Font suitcases unpacked

Understanding and working with Mac font suitcase files.

Mac fonts come in several different formats – TrueType, OpenType, BItmaps and Printer fonts, and so on. But this hasn’t always been the case. From the early days of Mac digital publishing there has evolved a unique font file format that has only ever been supported on the Mac – the font suitcase.

A font suitcase is a Mac font file that can contain many different fonts. The idea at the time was to have a single file format that you could store whatever fonts you needed and easily take with you – which is why the suitcase metaphor was used. It was very simple to use. You just double clicked on a suitcase file to add or remove font files. And for years this worked great. In fact it worked so well that there are still thousands of font suitcases around today.

Eventually though, the suitcase metaphor began to break down as new technologies changed the tidy world of Mac fonts. For instance, when Postscript fonts were introduced, the lowly font suitcase was insufficient to carry the extra data that was needed, so an odd 2-file buddy system was created – a font suitcase file and it’s sister Postscript file that have-to-stay-together-all-the-time-or-they-won’t-work. That system still exists today.

To further complicate things, the introduction of Mac OS X eliminated the ability to open a font suitcase. You can still use a font suitcase in Mac OS X, but you can’t double-click a suitcase file to see what fonts are in it. True story. That of course means that since you can’t open your suitcase, you can’t move fonts in and out of your font suitcase on Mac OS X. Imagine taking your suitcase to a new house and not being able to open it once you get there. Whatever.

FontDoctor for Macintosh understands font suitcases and has been working with them from the very beginning. One of the things FontDoctor does well is to look inside your font suitcases and figure out if there’s anything wrong (damaged fonts, fonts missing a Postscript font file, etc.)

We’ve even included a Font Mover tool in FontDoctor (under the Tools menu) that allows you to once again look inside your font suitcases and move fonts in and out and between other suitcases as needed, just like the old days.

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  1. #1 by JohnClok on July 1, 2013 - 5:00 pm

    Very good post. Thanks. Mapitogrowmedium

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