Reviewed: $119.95 (around £75), upgrade $59.95 (around £38)
Pros: Faster font panels in Adobe apps. Supports Retina displays. Instant font inspiration.
Cons: Upgrade price is half the new price.
Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
The font management market has matured, which means that upgrades to the leading products introduce fewer font-related features. Instead, products such as Extensis Suitcase Fusion 6 (and its competitors Linotype FontExplorer Pro and Insider Software's FontAgent Pro) are adding new features to keep up with the changing landscape of operating systems, applications, and cloud-based services.
Suitcase Fusion 6 continues that trend – its interface looks and feels similar to OS X Yosemite, with flatter-looking controls and fewer color gradients or textures. It also provides full resolution on Apple's new Retina displays.
Extensis also improved its stability, including a major update to Type Core, a background app that handles activation and deactivation of fonts regardless of whether the Suitcase app is running or not. Speed is also improved, especially when rendering font previews.
Font panels in Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator
The Extensis font panel, which is automatically added to Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, has been rewritten in HTML5, making it far faster than its previous Flash-based incarnation.
This panel allows you to explore and apply any of the fonts that Suitcase knows about, including your desktop fonts, Adobe's Typekit fonts, Google's free fonts, and Extensis's own WebINK web fonts (at least until Extensis kills the service next summer).
The font panels do have some limitations: the WebINK fonts are only available in Photoshop (but not non-Adobe tools like Sketch), and you still need to use Adobe's Typekit interface to explore Typekit fonts and activate them. But you can activate all other fonts from within the Extensis font panel, which makes is handy when making font choices on an active document.
Auto-activate exact fonts in documents
Besides auto-activating fonts used in a document when you open it in any app, Suitcase Fusion's FontSense technology embeds font identification information into documents saved in Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator CS5 and higher, and QuarkXPress 9 and 10.
This lets Suitcase open the exact version of each font used in those documents, even if you have several versions available.
In addition, the plug-ins that Suitcase adds to these applications also lets you create a new font Set from the fonts used in a document, or check those fonts for corruption.
Besides the flatter interface, the most noticeable change in Suitcase Fusion 6 is the new Fontspiration panel. It's filled with excellent examples of font art created by Extensis and other type experts. Hover over one to its designer and typefaces used, or click one to switch to your web browser and be see a full-size version on its Pinterest board.
Archive and restore your font vault
Because many designers work on multiple computers and need to have access to the same fonts and font environment in multiple locations, Suitcase Fusion 6 provides a two-location license and has a new Archive and Restore feature. This lets you package up your entire Font Vault and copy it to your Dropbox or Google Drive, and then restore it on another computer.
While this isn't a "live" version of your Vault (it's just a frozen copy of your current setup), it does avoid the corruption problems that sometimes occurred when overly clever users tried to share their Vault in real time from a remote location.
Other features not to miss
Highlighted above are just the new features in version 6, which add to the previous version's unique and powerful features – such as QuickComp, which lets you preview your choice of fonts in dozens of common generic projects:
You can also preview new font combinations on a live webpages with the Web View feature, which displays any webpage and lets you change the font in any text block.
Sending font samples to clients is easy. Just type your preferred text into the QuickType view, set its size and color, then drag the little camera icon to your desktop to create a PNG file of that font sample.
In addition to creating font sets for projects, clients, or any other organisational use, Suitcase Fusion lets you create Application Sets that open a group of fonts when a specific application launches. You can also create a font Set from the fonts used in a document in Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator or QuarkXPress.
Google has an ever-growing collection of free fonts that you can explore, activate and download from within Suitcase Fusion. You can even use this ability in combination with Suitcase Fusion's QuickMatch feature to find fonts that look similar to any font you have.
Suitcase Fusion can also keep your font collection healthy by checking fonts for corruption, repairing them, and cleaning your Mac's font caches – useful when you've been adding and removing a lot of fonts or font versions, or when you suspect your apps are having font-related issues.
Suitcase Fusion 6 is a mature product that's keeping pace with new operating systems, applications, and the online community. If you have a new Retina display or are using the latest creative applications, you'll want this upgrade. Improvements in speed, stability, and font inspiration will make the upgrade attractive to all users.