• Price When Reviewed: £79.95 plus VAT; £29.95 upgrade

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Managing fonts is not in itself a terribly challenging task. However, when the number of fonts on your system exceeds 40 or so, it gets exponentially more time-consuming. That’s when you need a utility like Suitcase. Like its predecessors, Suitcase 9 continues to be a fast and reliable font grouper, previewer and manager – but now has an improved interface, more automated features and support for a clever font-server system. The main interface consists of three panes. The bottom left one lists all the fonts outside your Mac’s System folder that you want to make available to it. Above, is a pane where you can create and edit arbitrary groups of those fonts. The idea is that by activating and deactivating font groups when you need them instead of loading hundreds of individual fonts at startup, you’ll accelerate not just the startup process but also the launching of applications. Suitcase also lets you specify which fonts and groups remain active after a restart too. Even better, all the font management actions are conducted by drag-&-drop, both between panes and between the window and the desktop. The pane on the right shows instant previews of any font you select from the lists – previews can be customized to show standard ABC, alphanumerics, a predetermined paragraph or QuickType, which is a live-fonted preview of anything you type into the text field above the pane. It’s all so intuitive that it makes you wonder why Extensis hadn’t thought of it before. One very useful touch is the way you can assign groups to specific applications: one for InDesign, one for FreeHand and so on. Consequently, the activation of that group is handled automatically simply by running the relevant application. Creating an application set is as easy as dragging-&-dropping a program icon onto the Suitcase window or you can drop it onto an existing set. Also included in the package is an XTension for QuarkXPress 4.03 and later, called Suitcase XT. One step better than application font sets, it identifies inactive fonts that are required for a document you’re opening, then activates them automatically. You don’t even need a prepared font set, just as long as Suitcase’s internal database knows the fonts are somewhere on your hard disk. Nor do fonts need to be on local disks. Suitcase 9 is designed to work with Extensis’ new Suitcase Server Edition, which hunts down and manages fonts across TCP/IP networks, including dial-up Internet connections. This is great for keeping duplication to a minimum, but also makes it easier to implement a regime whereby no-one ends up using the wrong fonts across a workgroup or even a multi-site organization. Also thrown in the package is a control panel called MenuFont, which puts typeface previews within an application’s font menu. Although it works fine in QuarkXPress and Canvas 7, only a handful of other graphics-oriented programs can use it. For those who deal with large quantities of fonts, Suitcase 9 will save you loads of time and worry. If you work alone with a manageable range of fonts, this £80 set of system extensions may seem overblown and expensive. It will also slow you down, gobbling a good 12MB of RAM before you even launch the program itself. But large studios, central production desks and bureaus will find it essential.