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Suitcase for WindowsToday we announced the next version of our professional font management for
the Microsoft Windows® platform.

This release of Suitcase™ for Windows® adds a number of new font auto-activation plug-ins, an innovative font vault, as well as compatibility with the next operating system, Microsoft Vista.

Auto-activation plug-ins can be extremely helpful. Basically, when you open a document, the auto-activation plug-ins use our Font Sense technology to ensure that you’re using the exact version of the font that was used when the document was created. We’ve created plug-ins for the most popular design utilities. These include in Adobe InDesignCS2, Adobe Illustrator CS2 and QuarkXPress 7.

For the full scoop, read our official press release.

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Font Managment in Mac OS X Best Practices GuideIf you have a job that requires you to use a lot of fonts, you probably already know how important fonts, and font management can be to your job. You probably already have Suitcase Fusion, Font Reserve or another font mananger to keep your fonts in check. If you want to go beyond the user interface of your font management application, there are a couple of important documents that I’d like to recommend.

Firstly, there is the Font Managment in Mac OS X Best Practices Guide (PDF) that we publish. This is an insider’s tip guide that will help you understand what’s going on under the hood, and make some critical decisions to smooth out your workflow. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Also, if you don’t quite have a firm grasp on all of the technical terminology used around type (for example, just what exactly is an Expert Set?) Adobe has created a wonderful Typography Primer (PDF) that delves deeply into all of the nitty gritty details. If you’re just starting out in the world of type, or just can’t remember some of the details, this is the document for you.

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MacworldA few days ago, we asked for your help in guiding the content for one of our upcoming panel discussions at Macworld Expo. Thanks for all of your creative and interesting input.

Today, we’d like to ask you to let us know what you’d like to see in our other panel discussion.

This panel discussion is titled The Art of Type. The panel will consist of a number of professional type designers including Stephen Coles of FontShop. We hope that this discussion will center on the technical or creative aspects of type development. To make it so, we’d like to know what questions would you like to have answered by the panel?

For example:

  • How do you test your new fonts?
  • How has the change in the type world been rocked by the development of new font formats – PostScript, TrueType and OpenType?
  • Is type development more of a technical skill, or an art?

Again, we hope to generate a lively discussion, and your help is definitely appreciated. Please post your panelist questions in the comments. In return for your help, I’ll send you a free pass to the Macworld Expo Exhibit Hall. Be sure to enter in your correct email address so that I can send you info about obtaining your pass.

Thanks so much for your input!

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It’s nearing the end of the year, and in addition to all of the prognostications and predictions of which celebrities will marry & or maim each other, yet it’s also a time for list making. Whether it be a New Year’s resolution list, a laundry list, or a grocery list, everyone seems to love lists.

Merriam-Webster has their yearly Word of the Year contest (truthiness won this year), so with your help, we would like to find out what is 2006’s Font of the Year. Will it be the ever popular Cooper Black? Will Trebuchet knock the walls out of Castle? Will the serif fonts belittle the sans serif fonts for lack of adornment? Only you can tell.

Help us determine which font will reign supreme until we crown a new Font of the Year in Dec 2007.

To help us determine which font will be crowned, please post a comment with your submission. Please submit only a single font. Yes, unlike with your children, we’re asking you to play favorites. We understand that you might have a very close relationship (some may say almost familial) with some of your fonts, but nonetheless, please only submit one.

Mexican Blackletter

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Mexican Blackletter bookAn interesting book that covers the usage of the Blackletter font in Mexican daily life was recently published by Mark Batty Publisher. The book, Mexican Blackletter, written by Cristina Paoli, covers how the font permeates society and is used in signage by everyone from shop keepers to physicians. The font is steeped in Mexican culture and tradition, and this book gives us great photos of common uses.

Via Mike Lenhart’s Graphic Design Forum blog.

Read an excerpt from the book over at

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MacworldIt might seem a bit early to most of you out there, but we’re already thinking about an important annual Mac event. An event so huge that it’s often referred to as the Mecca for Mac-heads, yes, it’s Macworld Expo.

Since its inception, we’ve had a booth at the Expo to tout our wares to the legions of fellow Mac-o-philes, and this year is no exception. In addition to letting you know what fine, fabulous products we have, this year we’ll be hosting a number of panel discussions and informational presentations.

Our two panel discussions will be staffed with industry experts, and will feature lively discussions about fonts – how they are created, as well as utilized in applications.

The first panel is called Working with Type in Design Applications. This panel will consist of our very own Extensis VP, Martin Stein as well as other industry experts. The focus of this panel will be about how these critical design applications interact with fonts.

So, here’s where your input comes in. To help use make the content of the panel the most helpful for you, and to guide our planning, we’d like to know what you want to ask our panelists.

For example:

  • How does each respective design application choose and display font menu names?
  • Do you have an application specific engine for rendering or managing fonts?
  • Does your company have a philosophy for how to handle fonts in your applications?

We hope to generate a lively discussion, and your help is definitely appreciated.

And, to show you just how much we appreciate your help, we’re giving away free passes to the Macworld Expo Exhibit Hall to the first 50 people who post a relevant question in the comments of this post.

Be sure to enter your email address correctly, so that I can send you an email with instructions for redeeming your free pass.

Helvetica the movie

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Helvetica the MovieIf you haven’t heard about it yet, there’s a movie in the works about a celebrity. No, we’re not talking about the latest and greatest teen pop star caught out on the town without any nickers. The celebrity we’re talking about has a much more interesting and long career filled much more intrigue, ascenders and descenders. Yes, that celebrity is Helvetica, and it’s Helvetica the movie.

While I can’t give the documentary proper justice in this short post, recently, AIGA interviewed director Gary Hustwit about his labor of love. A recommended read.

And, while Gary admits that it’s difficult to get an good impression for the entire movie from clips, he has graciously put up a number of them for us to savor.

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In Technical Support, we talk to a lot of people who are currently unhappy. If you think about it, nobody calls Tech Support to say “Hey, everything is just fine and I am THRILLED with your software!” We only get to talk to people on a deadline, in a crisis, or at the end of their technical rope-all temporary situations, but all can be frustrating. Here are some tips that can make your phone call or email a bit easier for everyone. (These are all based on actual calls and emails that Technical Support deals with on a regular basis.)

* Be Prepared. This isn’t just for Boy Scouts! There are lots of things you can do ahead of time to see if you have an issue that is so easy to solve you don’t even need to make the call. See if the manual has your answer first, check our website for the latest updates to the software you have, make sure your OS updates are all applied, and maybe see if our forums have an answer for you. I talk to a fair number of people having trouble with something and their issue was fixed in an update. Also make sure the software in question is registered with us, this is how we find you in our system so we can record the call. While we’re talking about being prepared, it’s also probably a good idea to have your software installed and make sure you don’t have to be someplace in 10 minutes.

* Be at your machine. I know this sort of falls under being prepared too, but you’d be surprised how many calls we get from people in the car, from work about a home computer, etc etc. Seriously-if you aren’t in front of the machine there is a good chance some vital piece of info we need is something you don’t have. And how can we suggest anything that might help if you can’t try it while we’re on the phone with you? Not to mention that a lot of issues (particularly font issues) are something we have to try a little process of elimination with. If you simply cannot be at your machine during our support hours, our email form is open 24/7.

* Tell me more. We like things like version numbers, exact error messages, screenshots, any bit of insight you can give us is useful. Remember, we can’t see your computer, so we are relying on you to be our eyes and ears into the world of weird technical juju. Let me be the judge of irrelevant info, I’ll ask you what I need to know if you haven’t already told me.

* We are mechanics, but for computers. Sometimes I find it easiest to make analogies to cars. Would you call a mechanic and say “My car makes this kind of thumpy noise, what’s wrong?” If they ask whether you have a car or truck, Ford or Chevy, those are vaulable pieces of troubleshooting info-would you call a mechanic at all if you didn’t know you had a 1999 Chevy S-10 with a 4.3 Liter V6? My hunch is no. And just like a mechanic, I probably need to know more than just “thumpy noise” in order to diagnose you accurately. So when you talk to Tech Support, think of us like a mechanic-what would you tell them?

* I did not break your computer. This sounds really elementary, but if you think that, you would be shocked (shocked!) at how many people call and yell at us as though we personally made their machine crash or their fonts go bad. I know you’re frustrated and I know exactly what you’re going through, I really do, but really, showing me a teeny tiny bit of courtesy will go a very long way towards making this easier on everyone.

* If you know, or don’t know, say so. Don’t pretend you know all about your machine if you don’t, but don’t pretend to be clueless if you aren’t, either. Be up front about your cluelessness if you have it-you are my favorite type of caller. I know to go slowly, and I know I might need me to help you a bit more. If you’re upfront with how much you know, I can cater my directions to your skill level. If you aren’t super technical, I can go slowly, and help you through things so we can get you all sorted out. If you are very tech savvy, I can speed through the simple steps and not spend a lot of time telling you what you probably already know. If we understand each other better, we can more quickly get to the root of your problems and more importantly, get you back to work.

I know that nobody enjoys calling Tech Support. It means something has gone terribly wrong and you’re unable to fix it. We’ve got the same goal as you do, to get you up and running as quickly as possible, and these tips should make your Technical Support experience a happy one for everybody. 🙂

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Brian BersonRecently, I sat down with Brian Berson, General Manager of Extensis to ask him a few questions about his experience with software development, the future of font managment, and even a bit about his accent.

How long have you been in the font management business?

I’ve been dealing with fonts for over 15 years now, but I’ve been in the actual business of managing fonts for almost 12 years. After being around publishing companies for many years and seeing the level of font problems users were experiencing daily, I felt it was a problem that was solvable, so I founded DiamondSoft with the express intention of solving all the world’s font management problems. Boy was I ever overly optimistic :-). Twelve years later and we are still at it. But kidding aside, we have made tremendous strides in font management. Technologies such as font auto-activation, Font Sense technology, and server-based font management have helped organizations around the world get their work done quicker, more efficiently, and with fewer errors than ever before.

How many companies have you started?

Just one – DiamondSoft. I tend to stick with things. I have been with Extensis now for 3 1/2 years. I ran DiamondSoft for 8 1/2 years.

Prior to that I was with a company called Island Graphics in Marin County in California for about 10 years. I was the 14th person to join Island Graphics initially and we grew to over 200 employees during my time there.

How many products have you overseen development?

Quite a few. Much of my time has been spent in the development of software for publishing and graphic arts areas. I have been involved with the development of some of the original early graphics software like paint systems and early page layout and pagination type systems.

Island Graphics was a real bleeding edge developer with some truly amazing products. It was developing Photoshop and Illustrator type products before these products were ever dreamed up – running on the first generation Sun Microsystems computers off the production line.

That is going back a ways – but I have worked with some great people on some very exciting products over the years.

What brought you into the field of software development?

I think I sort of fell into it. I studied engineering in college without really knowing what direction I wanted to go in. Somewhere along the line I took some programming classes and loved them. I ended up getting a degree in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and started my career as a programmer at Motorola. I realized pretty early on that I was not happy being a “cog in a wheel”. I wanted to work on smaller, more creative projects that had a direct benefit to someone. After a couple of startup company “false starts”, I ended up at Island Graphics.

I think at the end of the day I find software development to be a wonderful mix of creativity and problem solving. That is what I love most about it.

Where do you see the field of font management going?

Font management has a number of unique challenges in that a font is part system resource and part “user” resource. A font is used within documents, but usually only referenced by the document – therefore it is up to the user to ensure that the font is available on the system and made available to the document. Add to this the fact that most users have only a general knowledge about fonts – naming conventions, file makeup, interaction with the various parts of the system – and you have a recipe for problems. I would like to see font management get to the point where it is essentially completely transparent to the user unless the user is choosing a font to use. When I open a document of any kind, any fonts required by that document – and the specific versions of those fonts – should simply be available to the document without any interaction by the user. We have the beginnings of this goal with our auto-activation and Font Sense technologies.

Couple this with server technologies, and enhanced font license management to ensure that we are all being fully compliant with our font license usage, and we will be very close to the ultimate goal.

That’s an interesting accent you have, where did you get that?

My wife usually gives the person asking this question 3 guesses after which they owe her an ice cream 🙂 And more often than not, she ends up with an ice cream.

I was actually born and raised in Johannesburg in South Africa. My family immigrated to the United States in the late seventies because we did not agree with the political system of apartheid. So I have actually been in the United States for almost 30 years now. So I would have to say that while my accent is originally from South Africa, it is really a unique home grown accent at this point.

Do you foresee a convergence of asset management and font management in the future?

Well, there is no doubt that there is a lot of overlap between asset management and font management. Fonts are, after all, digital files. They typically have usage rights associated with them, they are often versioned, one font “asset” is often used in multiple documents, etc etc. But at the same time they each serve some very specific needs, so I would not expect them to completely converge. I do think the relationship between asset management and font management will continue to deepen. For example, many documents stored in asset management systems today reference fonts which are not stored in the asset management system. This means that at some point in the future you may access a document that has been safely stored in your asset management system, but still not be able to reproduce it since you no longer have the correct fonts. If the asset management system was able to talk to the font management system when storing and retrieving documents, this problem could be easily solved.

Which product do you like better, Suitcase or Font Reserve?

Ah – trick question eh? I assume we are discussing server-based products here. I think Font Reserve is the better product for larger environments where strong control over font compliance and usage is an essential requirement, and Suitcase is the better product for smaller more flexible environments. Both products have their strengths, and honestly, both products have their weaknesses, but at the end of the day what is most important is that in environments of 10 or more users, a server-based solution provides tremendous benefits over trying to manage fonts on each and every desktop individually, and both Suitcase Server and Font Reserve Server are great products.

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textWhen putting together a project, choosing the right typeface can be a time consuming process. Depending upon how it is going to be used, the factors that you consider can vary wildly. For example, the process of choosing a typeface that will be the basis for a new company logo will likely be entirely different than choosing a typeface for an entire book.

Since the most important design factor with large blocks of text is readability, it can be challenging to find a face that doesn’t blend into a large grey blob. To help you navigate through those tough decisions, I recommend that you take a look at John McWade’s recent article for Layers magazine. He describes the attributes of a font that make a typeface most readable, and could definitely help you avoid the dreaded text blob in your next project.

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