Friday, May 27, 2011

Unexpected benefits of removing dated OS X fonts

There are a two things I miss about Windows. I miss Windows Remote Desktop Services, it crushes OS X remote desktop. I also miss Windows fonts, especially Windows antialiasing.

OS X fonts have been a particularly annoying problem. Some applications, like my 5 yo copy of FileMaker Pro 8, show persistently garbled fonts. On the other hand, my new copy of defaults to a poorly rendered 9 point Helvetica Neue.

I've lived with these bugs for years, but tonight, in the process of investigating a hung app, I sorted them out.

In Library/Fonts (see Mac OS X: Font Locations and Their Purposes) I found a folder of Microsoft Fonts left over when I deleted Office 2008, and I found a good number of old style fonts dating back to 2006 [2]. After cross checking with the excellent font lists in the extensive article Font Management in OS X I removed those fonts. This had the unexpected benefit of fixing FileMaker Pro 8 - the fonts there now display nicely.

For the Numbers font problem I experimented with control of OS X antialiasing. In OS X Preferences:Appearance I set "turn off text smoothing for font sizes" to 8 and smaller (it was initially 10 and smaller). [1] I'm not sure that made any difference. What did help was creating a new template with all cells set to Helvetica 12, then saving that as a template and making it the default spreadsheet to use on startup. (Currently there's no other way to change the default font in

In the course of the above I found:

  1. When I opened up Font several of my fonts showed a duplicate font message. When I ran verify some reported bugs. I chose the inactivate duplicates option, but I later discovered OS had inactivated the "good" version of the font. After I removed my old fonts I had to re-activate the "duplicates".
  2. The Font Book app can be used to verify all fonts. I recommend that quick test for everyone who's run OS X for a while.
  3. It's convenient to use Font Book to create a collection of the handful of fonts I actually use. Note the Windows Office Compatible and "Web-safe" built-in collections.
  4. My copy of OS X includes two SchoolHouse fonts - cursive and printed. I wish I'd had these when I was teaching writing to my first child! I don't know where they came from, I don't think they're part of the regular OS X font installation.

[1] The options in 10.6.7 are different from the options in 10.6 in Aug 2009.
[2] The accounts on my 27" iMac have migrated across many machines, probably going back to 10.1. They've picked up some cruft along the way.

See also:

Update 5/28/11: I should have tested FileMaker Pro 8 a bit more. It looked good at first, but when I searched later all my records seemed blank! A reinstall, surprisingly, didn't fix anything and didn't seem to add new fonts. I had switched to Verdana, and tried old Georgia instead. That worked well.

Update 5/30/11: When I tried to empty the trash I learned that Arial and Times were still in use! They were in the Microsoft Fonts folder, and they were my bad-boy fonts. I had to restart then empty the trash.

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