Mac OS X has come with the ability to activate and deactivate Fonts on the fly since 10.5, when Font Book was introduced. Font Book allows a single user to manage their fonts easily. But many will find that managing fonts on a per-computer basis ends up not being enough. Which begs the question: who needs a font server? A very simplistic answer is any organization with more than 5 users working in a collaborative environment. This could be the creative print shops, editorial, motion graphics, advertising agencies and other creative environments. But corporate environments where font licensing and compliance is important are also great candidates.
Lack of font management is a cost center for many organizations. There is a loss of productivity every time a user has to manually add fonts when opening co-workers documents, or the cost of a job going out with the wrong version of a font. Some of the other benefits of fonts servers are separate font sets for different workgroups and isolating corrupt fonts to clean up large font libraries, along with quick searching and identification of fonts.
Font Management and Best Practices
Anyone who uses fonts for daily workflow needs font management. This could be a standalone product such as Suitcase Fusion or Font Agent Pro. But larger environments invariably need to collaborate and share fonts between users, meaning many environments need font servers. Two such products include Extensis Universal Type Server and Font Agent Pro Server. But before adding font management products, users should clean up and any fonts loaded or installed and added prior to moving to a managed font environment. Places to look for fonts when cleaning them up include the following:
- /System/Library Fonts
Leaving any necessary system, Microsoft Web Core, and required Adobe fonts.
The best resource for this process can be found at Extensis Font Best Practices in OX v.7, which can be found at: http://www.extensis.com/en/downloads/document_download.jsp?docId=5600039
Types of Font Server Products Available
There are two major font server publishers: Extensis and Font Agent Pro. Both have workgroup and enterprise products. All server products from both products work on a client/server model. Both can sync entire font sets or serve fonts on-demand. The break down for the Extensis Universal Type Sever is at 10 clients. Below 10 clients Universal Type Server Lite is a 10 clients product, which lacks Enterprise features, such as the ability to use a SQL database or integrate in Open Directory or Active Directory. The full Universal Type Server Professional adds Directory integration, external database use, and font compliance features and is sold as 10-user license, with an additional per seat license.
Insider Software offers two levels of font servers. The first is FontAgent Pro Team Server designed for small workgroups and sold in a 5 or 10 client configuration. The next level of product is Font Agent Pro Enterprise server. This adds the same directory services integration as Universal Type Server Professional. This product also has Kerberos single sign on, server replication and fail over. It uses the same per-seat pricing structure as Universal Type Server Professional.
A third tool is also available in Monotype Font Explorer, at http://www.fontexplorerx.com, which we will look at later in this article.
Pre-Deployment Strategies and Projects
Before any font server deployment, there are a few things to take into consideration. First is number of clients. This will guide you to which product will be appropriate for installation. Also note if Directory integration and compliance is needed. Is failover or a robust database important. The most important part of any font server installation is the fonts. How may are there, where are they coming from, are separate workgroups needed? Are all your fonts legal? In my experience probably not. Is legal compliance required for you organization or your clients? What is the preferred font type, PostScript Type 1, Open Type? What version are the fonts? Most fonts have been “acquired” over time, with some Postscript fonts dating back to early to mid nineties. As a font server is just a database, the axiom “garbage in, garbage out” is true here as well. This should lead to a pre-deployment font library consolidation and clean up. This can be either be done by 318 or we can train the you to perform this task. If compliance is an issue this is where we would weed out unlicensed fonts. Which to my experience is about 90% of all fonts. A clean, organized font set is the most important part of pre-deployment.
A major part of any font server roll out should be compliance and licensing. This allows for the tracking and reporting of font licenses and to make sure that stays in licensing and compliance.
Universal Type Server includes the ability to generate and export reports to help you determine if you are complying with your font licenses. The font compliance feature only allows you to track your licensing compliance and does not restrict access to noncompliant fonts. To help you understand how the font licensing compliance, let’s look at the following typical example of how to use licenses and the font compliance report in your environment.
Say you are starting up your own design shop and need a good group of licensed fonts for your designers to create projects that will bring you fame and fortune. You know that fonts are valuable, and you want to be sure that you have purchased enough licenses for your requirements. So, you purchase a 10user license of a sizable font library. Using the Universal Type Client, these fonts are added to a Type Server workgroup as a set. A font license is then created and the Number of Seats field is set to 10. This license is then applied to all fonts in the set.
When you run the font compliance report, Universal Type Server compares the number of seats allowed to the total number of unique users who have access to the workgroup. If more users have access than licenses available, the fonts are listed as “non-compliant.” You can now either remove users from the workgroup or purchase more font licenses to become compliant.
Universal Type Server is unique amongst other products in that it uses a checksum process to catalog fonts. Others just use file names and paths.
Universal Type Server can limit users to be able to only download fonts installed by administrators. For initial deployment, each user does not need to download all of the fonts, which helps in environments when you have a lot of fonts (e.g. more than 5 GB of fonts) that need to get distributed to several hundreds clients, so if each user had to download all of the fonts (e.g. each time they get imaged), they could loose a production system for some time.
Universal Type Server Deployment
Universal Type Server system requirements include the following:
• Mac OS X v 10.5.7, 10.6 Mac OS X Server 10.5 or 10.6• 1.6 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor (PowerPC is not supported)
• 1 GB available RAM
• 250 MB of hard disk space + space for fonts
• Safari 3.0 or Firefox 3.0 or higher*
• Adobe Flash Player 10 or higher*
• Windows XP SP3 (32-bit only), Server 2003 SP2, Server 2008 SP2 (32 or 64-bit version**)
• P4 or faster processor***
• 1 GB available RAM
• 250 MB of hard disk space + space for fonts
• Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox 3.0 or higher*
• Adobe Flash Player 10 or higher*
• Adobe Reader 7 to read PDF documentation*
• Microsoft .NET 3.5 or higher
Universal Type Server Installation Process:
1. Verify server system requirements
2. Run the installer on the target server machine
3. Login to the Server Administration web interface
4. Serialize the server
5. Set the Bonjour Name
6. Resolve any port conflicts
7. Set any desired server configuration options, including backup schedule, log file configuration, secure connection options, and any other necessary server settings.
8. After installing the server, configure workgroups, roles and add users.
The basic user and workgroup configuration steps include:
1. Plan your configuration
2. Create workgroups
3. Create new users
4. Add users to workgroups
5. Assign workgroup roles to users
6. Modify user settings as required
- Managing System Fonts with System Font Policy The System Font Policy feature allows Universal Type Server administrators to create a list of system fonts that are allowed in a user’s system font folder.
- Font Compliance Reporting
The font compliance feature only allows you to track your licensing
compliance and does not restrict access to noncompliant fonts.
- Directory Integration
Directory integration allows network administrators to automatically
synchronize users from an LDAP service
(Active Directory on Windows or Open Directory on Mac OS X) with Universal Type Server workgroups.
* UTS Documentation:
Both Universal Type Server Professional and Font Agent Pro Enterprise can be configured for Open Directory, Active Directory, and LDAP integration. Both also can utilize Kerberos Single User sign on. Universal Type Sever Professional directory integration instructions can be found in the UTS 2 Users and Workgroups Administration Guide at http://tinyurl.com/4xgn9rr. Some users have reported issues connecting to Open Directory (which happens with all products, not just this one).
Universal Type Server runs in Flash for administrative functions, which many do not like.
Monotype Font Explorer
Monotype Font Explorer is a third tool that can be used to manage fonts. Available at http://www.fontexplorerx.com there are some things that some environments do not like about Universal Type Server or Font Agent Pro. Let’s face it, the reason there are multiple products and multiple workflows is that some work for some environments and others work for other environments/workflows better. For example, Font Agent Pro stores master fonts on one client machine, which is then synchronized to the server, and from there to the rest of the clients; not everyone wants a client system acting as a master to the server. Font Explorer keeps the master is on the server, groups and synchronization works well and the administration is in the same window as font management. And best of all, Font Explorer is also typically cheaper than its server-based competitors in the font management space.
Extensis publishes a guide as to which fonts to include in the system and which to handle in the font management software. According to Apple documentation, and fonts in my ~/Library/Fonts folder take precedence to fonts in /Library/Fonts, which again takes precedence to /System/Library/Fonts. That means that if I install Times in my ~/Library/Fonts folder, it will be used instead of the font with the same name in /Library/Fonts or in /System/Library/Fonts. So how is it that I should care which fonts is installed where, as the font management applocation should simple take precedence to the others? If it does not take precedence, then where in the chain is it actually activating fonts? Maybe fonts are handled in these solution in parallel with the system mechanism? Thats the only explanation I can find to that, but is then only valid for UTS, or is it also valid for the other solutions?
End User Training and Font Czar
No font server installation would be complete without end user training and the appointment of a Font Czar. User training can be a fairly easy endeavor if client systems are using the same publishers stand-alone font client. Other times it could entail discussing licensing and compliance concepts along with adding metadata to fonts. An onsite Font Czar (or more than one) is very important to font server installations. The Font Czar cleans up and ingests new fonts, adds new users to font server, and in general be the Font Admin. This is usually a senior designer or technical point of contact for the creative environment.
Font Book is adequate for most users that don’t need a server. Universal Type Server, Font Agent Pro and FontExplorer are all great products if you need a font server. They all are installed centrally and allow end users to administer fonts, based on the server configuration and group memberships. They all work with directory services (some better than others) and can be mass deployed. In big workgroups or enterprises, where only a few people are handling the administration of fonts for a lot of people, a centralized font management solution is a must. But in much smaller organizations, it requires care and feeding, which represents a soft cost that often rivals a cost to purchase the solution.
Finally, test all of the tools available. Each exists for a reason. Find the one that works with the workflow of your environment before purchasing and installing anything.
Note: Thanks to Søren Theilgaard of Humac for some of the FontExplorer text!