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Today’s tip is on simple navigation around the mac’s hard disk. Most problems in life can be reduced down to “a simple matter of semantics”; a synonym falls from the heavens and eureka, surprise, voila, hallelujah! We understand each other!

In Tech Support, we often help mac customers consolidate their fonts into a central location or delete a bad preference file. But a semantic gap can block even the simplest task if I’m talkin apples and you’re talkin oranges:

Tech Support: Double click on your hard disk to open up the “Finder” and go to your “Home” folder.
Customer: Uh, what’s the “Finder”?
Tech Support: The application that launches when you double click on your hard disk to help you “find” things.
Customer: Eureka !
Tech Support: So then go to your “Home” folder.
Customer: Uh, what’s my “Home” folder?
Tech Support: The folder with the little house icon that probably has your name on it, where you keep all your personal files.
Customer: You mean in applications?
Tech Support: No.
Customer: Is that in the System folder?
Tech Support: No. It’s in the Users folder.
Customer: I don’t think I have a “Users” folder. I’m the only user on my mac.
Tech Support: You still have a “Users” folder. Double click on your hard drive and the Users folder is right there : Applications, Library, System, Users
Customer: [several minutes later] Voila! I found it!
Tech Support: Hallelujah!

mac-10.6.3-home folder

As you can see, your “Home” folder is your “User” folder. Its located at:

[hard disk]/Users/[your name]

Nine times out of ten when you are workin on your mac, you are within your “Home” folder. See the cute little house icon? That’s why its called the “Home” folder and “Home” sounds more user friendly than “User Account”.

mac-10.6.3-home-get info

If you share your mac with a co worker or a family member then they have their own “Home” folder too. This is how your mac keeps your files separate and secure from prying eyes. Example: Boris and Natasha share a mac. When Boris logs into the mac, he has access to the files in his “Home” folder named “Boris”. When he saves a file named “Top Secret File.txt” to his desktop, it is saved to :

[hard disk]/Users/Boris/Desktop/Top Secret File.txt

When Natasha logs into the mac later that day, she has access to all the files in her “Home” folder named “Natasha”. Even though she is a spy and would love to see what devious plans Boris is up to, she cannot see his files because she cannot get into his “Home” folder without his password. Foiled! Foiled again!

So what’s the “Finder”?

mac-10.6.3-finder on the dock

The “Finder” is such a fundamental part of Mac OS X that we forget it’s there, but it’s an application just like Mail or Safari with its own preferences and commands. It’s the equivalent of “Windows Explorer” on Microsoft Windows, and simply helps you navigate around and “find” your files and folders.


The Finder is always running even if you’re not aware of its presence. It doesn’t live in your Applications or Utilities folder as you might think. Its tucked away safely in:


. . . so you don’t accidentally delete it. Lots of essential programs live here as well like Dock (provides quick access to things you use often), Installer (used when you install new applications), Archive Utility (used to “compress” i.e. zip and unzip files) and Software Update (used to update your mac applications automatically). Together all these little programs form the “core” experience of the operating system that we know and love as OS X.

Now, you know where to find the “Finder” and that you are almost always at “Home” on your mac.

Some additional semantic equivalents (Mac OS X to Windows):

  • Finder = Windows Explorer
  • Mac HD = “C” drive
  • Control click = Right click
  • Dock = Task bar
  • Get Info = Properties
  • Apple Menu = Start Menu
  • System/Library/Fonts = C:\WINDOWS\Fonts
  • System Preferences = Control Panel
  • Applications = Programs
  • Terminal = cmd
  • Alias = Shortcut
  • Sleep = Standby
  • Log Out = Log Off
  • Quit = Exit

Keyboard Differences (Mac OS X to Windows)

  • Control = Control
  • Option = Alt
  • Command or “Apple” = Option or “Windows”
  • Return = Enter

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An elegant but overlooked feature of Suitcase Fusion 2 and Universal Type Client is the ability to create smart sets. Just like a smart playlist in iTunes, you set up some search criteria, save it and then kick back and let artificial intelligence do the work for you. The key difference here between (normal) sets and smart sets is that smart sets are dynamic; they update themselves automatically as things change in your environment with absolutely no work required from you. They are effortless, majestic, luxurious, sublime.


Anytime you find yourself searching or sorting for the same type of thing repeatedly, save yourself some time and create a smart set.

Choose File > New Smart Set and set the drop down boxes as you wish.

Some examples:

Active Fonts (activation = activated)

SF2-smart set-active fonts

Show me all fonts that are activated right now i.e. turned on at this moment in time. This is a handy safety net to see the total number of fonts you have turned on across various sets throughout the day. A ha! so that’s why my machine is getting slow !

Duplicate Fonts (duplicates = postscript name)

SF2-smart set-duplicate fonts

Show me all fonts that have the same postscript name. This is handy for trouble shooting font conflicts or cleaning up a huge collection of fonts.

Recent Fonts (date added = on = today’s date)

SF2-smart set-recent fonts
Show me all fonts added today.

The possibilities for creating smart sets are quite infinite especially when you start keywording your fonts. Start tagging your fonts with client names or invoice numbers and you could create a smart set that shows you all fonts you haven’t used yet for a specific client to push yourself into some robot assisted creativity. Thanks Mr. Robot!

[Photo Credit : TOPIO 3.0 Robot image courtesy of Humanrobo from Wikipedia]

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Over the past two parts of this three part series on the “entropy of over-organization,” we have been discussing the central theme that technological innovation should make things easier not harder. If you’re not feeling your hair blow back when you use a new toy then odds are good you’re still doing it the hard way even though you have new tools. An example: you get a new 1000 rpm food processor with enough torque to crush coal into diamonds. You decide to make a nice gazpacho and spend the next two hours meticulously dicing all your vegetables by hand. Doh! That’s two hours wasted for no reason. Your new food processor has more horsepower than your old car so get into the driving lane! Skip the hand dicing; place whole vegetables into the machine and hit the “puree” button for five seconds = done! It can be that easy if you accept the idea it doesn’t have to be hard. I’m not sure what it is but somewhere between OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), most of us are GUILTY (create your own acronym) of simply spending way too much time obsessing about the wrong things.

Entropy # 3 : Why Have Multiple Font Libraries For No Reason ?

In Suitcase Fusion 2, The “Font Library” is essentially the big box you put your fonts into to keep them separate from your system fonts. You can then create sets and smart sets within the “Font Library” to organize your fonts as you please. An analogy I like to use is the Font Library is like your garage and sets are like cardboard boxes within your garage. All your “stuff” is in the garage no matter what and it can also be in a cardboard box, i.e. a set, if that’s useful for you. When you remove a font from a set (when you pull Aunt Thelma’s ugly lamp out of a cardboard box), the font is still inside the garage. Another simple analogy is iTunes: all your music is in the iTunes music library (“Font Library”) but may or may not be in your “Disco till Dawn” playlist (“set”).

You can only search and activate fonts from within one Font Library at a time so having multiple Font Libraries for no real reason creates entropy. It’s like having two garages for no reason; you have effectively doubled the potential for where the “item is NOT,” as the cat in the hat from Dr. Seuss would say. Here’s a screenshot showing a customer with three Font Libraries when one Font Library with two sets would achieve the same goal with no entropy.

SF2-extra libraries for no reason

Moving from a 1,000 square foot home to a 2,000 square feet home sounds fantastic until you remember oh yea, now I have twice as much to take care of. Honey, are we budgeting for a cleaning service for the new house or am I in charge of furnishing, decorating and cleaning twice as much space now in the same amount of time !?!?

We think we want “more” so we add complexity that creates “more” trouble, “more” maintenance, “more” stress but the path to nirvana is one of subtraction not addition.

Permit me another analogy: Gmail vs Outlook. When Goggle introduced Gmail “back in da day” of 2004 (beta in 2004; public in 2007), a lot of folks migrating from Microsoft Outlook complained, “hey, where are my folders? I need to “organize” my email”! Google replied, “folders are sooooooooo 1985. Search is faster. Don’t over-organize” and the rest as they say is history. A simple and elegant idea: as information scales, a good search algorithm is faster than hierarchical folders. Why? Back to our garage analogy: if you are trying to find Aunt Thelma’s ugly lamp, you can only look in one box at a time. The more boxes you have to look inside, the longer it could potentially take to find what you are looking for. This is the entropy of over-organization. Think of it as a mathematical ratio.  If you keep all your important stuff in the garage within one box you have a 1 in 2 chance of success or 50/50 odds; it’s either in the box or it is not and you will know quickly without confusion or dout. (For the record 50/50 odds is the best odds you will ever get. In Las Vegas it’s called “even money”. Many people think 50/50 odds is a “bad bet” i.e. flipping a coin to make a big decision but it is actually a fair 50/50 chance. Heads or tails. This or not this. On or off.  Zero or one. This is the fundamental duality of the universe and the basic building block on which computers are based). If you have two boxes in your garage instead of one, that is a 1 in 3 chance of success meaning you have a 33% chance of finding what you’re looking for. Aunt Thelma’s lamp could be in box #1, or box #2, or neither box #1 nor box #2. Keep going. 5 boxes = 1 in 6 odds or a 17 percent chance of choosing the right box. What’s the lesson? The more boxes you have to search though, the harder it is to choose the right box and the more likely you are to fail in your quest. Creating more boxes to “organize your stuff” actually decreases your odds of finding what you’re looking for. As a wise man once told me, “A man who has two watches never knows what time it is”.

Considering most of us have gigabytes of email, gigabytes of photos, gigabytes of music, and as a graphics designer, you may have gigabytes of fonts, keeping track of all your “stuff”, all your data, can feel like a full time job in itself. You can hire a physical secretary or a software secretary to manage your assets for you. At Extensis, we create software secretaries to manage your files so you can spend your time doing more exciting things. Perhaps one day we will make robots that can cook, do laundry and deliver beer. We spend a lot of time designing our software to automate mundane tasks and make your life more effortless. Naturally you need some system to keep your life organized but an over-complicated system may be worse than no system at all. You can keep beer in the trunk of your car and your car keys in the fridge if you want to but think of the legwork you’d save if you kept your beer in the fridge! As life gets more complex, always remember the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Sexy) and take as many kisses as you can get.

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Last week we talked about the entropy of over-organization and breaking old habits. This week we unlock the mystery of the Suitcase Fusion 2 font vault in part two of this three part series. Let’s begin:

Entropy #2 : Why keep your fonts “in-place” instead of in the “font vault”?


If you went to a bank to deposit a large sum of money and the bank said you had the choice of:

  1. keeping your money in their vault (made of two feet thick solid steel walls, a dual-control combination lock, protected by 24-7 cameras, multiple alarm systems and three trigger-happy security guards (underpaid and jacked up on coffee) or
  2. you could keep the money in your apartment spread out in a couple of shoe boxes and old paper bags

Which would you choose? Which sounds more secure for the long term? Which is a better “system?”

In may aspects of life, we have a strange misplaced desire to either 1) control things we can not control or 2) continue to control things we have already delegated to someone else to handle. The result of each is pain and suffering.

A classic example is someone who constantly complains about the weather. You can complain till you’re blue in the face that the weather is too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry, and guess what ? the weather remains un-changed. It is a complete waste of energy; as fruitful as shaking your fist at a storm cloud or talking to a tornado. You cannot control the weather; accept that as natural law and let go. When its hot, work on your tan. When it’s raining, consider it a free shower. When someone gives you lemons, make margaritas. If the weather wherever you live is that miserable for you, then do something you can control, move to another location with weather that suits your preferences. As they say in Las Vegas, “put up or shut up” because talk is cheap in the silver city and time is money.

Another classic example: a boss who assigns you to handle “important problem X with customer 17” (because they’re too busy) but micromanages your every move along the way. Good managers delegate tasks and trust their employees to deliver results; bad managers pretend to delegate tasks and want an “update” or to make a “suggestion” every thirty minutes in the process. It’s a confusion of ownership and both manager and employee miss out on the benefits of delegation. High entropy. Getting Things Done guru, David Allen talks about achieving a zen-link mental state of “mind like water” where your mind is always clear from worrying about things in which worrying is fruitless. In Buddhism, the tendency to worry about that which one should not worry about, is called “monkey mind” (“unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”); “mental noise”, “just spinning wheels”, “a dog chasing it’s own tail”, “running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off”, “beating a dead horse” and “beating your head against the wall” are western idioms that point to the same concept of futility.

If you’ve purchased a font manager to manage your fonts then hello, let it manage your fonts. Delegate and let go. Let SF2 manage your fonts and let iTunes manage your mp3s. When you are dead and buried, looking back on your life, does it really matter if your 80’s hair metal is in a folder called “/music/hair metal/80’s/motley crue” or “/music/itunes/itunes media/music/motley crue”?  Over-riding the default preferences of each program to organize your fonts/mp3’s manually because you think you have “a better way” smacks of ego unless you are an advanced user and have a really, really, specific reason for doing so to justify the performance loss and overhead needed to maintain your system. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating total passivity in the face of technology (never bow down to the robot overlords without a fight!), rather I am advocating that you choose your battles wisely grasshopper and that you make good decisions on how you want to spend your time. If I had a magic wand and could grant you an extra two hours a week, every week of “free time” to spend on either:

  1. designing great work that puts food on the table and might just change the world or
  2. renaming folders, copying files, searching and re-linking broken links on your hard disc

Which would you choose? Which achievement are you more likely to feel proud about 10 years from now? Which will bring you recognition, fame and fortune?

Unlocking the Suitcase Fusion 2 Font Vault

Many customers don’t use the Suitcase Fusion 2 font vault because they fear it’s something really complicated but it’s actually quite simple. You have your original fonts on your hard disc in “location A”, organized meticulously or simply in a big giant hairy folder called “my fonts” [see part one of this series]. You drag them into SF2 in order to use them which copies the actual fonts into “location B” i.e. the suitcase fusion 2 font vault located at:

/Users/[username]/Library/Extensis/Suitcase Fusion/Suitcase Fusion.fontvault

The font vault is a special folder called a “package”. You can see what’s literally inside the font vault by stopping the Suitcase Fusion Core and then right-clicking the font vault and choosing “show package contents”. This will allow you to see whats inside the package just like a regular folder. Here’s a screenshot:


The SF2 font vault organizes your fonts by Type (MM = Multiple Master, OTPS = OpenType Postscript flavor, OTTT = OpenType TrueType flavor, PS = Postscript, TT = TrueType), then by foundry, then by font name, then by version number, then by Font Sense number. Simple and orderly. In the screenshot below, you can see I have three different versions of ACaslonPro-Bold, an OpenType – Postscript flavor font from Adobe.


The font vault is a SQLite 3 database for you techies out there. SQLite is an “in-process library that implements a self-contained, serverless, zero-configuration, transactional SQL database engine;” the same open source database code used by Apple for your iPhone, iTunes, Mail and Safari. It’s good to understand the font vault but don’t go monkeying around inside it just for kicks. Fonts are added or removed from the font vault though the SF2 program to keep the database in sync.

Benefits of the Suitcase Fusion 2 Font Vault

  1. requires absolutely no maintenance
  2. speed
  3. no more missing fonts, broken links or having to mount external drives
  4. fonts are checked for corruption before being added into the vault
  5. the vault does not allow duplicate fonts
  6. the vault is a single folder that can be easily backed up or moved to another computer

It all comes down to how you want to spend your time. You can spend Saturday night alone, quietly hunched over your computer, eyes bleeding, meticulously organizing your iTunes library, file by file, tag by tag into some complex series of personal folders or dancing with friends to the music blasting from your iTunes library. Living “the good life” means you spend more time “wining and dining” then you do “whining and pining.” Time may be our most precious human resource so re-evaluate how you’re spending yours if you’re micromanaging minutiae. Get outside, spend some time with your loved ones, follow your passions, pick up a new hobby, create something beautiful, think BIG, just don’t miss the forest for the trees. As they say at the morgue, “If you have time, you can always make more art but you can’t make more art when you’re dead.”

[Winona Savings Bank Vault image courtesy of Jonathunder from Wikipedia]

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Hello world: I’m Ken Beck, Technical Product Specialist at Extensis and I will be adding some content here that I hope you will find helpful. So here we go: Post Numero Uno :

In tech support, naturally we see a lot of screen shots from customers while troubleshooting their Suitcase Fusion 2 setup. One common pattern is over-organization. That sounds odd now doesn’t it? Can you really be over-organized? Is it possible to create a filing system so complex that you can’t find anything? Definitely. Over-organization creates entropy and not only is doing so largely a waste of your time but it creates unnecessary stress and is actually counter-productive to efficiency. Wait a minute: I can be less “organized” and more “efficient” at the same time with less work? I’m listening. In short, if your spending hours/days/weeks sweating blood to “organize your fonts” by creating byzantine nested sets within sets within sets, multiple font libraries to nowhere and twenty six alphabetical set folders, then “you’re doing it all wrong“.

Human beings are creatures of habit as they say and a lot of us are guilty of doing things a certain way through sheer force of habit. There’s no benefit or reason to our madness, we just keep doing it a certain way because “hey, that’s the way I’ve always done it”. Now don’t get me wrong, some structure is good: I like having hips to keep my pants up and having shoulders for people to cry on and riding a bicycle made of steel instead of jello gives me more “confidence” commuting to work though downtown Portland, but if all you have is the past to justify a current action, then it’s time to re-examine your goal and dig deeper for a solution. You may be using an outdated model from last year, five years ago, ten years ago, or some ancient psychological maxim you were taught by a teacher or a parent that has absolutely no relevance to what you are doing today. Yes we are getting philosophical here but remember technology is digital philosophy. If you are using new technology without changing your behavior/relationship/workflow then you’re probably missing the benefits of acquiring the new technology in the first place and therefore “missing the boat”. As they told me in trampoline class, “if you’re gonna jump, you have to let go of whatever you are holding onto”. And as they say in one of my favorite episodes of Samurai Jack, if you’re gonna join the tribe who jumps, then learn to jump good.

Over the next few posts in this three part series, I’ll give specific examples of over-organization in Suitcase Fusion 2 and how to achieve the same goal with less effort and more grace. Here is the first example:

Entropy #1 : Why have 26 “A thru Z” alphabetical sets in Suitcase Fusion 2?


This is an old technique from Font Reserve circa 2002.  The “alphabet strip” was a cool and effective technique for sorting/finding a specific font in 2002 but life was different in the good old days of 2002. This was a time when men wanted to be a cross between Eminem, Brad Pitt and Spiderman and dreamed of picking up Jennifer Lopez, Pamela Anderson or Shakira, preferably all three, in their Ferrari, and driving to Paris, to see the World Cup and then relax watching the Simpsons. For a meta experience, google “2002 year end” to see Google’s 2002 year end zeitgeist to remember what else was “hot” in 2002 to get some perspective.

In 2010, with Suitcase Fusion 2, this “A to Z” outdated filing technique creates entropy because:

  1. Doing so maxes out your screen real estate in the sidebar. Where are you gonna put your meaningful sets (clients, projects, favorites) now?
  2. You can see your fonts automatically sorted in alphabetical order in one click by clicking on the “Name” column just like iTunes or Excel.
  3. If you need to find a font called “ken dash something I can’t remember” then use the QuickFind box (top right of SF2) to search for “ken” in the same way you would use Apple’s Spotlight or Quicksilver to find a file. A fast search trumps manually digging through multiple folders any day. This concept of searching/tagging items in “one box” being more efficient than painstakingly filing items in multiple discrete boxes was pioneered by a little startup called Google way back in 1998. Considering they made profits of 23.6 billion dollars in 2009 when many companies we’re downsizing or folding, I’d say philosophically they got it right.

Choosing/Sorting/Finding a font when creating new documents should be cake in Suitcase Fusion 2. If you are re-working an existing document created with Extensis’s patented Font Sense technology (included in Font Reserve, Suitcase for Windows 11, Suitcase Fusion and Suitcase Fusion 2) then there is no need to search at all for a font as your fonts are auto-activated for you when you open the document. If you are not using our auto-activation plug-ins for InDesign, Illustrator and QuarkXPress then once again,  you’re doing it the hard way.

As the immortal Merlin Mann says in his “Inbox Zero” tech talk, if you’re a sandwich maker, your job is to make sandwiches not organize food orders into neat little paper stacks, meaning don’t obsess about the wrong things, obsess about the right things that bring you joy. Don’t get lost spending weeks “organizing your fonts” when you could be creating. All you have to do is drag and drop your entire big scary messy font folder of 5,000 fonts into SF2 and let it organize them for you. SF2 will sort out your duplicates, check for corruption, OS compatibility, and extract the metadata (name, foundry, class, version, etc.) of all your fonts for you in the time it takes to enjoy a nice margarita. It can be that easy if you let go of the idea that it has to be hard.

You’re a designer so focus on designing; don’t micromanage your font manager. Let Suitcase Fusion 2 do the heavy lifting for you and get back to spending your time doing the fun stuff. Now, all this talk about sandwiches and margaritas gives me an idea. Who’s up for happy hour?