Display Calibration, Intuitive Sildeshow app, Font Management
NAVIGATION NOTE: Click on the product links above to jump to that review.
by Eden Maxwell
NOTE: Please bookmark this page for future reference.
X-RITE COLORMUNKI DISPLAY
Someone recently asked me why do you paint using a computer.
I had a couple of responses. First, I can do more digitally in making art over traditional art methods and supplies. Then, there is posterity and shelf life. If that year’s worth of works on paper had been created digitally, the termites in the basement wouldn’t have been able to gorge and destroy my original drawings and paintings. On balance, to succeed with a digital workflow in art/photography, printing, including the Web involves challenges beyond old school thinking.
If your objective is to accurately print or publish the colors you see on your computer display, then you’re going to have to tackle the realm of color management on several fronts. For example, to maintain consistent color control, photographers need to create a custom white balance and color DNG profiles for their camera and shoot—easily accomplished these days with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport.
Next, photographers and other graphic professionals need ICC profiles to match the art/photo paper used with their printers. Paper manufacturers supply ICC profiles for use with specific printers, and in most cases these factory set profiles produce good results. Another and in some cases a more accurate option is to make your own printer profiles with the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo.
THE GOAL: WYSIWYG
With all your digital profile ducks in a row, there is still another step in the process of maintaining color uniformity. Your computer display has to be calibrated for accurate color so what you see on the screen is what you see in the final print. Here is where X-Rite ColorMunki Display simplifies your digital color management life.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
The X-Rite ColorMunki Display colorimeter is an affordable and easy to use USB powered (Mac or Windows) device that will calibrate your display or projector for consistent color and luminance.
Fitting in the palm of your hand, the amazingly engineered ColorMunki Display features a handy counterweight secured on the USB cord (hangs behind the display) that helps stabilize the ColorMunki device flat against the screen, which is essential for calibrating an accurate profile.
By depressing a lever on the counterweight, you can easily position it up or down the cord. A protective rubber pad lining on the ColorMunki lens side prevents screen damage.
Having a quality high-end display with various adjustments (color levels, contrast, brightness, gamma, etc.) will provide more control and flexibility over color fidelity. But that doesn’t mean you will see correct color right out of the box. Even an expensive monitor must be calibrated. In general, displays are adjusted at the factory for a brightly lit office environment, certainly not ideal for image editing.
Displays come in all price ranges with manufacturers extolling the virtues of their products. What’s the point of having a fine art printer that costs thousands if you’re monitor is a $99 cheapie? You can see the weak link here. In the end, regardless of display cost, the test is this: Does your screen image match your printed image? Of course, even with a calibrated display, there is some subjectivity when it comes to perceiving color.
My bottom line is this: When I look at the art on my screen and then the print next to it, I can judge whether or not I have a match that’s close enough to suit me. If it’s a match, I know my display is properly calibrated.
That being said, ColorMunki’s wizard-driven software did an outstanding job of calibrating my 24-inch iMac, which is a decent mid-range LCD display with good contrast and color gamma, but with only brightness (luminance) control. Macs are notorious for default luminance levels that are way too bright, which might be acceptable for watching a movie, not for printing paintings and photos.
To maintain a benchmark, I keep my brightness control set to one bar, which is the lowest possible setting (other than no bars), before and after calibrating with ColorMunki Display.
MORE ABOUT BRIGHTNESS CONTROL
When it came to adjusting brightness with ColorMunki, my iMac'’s brightness key didn’t have sufficient control (even when set to no bars) to dial in the low luminance target requested by the wizard software.
Fortunately, the wizard has a feature that anticipated the brightness issue (couldn’t make the value low enough on my iMac); the software made the necessary internal brightness calibration for me by adjusting the optimum target luminance for my display based on my ambient light conditions.
The wizard screen prompt offers an easy and an advanced mode. If you’re new to display calibration, you may want to begin with the easy mode first. Then, if you’re not getting the proper match in luminance when printing (display too bright and print too dark), select the advanced mode to fine-tune your parameters and reduce the display luminance value manually from a dropdown menu according to your lighting environment: bright, dim, etc.
Additionally, the software was sufficiently intelligent to take into account my iMac’s glossy screen using the new Flare correction for contrast; you can turn the Flare correction mode option on or off. The iMac display’s inherent reflective quality can throw off a profile if not taken into account as a factor during calibration.
NOTE: If you use a monitor hood, you may not need the flare correction.
The wizard software is fully automated and effortless to use. The software includes a profile reminder feature, which you can set from one to four weeks.
Users also have access to an ongoing ambient monitoring feature (not to be confused with the ambient light test during profiling) that you set to run at time intervals you choose. If your lighting environment is stable, there’s little reason to use this mode—unless you’re in the field where changing lighting conditions are par for the course.
While the general wisdom recommends profiling your display at least once a month, you need to see if that’s necessary—more or less. Since the latest generation of LCD displays are not as prone to color drifting or fading as the old clunky CRT displays, profiling so often may not be necessary. I run the profiler about once a month—and sometime after six weeks with no ill effects in matching display color and prints.
LOGIN BEGONE / TIP
If you don’t want those ColorMunki time to calibrate reminders from haunting you, unfortunately, there is no software option to do this.
But, there is a manual way to turn off these reminders.
On a Mac, to remove the ColorMunki app and the profile reminder from launching on startup, do as follows: go to your login items in system preferences; hovering your mouse over ColorMunki Display Tray will show where that app is located on your hard drive. Take a screenshot of that location should you want to put it back as a login item. Then, delete ColorMunki Display Tray from you login items.
The wizard-driven interface calibrates brightness, contrast, and color temperature—once calibrated properly, the files you’re seeing are precisely what others will be seeing—which is essential if you’re a web designer, digital photographer/artist, or graphic professional. The ColorMunki calibration process takes about five minutes; after the profile is built you have the option of giving the profile a meaningful name. I simply append the date to the default name.
Your newly built profile automatically becomes the default display profile, which is handled for you by the computer’s operating system: on a Mac, system preferences > displays > color. The wizard then presents you with a comparison option to view the before (old profile) and after (new profile) from a selection of stock images, or you choose your own.
If your display has never been properly calibrated, you may notice a dramatic difference on your first date with profiling, which will most likely be darker (luminance) than the profile you’ve been using. But, if you’re recalibrating under the same lighting environment, then changes if any would be minimal.
Keeping your lighting conditions consistent is a key for standardizing your display profiles with your printer.
NOTE: Your display should be warmed up (on for half hour or so to stabilize temperature and colors) before calibrating with your ColorMunki Display.
Both profiling uniformity and variances are subject to numerous factors. For example, profile consistency (or lack of same) is a function based on how comparable the ambient light and flare conditions were when your ColorMunki calibrated your display.
MY LIGHTING SETTING
My lighting environment is not always consistent. How were conditions when I calibrated my display the last time (time of day, was it sunny or cloudy, and were those mini blinds closed all the way)?
Admittedly, these are not optimum lighting conditions. To offset these variables, the ambient light and flare tests are essential factors in helping me perceive colors with consistency.
If you have a secondary display (which might be a projector) connected, the wizard software asks you which display do you want to profile. Help files and support videos (i.e., where to place ColorMunki for the ambient light test) are available for each stage of the calibration process.
ColorMunki seamlessly calibrated my MacBook Pro, which, like the iMac, features only a brightness control. Colors on the LED backlit MacBook Pro’s glossy display while good, do not match the gamut or vivid fidelity of the widescreen TFT LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) iMac, which has a better graphics card and higher resolution.
COMPUTER DISPLAY / PROJECTOR
As mentioned earlier, the X-Rite ColorMunki Display will calibrate either your monitor or projector to accurately display the color in your original picture or digital file. Although I didn’t have a projector to test, here are few relevant observations to consider.
As you might imagine, profiling a projector works best in dimmer light conditions—after all, you’ll be using the projector in a darkened room. During calibration on your projector, you’ll note that there are no ambient light or flare options. Also, in advanced mode, in most cases, make sure that the white point is set to native for maximum luminance.
COLORMUNKI DISPLAY ENHANCED FEATURES INCLUDE:
- Technologically advanced and ergonomic multi-functional measurement device
- Easy to use software – “Easy” and “Advanced” modes with simple one-click presets or wizard-driven options for more control
- Intelligent Iterative Profiling – an adaptive technology that measures and analyzes the color capabilities of each unique display for increased accuracy of profile
- X-Rite Ambient Light Smart Control - measurement, compensation and ongoing monitoring of ambient lighting conditions
- X-Rite Flare Correct™ - measurement and compensation of display surface glare
- Automatic Display Control (ADC) adjusts your display’s hardware to speed up process and eliminate manual adjustments
TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED BUNDLE
The ColorMunki Display comes with X-Rite’s technologically advanced colorimeter bundled with next generation display and projector profiling software technologies that make the match between your display and printer more accurate, but not necessarily prefect. My goal is good enough, not perfection, which is a fool’s errand.
A properly calibrated display will reward you with printed images that reveal accurate neutral grays, good mid-tones, and realistic shadows and highlights—without over-saturated colors ruining the print, and the costs involved: paper and ink.
NO MORE GUESSING
By now, you get the point and importance for properly calibrating your display. Nobody wants to spend a lot of time at their monitor honing images only to find that their display wasn’t accurately showing the file.
What you see on your monitor (or projector) has to match your digital file or you will never be satisfied with the result no matter how much time you devote to getting it right.
X-Rite ColorMunki Display takes the guesswork and frustration out of making sure that the color and luminance you see on your monitor or projector is the color you expect, which is a satisfying experience.
NOTE: Even with a properly calibrated monitor, there might be times when you have to adjust the image (brightness/contrast, etc.) to see the end result that you have in your mind’s eye. Color management is part science and part art.
X-Rite has done a first-rate job in making ColorMunki Display a user-friendly reliable colorimeter that accurately profiles your display (or projector), which greatly simplifies your digital management color workflow. With ColorMunki doing all the heaving lifting and saving you time, you can concentrate on your creative efforts, not the technical intricacies of calibration and display profiling.
Pricing: $189 (check various online retailers for better deals)
Mac® OSX 10.5.x, 10.6, 10.7, or 10.8 (with the latest updates installed)
Microsoft® Windows® XP 32 bit, Microsoft® Windows Vista® 32 or 64 bit, Microsoft Windows 7® 32 or 64 bit or Microsoft Windows 8® 32 or 64 bit. All operating systems should have latest Service Pack installed
FotoMagico 4 from Boinx Software
Tell Me a Story
Slideshow Presentation Par Excellence
ALIENS AMONG US
Unless you captured an extraterrestrial with your camera or discovered and shot photos of a long lost tribe on some remote deep mountain jungle, the mere mention of a slideshow would throw up a red flag: you were in for a snoozer, especially when your slideshow bearing relatives were eager to share those treasured vacation moments, wedding, or a seemingly endless stream of photos of their precious baby.
Fortunately for slideshow enthusiasts, FotoMagico 4, rewritten from the ground up, once again defines the slideshow landscape by developing an exciting easy to use toolset for creating memorable and lively presented stories. FotoMagico 4 isn’t the only slideshow app in town for the Mac, but it is by far the alpha dog in this niche category.
For example, the slideshow feature in iPhoto can be pedestrian while Adobe Lightroom 5’s slideshow module offers only basic presentation options. FotoMagico’s success is attributable to this: the app was developed by technology savvy photographers who understand how to present a story without getting bogged down in a steep learning curve with complex commands.
FotoMagico is exclusively a slideshow-authoring program (not an extra module in another host application) that’s powerful, straightforward, and at a reasonable price ($99 US); there was no discount to users of previous versions. FotoMagico is about creating unique slideshows, not relying on a choice of canned presentations, although you can create placeholders to establish your own templates.
Over the years, Boinx Software, a German-based enterprise, has been on a mission: keep improving FotoMagico with well thought out new tools and enhancements while keeping the app simple through a genuinely intuitive graphic interface that relies on icons, drag and drop, and right-clicking to bring up contextual menus.
After you’ve dragged your images (and up to three audio tracks—which can include a voiceover) into the Storyboard, selecting Slideshow > Instant Slideshow will have you up and running in no time at all. Tweaking the slideshow will then take a bit more time.
TELL ME A STORY
I’ve been using FotoMagico (since version 2.0) on and off to showcase my paintings and to create slideshows for clients since 2006.
Click here to view one of my FotoMagico 3 art slideshows—Improvisations: shapes de fantastique. Enjoy.
Photographers, artists, and anyone with a passion to show his work or tell a story through slides will immediately grasp FotoMagico’s elegant design and usefulness. An engaging presentation will not only please clients, your friends and family will stay awake while being duly impressed.
STORYBOARD AND NEW TIMELINE
Users of previous versions of FotoMagico are already familiar with the Storyboard; this area at the bottom of the screen lets you develop your story by easily assembling the slides in the desired order.
When dragging a single image or movie from the browser area to the Storyboard, a yellow highlight indicates where the new layer will be added. Also, when you drag an image onto the Storyboard, the image in your image browser gets tagged with a green icon, indicating that the image has already been added to the slideshow—especially useful when working with many slides.
New to FotoMagico 4 and a feature many video-editing users requested is the Timeline view that allows you to more precisely fine-tune slide timing, audio, and transition durations.
Another handy feature is Timescale; use this slider to enlarge your slides and your audio tracks in the Timeline. The enlarged view will also help you to precisely click and drag the edges of the slide to adjust the duration.
Although fewer slides are visible when enlarging your view via the Timescale slider, you can more easily see properties for each item in the Timeline.
MULTIPLE LAYERS / TEMPLATES / MASKS
FotoMagico 4 allows for even more creative freedom using Layers; this new feature lets you add 6 layers of multiple images, movies (also new to FotoMagico 4), or titles to a slide—and in any combination.
You can, for example, have a slide with one image and multiple titles, a picture-in-picture slide, or a slide with a movie on top of an image. Each layer can be animated and the opacity faded independently.
If the visual tracks in the Storyboard/Timeline are collapsed, the layers of each slide are displayed as a stack of frames, keeping everything organized. When you mouse-over the stack, the layers (images, movies, and titles) associated with that slide auto-expand to display each frame and its related thumbnail.
Once you’ve developed a story complete with timing, sound, transitions and so on, you can turn it into a template using placeholders, a feature that allows you to replace the original photos or videos with new ones, keeping all your original settings that defined your story.
Masks define the transparency of a layer. Easily accessed via right clicking on the image in the Stage area, mask options can be used to crop an image or reveal parts of it over time.
CHAPTER AND VERSE
Although keeping your slideshow succinct is most often the best way to prevent your audience’s attention from drifting, there may be times when your show is on the lengthy side. In this case, Chapters can help structure large number of slides in your show into logical segments.
To create a new chapter, move the Playhead in the Storyboard or Timeline to the first slide of the intended new chapter. Next, select Chapter > Add from the Slideshow menu or control click in the Storyboard to display the contextual menu. A new chapter is then added to the playhead with a default name, which you can change with a descriptive custom name of your own.
Chapters offer several timesaving benefits during authoring and playback that include:
• Chapters can be collapsed or expanded in the Storyboard. Collapsing chapters not currently in use saves horizontal space; collapsing your chapters also means that less horizontal scrolling is required.
• Chapters can have custom background colors. When working on large projects, color coding chapters speeds up navigation. Instead of looking for particular thumbnails while scrolling through your Storyboard, simply look for the correct chapter background color.
• You can also assign colors based on the status of the chapters: red for draft, yellow for minor tweaks, and green for done.
FOTOMAGIO / VIDEO
An effective slideshow evokes connection, emotion, and a sense of fluid movement among your photos. Now, FotoMagico 4 adds more versatility by redefining and enhancing your presentation with video.
New to FotoMagico 4 is the ability to include movies as part of your slideshows, which makes sense, given the proliferation of DSLR cameras that feature both stills and video.
You can pan, zoom, and rotate videos in any format. Combine a YouTube video with the good quality full 1080p from your DSLR. Users don’t have to concern themselves with such factors as frame rates, aspect ratios, or resolution. Drag and drop all the media you desire onto the stage and FotoMagico 4 handles these technical aspects for you.
THE AUDIO DIMENSION
A well-crafted and synced soundtrack adds another sensory dimension in propelling your effort into a great show. When used effectively, music can sooth, uplift, and evoke a wide range of emotions.
While your audience may forgive a glitch or two in your images, your viewers will immediately lose interest if your audio quality isn’t clear and you haven’t considered suitable music timed to the beat, duration, and the theme of the slides. Although, there are times when scoring audio against type works beautifully, as in the classical musical soundtrack of the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
With FotoMagico 4, you can easily enhance your slideshow with sound effects, voice-overs, legally obtained music, or your original compositions. If appropriate, adding narration with the built-in audio recorder brings immediacy and a more personal touch to your story.
Three audio tracks provide plenty of options to add and mix audio. The new expanded Waveform view gives you more control over how the slides are synched with the sound.
FotoMagico 4’s Audio Browser lets you select songs from your iTunes library, GarageBand, iLife sound effects, or audio files from any Finder folder you choose to complement the moods and actions expressed in your images. To add tracks to your slideshow, simply choose your audio from the Audio Browser and then drag and drop it onto the audio track of the Storyboard/Timeline.
By default, the audio fade-ins and fade-outs are determined automatically, contingent on the chosen visual transition between slides.
COPYRIGHTED © AUDIO FILES CAVEAT
Enjoying copyrighted music that you’ve purchased for your own entertainment is legal. But, if you’re new to working with copyrighted music and want to use it in the public arena, you need to be aware that, in general, you must have permission to use copyrighted music.
DRM (digital rights management—anti-piracy technology) protected audio files purchased through iTunes can be freely used in your slideshow for live presentations (provided your computer is authorized to play those audio files).
NOTE: Apple, however, prohibits exporting the songs you purchased through them to QuickTime movies. For this reason, those DRM protected songs will be removed when sharing a slideshow as a QuickTime movie, including DVD or YouTube.
WAVEFORMS / AUDIO MARKERS
The audio waveform in the Timeline view displays a visual representation of the volume (amplitude) of an audio file. In turn, waveforms display all audio tracks (music, effects, narration) in the Timeline.
Audio waveforms allow you to easily locate certain points of a song (effect or narration) by identifying big amplitudes (louder sounds) or low amplitudes (softer sounds). You can then match slide durations and transitions to beats in the audio. For example, you might want to start a title at a certain point when the audio begins to increase in volume.
The waveform helps you to visually pinpoint the exact amplitude location. As you locate and sync these locations in the waveform, you can add an audio marker to indicate a specific location.
ADDING AUDIO MARKERS
You can add an audio marker by right clicking in the waveform and selecting Audio Marker > Add from the context menu or by simply pressing the M key in the Timeline while the slideshow is playing. A thin red vertical line indicates an audio marker in the Timeline. If you didn’t hit the right beat, you can easily move the marker, and when you do the rest of the slideshow audio automatically adjusts for you.
Each waveform displays an audio envelope in the form of yellow line with dots on either end of the audio. The yellow audio line functions the same way as it does in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Moving the beginning and end dots affects the audio fade in and out. You can also adjust the volume of an entire audio track on the fly by dragging the yellow line up or down.
A simple audio level meter would be on my feature request list.
SHOW BUSINESS / TELEPROMPTER / LIVE PRESENTATIONS
In addition to sharing your slideshow in a variety of popular video formats, FotoMagico 4 is also excellent for making live presentations. The built-in teleprompter helps you make a more seamless presentation with your slideshow narration in front of an audience. Also, because FotoMagico uses the full array of pixels supported by the attached display or projector, your slides are presented in the highest image quality possible.
With a projector connected to your MacBook Pro, you’ll see your slide teleprompter notes in a scrolling list on the second screen while presenting the slideshow itself on another screen or projector.
I like to walk about when I make a live slide presentation. Boinx has thought of that feature, too. You can also control your live slideshow with your iPhone or iPod touch using the FotoMagico Remote app, available separately on the App Store.
SPECIALITY OF THE HOUSE
Presentation (storytelling) is no less important than the quality of your images. Upper scale restaurants serve their carefully prepared cuisine tastefully on dishes not paper plates for good reason.
Featuring a robust intuitive toolset that’s ready to help you serve up unique, compelling, and satisfying slideshow fare, FotoMagico 4 leads the pack as a first-rate dedicated slideshow app that’s destined to make you stand out from the crowd.
Download a FotoMagico 4 demo here, have fun, and see what you can create.
FotoMagico 4 ($99 US)
System Requirements (FotoMagico and Standalone-Player):
Mac OS X Lion v10.7.4 or later
Recommended: A fairly modern Mac (2009 or newer) will deliver best graphics performance.
FotoMagico has technology built in to scale with the hardware, but results will degrade with less capable graphics cards. When running on older machines, especially with Intel GMA 950 type graphics, slideshows will look blurrier and timing will be less exact.
EXTENSIS SUITCASE FUSION 4 / 5
A few days after I completed my SF4 review (below), Extensis released Suitcase Fusion 5. The SF4 information in the rest of this article (including the sidebar) is still valid for SF5, too.
Here are a couple of the main features you’ll find with this new SF5 release.
ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD SUPPORT
As designers make the leap into the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription service, SF5 is ready to serve with professional class font auto-activation plug-ins and panels.
Suitcase Fusion 5 supports the latest Adobe Creative Cloud applications, including InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and InCopy. These new plug-ins use Font Sense powered font identification to locate and activate the exact fonts for the job at hand. In addition, integrated font panels allow you to preview and activate any font from Creative Cloud apps, with no need to switch between applications.
You can use Suitcase Fusion 5 on more than one machine. SF5 also includes a full array of plug-ins and panels for previous version (CS5-6) of Adobe Creative Suite applications.
QUICKCOMP / MOCK UPS MADE EASY
Selecting typefaces that work well together is often the first thing most designers do; this process often require a labor intensive process of switching between multiple documents and applications.
QuickComp is a new feature that makes it easy to create mock-ups that show fonts side-by-side within Suitcase Fusion 5. Sample templates cover the most common design jobs—from selecting compatible fonts for headlines, body copy, captions, and more.
The library of QuickComp templates is set to expand in Suitcase Fusion 5. Selected through user feedback, the new templates will be included in a future free update.
SF5/ LOGIN NO MORE
If you have SF4, then SF5 will install right over it. After doing so, I noticed that SF5 is no longer a login item by default, which is okay because the FMCore process launches in the background, enabling your fonts without the SF5 window open. More about the background FM core later in this aricle.
But, should you want the SF5 window to open, to change fonts, etc., click and hold on the SF5 icon on your Dock and choose Options > Open at Login. This will now set SF5 as a login item.
FONT MANAGEMENT / ALMOST SEXY
Fonts or typefaces are a fundamental way to express mood (romantic), an era (ancient to modern), and clarity through graphic representations called an alphabet, stylized glyphs, and other characters. Choosing the right font complements the prose or poetry. There is an art to typography.
FONTS / HERDING HUMMINGBIRDS
Depending upon the software that you use, your fonts can end up in as many as seven different folders on your hard drive. This can be a messy and time consuming thing to control—like trying to herd hummingbirds.
If you haven’t used a font manager, your fonts are most likely stored in your system’s fonts folder. If so, then all the fonts in the system fonts folders are opened automatically each time the system is started or restarted.
It may not matter whether all the fonts are opened all the time if you have a small number of fonts. But, if you have a large number (hundreds and even thousands) of fonts, having every font open all the time means that you undoubtedly have fonts open that you don’t need, and possibly will never use.
WHY ALL THE FUSS ABOUT FONTS?
Large numbers of activated fonts consume system memory, slow down your computer, and it can be tedious to wade through application Font menus to find and select fonts. Additionally, it takes time for an application to read all that font data to create the Font list, which can further slow down your workflow.
SUITCASE FUSION 4 TO THE RESCUE
In January 2006, Extensis merged its two font management products, Font Reserve and Suitcase into a single product called Suitcase Fusion.
A couple of years earlier before this merger, I had seen the wisdom of using Suitcase when I was laying out my book, An Artist Empowered, with Adobe InDesign. I took great care in developing the book’s typography. Suitcase’s Auto-activation feature helped me organize and manage my fonts while saving system memory and speeding up performance.
THE SF4 BASICS / ÜBER FONT UTILITY
In the world of font management, Extensis Suitcase Fusion 4 is the über font utility that gives you total and precise control over all of the fonts (OpenType, TrueType, etc.) on your system.
SF4 allows you to locate and activate fonts only when you need them, saving valuable system resources, and time.
NOTE: After or even before you install SF4, cleaning up your font libraries is a good idea. Extensis offers a free best practices font management guide for Mac OS X, including Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). Topics include: system configurations, management of system fonts, cleaning up your font library, and making sense of font locations, formats, and caches.
Download the Extensis Font Mac OS X Best Practices Guide here.
Extensis continues to improve and simplify the Suitcase Fusion interface. You have many options to view your fonts. You can hide either the Previews or the Fonts so you can see more of what you need to see.
SF4 has added more common functions to the toolbar and made it easy to customize those that are shown. You can also add a View button group to the toolbar so that you can click a button to show or hide panes.
You can also resize panes horizontally or vertically, drag the divider between the panes up or down or left or right. Sizes of the window and panels are remembered when you quit SF4.
When you open a file, you don’t want to be greeted with one of those alarming missing font alerts. You then have to locate and manually activate those fonts wherever they might be on your hard drive. Also, if you open that file with missing fonts and accept substitute fonts suggested by an app like InDesign, all your carefully designed pages will be off with overflowing text, and other typography issues.
Suitcase Fusion’s auto-activation plug-in feature does away with those missing fonts alerts. When opening a file in a supported auto-activation app, if the font used in that document is present on your system it will be automatically found and activated. Through the auto-activation plug-ins, you can set your font activation preferences for each application.
MORE ABOUT ACTIVATION / APPLICATION SETS
SF4 is a must for Adobe Creative Suite or QuarkXPress users. For Creative Suite users, auto-activation supports Adobe InCopy, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.
Suitcase Fusion has you covered on a system wide level, too. For example, although there is no auto-activation plug-in for either Microsoft Word or TextEdit, you can still auto-activate fonts in these apps by adding them in Suitcase Fusion’s preferences under global auto-activation options.
Another way to temporarily identify and activate fonts for a specific application not covered by the auto-activation plug-ins is to work with handy Application Sets.
NOTE: Do not use global auto-activation for QuarkXPress or Adobe InCopy, InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop; use the auto-activation plug-ins instead—managed by the plug-in manager. The reasoning here is that the plug-ins use Font Sense to identify fonts used in documents, which is more reliable than the font information made available in other applications.
CORRUPT FONT / FONTDOCTOR
With SF4, you’ll never need to be concerned that a corrupt font might interrupt your workflow. Potential problems are diagnosed and repairs if possible are automatically applied when a font is added.
SCANNING YOUR FONTS
When you add fonts, Suitcase Fusion performs a scanning process that finds, examines, and organizes all your fonts. The amount of time the scan takes depends on a variety of factors, including: the number of fonts you’re adding, the speed of your computer, and the media on which the fonts are stored. If you have lots of fonts, this process can take some time.
If for some reason you click the stop button during the scanning activity that’s adding fonts, the fonts that have already been added will remain in Suitcase Fusion.
RESOLVING FONT PROBLEMS
When fonts are added to Suitcase Fusion, the scanning process and the information collected help you clean up your font library while ensuring that all your fonts are usable. Suitcase Fusion doesn’t allow orphan bitmap or orphan outline fonts, so they are not an issue.
But, wait. We’re not done. Corrupt fonts, duplicate fonts, and missing fonts may still cause problems.
Corrupt fonts can be the source of document problems, as well as cause operating system and application based issues that can be frustrating to solve, especially when you don’t suspect that a corrupt font could be the culprit.
Suitcase Fusion defines a corrupt font as follows: any font for which the font resources cannot be opened, appears to contain inconsistent information, or have incorrect values in important fields of the font file resource.
Although most corrupt fonts cannot be repaired, there are certain types of minor problems that can be corrected, and there are certain types of problems that can be safely ignored. The scanning process when adding fonts to SF4, as previously noted, identifies corrupt or problem fonts and, depending on the type of problem, SF4 either fixes the problem and adds the font to the library, or gives you the option to add the fonts in-place.
If you choose to add any potentially corrupt fonts in-place, they are put into a new date-stamped set named “Problem Fonts” so that you can review them and take appropriate action.
LAST DITCH EFFORT
Adding potentially corrupt fonts in-place does have risks. Such fonts may still not activate properly, and may cause printing problems. The option to add corrupt fonts in-place is provided as a convenience if you are unable to obtain a fresh copy of the font from your backups or from the font foundry. It’s important to remove potentially corrupt fonts from your library as soon as they are no longer needed.
If you have added any corrupt fonts to Suitcase Fusion in-place, scanning fonts in your library for corruption is a good idea.
THE FONTDOCTOR IS IN
Corrupt fonts, multiple versions of the same font, confusion about which font is which, and more inconsistencies are a major source of problems and confusion on the Macintosh—which translates into down time and money lost.
When it comes to dealing with the ills of corrupt fonts, think of Suitcase Fusion as your primary physician. If necessary in your ongoing diagnosis of corruption-free fonts, you can launch FontDoctor, your specialist, as this utility goes beyond the corruption and repair capabilities of Suitcase Fusion.
NOTE: Although FontDoctor is bundled as a free perk ($69.95 US value) with SF4, it isn’t installed by default.
While SF4 is concerned primarily with font management, FontDoctor is an exceptional software tool designed exclusively for diagnosing and repairing font problems, organizing font files, archivings font files, and providing insight into your fonts through previews and printed samples.
FONT MANAGEMENT CORE
Suitcase Fusion 4 keeps fonts active through the use of a background application called the Font Management Core, or FMCore, which starts the first time you launch SF4; then FMCore will automatically start every time you log in to your computer, unless you manually stop the core. To start the core after stopping it, you simply start SF4.
You can quit SF4 and still keep fonts active or activate fonts with the auto-activation plug-ins because the FMCore is continuously running in the background.
WHAT’S NEW IN SF4
THE EXTENSIS PANEL
Aside from the auto-activation feature, activating any additional fonts to your supported app in earlier versions of Suitcase Fusion was a hassle that required leaving (and in some cases closing) your application along with any open files that you were working on.
SF4 introduces the Extensis Font Panel; this independent (collapse, tear off, etc.,) font panel allows you to access all of your SF4 font libraries directly from within the most recent versions of Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop; you can either scroll to the font you need or search for it. Select the font and it’s instantly activated. This feature is a huge timesaver.
The Extensis Font Panel lists all the fonts available in whichever group you select, whether they are active or not. If there are certain fonts you work with frequently and want to get to them quickly, you can create a Font Digest from the panel.
Extensis offers another convenience for WebINK users who can also use the Extensis Font Panel in Photoshop CS6 to create design comps and client previews using their favorite WebINK fonts. Additionally, the Font panel supports free, open source Google web fonts. As web professionals have noted, it would make sense if the Extensis panel with its access to web fonts were also available for Adobe Fireworks and Dreamweaver.
NEW ADOBE INCOPY PLUG-IN
Responding to user requests, SF4 now includes an auto-activation plug-in for Adobe InCopy CS6. In the past, InDesign documents that you shared with members of your design and editorial team using InCopy were prone to inconsistent copy fitting or incorrect pagination due to missing fonts. Now, your documents passing back and forth between these applications will be displayed with the same fonts that are now thankfully auto-activated.
PREVIEWING FONTS IN COLOR
Previous version of Suitcase Fusion allowed you to identify a font by look rather than by name as live previews of fonts selected in the Fonts pane. You could edit the preview text, choose the type of preview, and adjust the text size.
SF4 has a new color feature that designers will find very handy. You can now set the font and background colors in the Previews pane. You can test color combinations and use them in floating previews. You can also grab a Font Snapshot that lets you “tear off” a preview to save it as a picture file—to use as a reference, for customer approval, or for use in a design graphics application.
NEW QUICKMATCH / FIND VISUALLY SIMILAR FONTS
Select a font in a library or set, then choose Edit > QuickMatch or click on the QuickMatch icon. SF4 will show you previews of the selected font and fonts that are similar in appearance to your font. You can adjust the match relevance and specify other match criteria to increase or decrease the number of fonts that are found.
QuickMatch also allows you to find similar fonts in the WebINK Library if you are connected to the WebINK service.
NOTE: QuickMatch uses the characters in the preview text to match against; if there are characteristically unique letters in the font you are matching, add or enter those in the preview text.
WORKING WITH SETS
Sets are another power feature in Suitcase Fusion. Grouping fonts into a set is as easy as selecting some fonts then right clicking to bring up that menu item choice.
Within each library, you can group fonts into “sets” for specific clients, jobs, applications, or templates. To keep fonts consistent and organized, an ad agency, for example, might create sets for client names and job numbers, while a magazine publisher might create sets for each issue or page spread.
Since sets contain only references to the original font, placing a font into a set does not copy or in any way increase the size (or further tax your computer memory) of your font library. Sets can contain one or many fonts, as well as other nested sets. You can also place the same font in more than one set.
Once fonts are in a set, you can manipulate the fonts as one unit. For example, you can activate all the fonts, deactivate all the fonts, or collect all the fonts for delivery to a service bureau.
When you use the Find Fonts command, you can save your search criteria as a Smart Set. Click the button in the Find panel and give the set a name. Whenever you select the set, the Find operation is performed again, so the list always shows the fonts in your library that match the original search criteria.
SF4 allows you to mark fonts as favorites and then easily find them when you need them. Use them to search for fonts and create smart sets. You can mark favorites in any library, including the WebINK library, and Google Web Fonts.
By now, it’s clear that Suitcase Fusion 4, the flagship font manager from Extensis, is a must for all creative professionals who work with fonts. SF4 will quickly earn its keep, as you are freed up to spend time on creating and designing instead of trying to herd all those hummingbirds.
Download a demo here and prove the value of SF5 (new version) to your own satisfaction.
Availability: Windows and Mac for $99. Upgrading from earlier versions is $49.
NOTE: July 9, 2013: Today Extenisis announced an upgrade to Suitcase Fusion 5: Featuring Adobe Creative Cloud Support & QuickComp Templates.