March 25th, 2010 by Ken Beck
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 You may be using an outdated model from last year, five years ago, ten years ago, or some ancient psychological maxim you were taught by a teacher or a parent that has absolutely no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:
- Doing so maxes out your screen real estate in the sidebar. Where are you gonna put your meaningful sets (clients, projects, favorites) now?
- You can see your fonts automatically sorted in alphabetical order in one click by clicking on the “Name” column just like iTunes or Excel.
- 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?