By Neil Bennett | on August 07, 2008
Price When Reviewed: 705 . 910 . 85
Pros: Simple to set up and administrate; many options for restricting font use; great font corruption and duplication detection tools.
Cons: Currently only Mac client and Creative Suite 3/QuarkXPress 7 plug-ins are available; pricey for smaller design firms.
Universal Type Server isn’t – as it sounds – a particularly poor Dolph Lungren movie about the perilous journeys of someone who delivers fonts for a living, but a font-management system that aims to make things easy for small design studios, while providing a huge amount of flexibility for big companies with large IT departments. And by and large it succeeds, though it’s not as versatile as we’d like.
Designed to replace Font Reserve Server and Suitcase Server, Universal Type Server offers a wide array of functions. It manages the fonts you own, allowing you to make them accessible to your team as you see fit. This can be for security, so you can give unrestricted access to your core team, and limit the set for freelancers so they don’t use fonts that your printers don’t own too. It also simplifies things, allowing you to divide fonts into sets for particular clients or projects.
Universal Type Server also includes some nifty utilities for automatically installing and uninstalling fonts when projects are opened and closed, checking fonts for corruption, and dealing with multiple versions of the same font – ensuring, for example, all team members are using the same version of Helvetica.
The system is broken down into the usual server and client modules. The server will run on Windows or Mac hardware up to about four years old, so companies can install it on an old computer rather than purchase a new one (though you may have to upgrade a Mac’s OS, as only Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 are supported). The client will run on any workstation capable of running modern versions of Creative Suite or QuarkXPress, though the auto-activation plug-ins support only Illustrator CS3, InDesign CS3 and QuarkXPress 7. Extensis says it will be supporting CS2 versions and QuarkXPress 6.5 and 8 "soon".
However, as Digital Arts went to press, the Windows version of the client wasn’t available, so it may be a little while before the Universal Type Server is flexible enough for most design groups. We would also like to see plug-ins created for the original Adobe CS tools, as some companies still haven’t upgraded from this. Multimedia agencies would benefit from plug-ins for After Effects and Photoshop (for Web design). In testing, the plug-ins worked seamlessly.
The client is easy to use, allowing the user to find fonts based on type, class, family, version or even keywords – which administrators can set up themselves. You can also compare them directly on-screen using your own text. For administrators, the client also takes care of adding and removing fonts from groups, so you don’t have to manually copy fonts to the server.
Users and groups can be set up using a simple, if long-winded, Web interface. There’s another Web interface for overall administration of the server and setting up backups of your fonts (below), though this is trickier to get at and easier done from the server.
Universal Type Server is available in two versions: Lite and Professional. Lite is aimed at smaller design groups and is supremely simple to set up. It uses Apple’s Bonjour networking technology (as used by iTunes) so clients and the server find each other automatically and there’s no fiddling with IP settings. Professional is aimed at larger corporations: it’s charged on a per-user basis and offers an open system for integrating the system into large IT networks.
Extensis’ software won’t prevent someone from wilfully using a font they’ve acquired elsewhere, but if font security and font management is important to you – important enough that you’d spend at least £700 on software for it – then Universal Type Server is an excellent solution. Or rather, it will be, when the Windows clients and an expanded set of plug-ins are released.