TypeDNA: Font Management for the Rest of Us

Fontastic Four

I’m a font junkie. I collect fonts on my hard drive the way a compulsive Spider-man collector buys every single appearance of his favorite hero.

Finding and downloading fonts isn’t a problem. There are many such sites that serve quality fonts, such as ComiCraft, DaFont, 1001 Fonts, and BlamBot.

The problem is that there’s no easy built-in solution to organize, view and compare fonts on a Mac or Windows PC. And when you have hundreds (or even thousands) of fonts taking up space on your hard drive, searching for ‘the right font’ can be a major headache.

For years, I’ve played the game of “Quest for the Perfect Font”, and chances are good that you probably have, too. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Open the Type tool, scroll down the list of all your fonts
  2. Scroll back up, then scroll back down
  3. Pick a font type for the text you have. The font doesn’t fit the text.
  4. Rinse and Repeat.

After playing this game for years (and not realizing that it was, in fact, a terrible game), I decided to take a serious look at font management software. I gave up after finding out that the major players were too expensive or too clunky to use.

I wanted a good font management solution that was 1) easy to use 2) affordable and 3) integrated well within Photoshop . Surely this isn’t too much to ask for?

Apparently, the developers at TypeDNA must have been reading my mind, because their $29 application (introductory price), TypeDNA Font Manager, seemed to match my criteria.

What It Does

TypeDNA Font Manager (hereby called TypeDNA for short) is a stand-alone font management program that also works as a plug-in within Adobe CS5 applications (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign). For this review, I tested on a Mac Pro running Snow Leopard (10.6.5).

TypeDNA Font Manager Screenshots

While most font management software will group and activate fonts in your library, TypeDNA goes beyond that role with the aid of Creative Font Tools, which lets you find the font you want to use fast.

TypeDNA Font Manager Screenshots

TypeDNA gives you the option of limiting your search to Similar Fonts, specific attributes (Weight, Width, Italic, and Optical), Complimentary Fonts, or even SmartChoice – where the tool helps you find visual inspiration when faced with choosing among thousands of fonts. These tools alone are what make TypeDNA a very powerful solution; I was able to quickly zero in on the specific font I wanted in a matter of minutes versus the traditional iterative approach.

TypeDNA Font Manager Screenshots

You can also view the fonts side by side as mini font cards. There’s even CardView, which lets you sit back and relax and watch your fonts whiz by.

TypeDNA Font Manager Screenshots

You can find duplicate fonts quite easily with TypeDNA and activating / deactivating fonts can be performed with a click of a button.

The Test Drive

TypeDNA has set up a free test drive of its Font Manager application on their website. This approach, in my opinion, is a fantastic way to test out its features before committing to a purchase. For the purposes of this review, I purchased the program.

Installation was simple and straight-forward, for both the plugin and the stand-alone Font Management application. For my evaluation, I spent most of my time using the TypeDNA plug-in, within Adobe Photoshop CS5. Both within Stand-Alone or Plug-in versions, the fonts loaded fast. Changing the font size within the TypeDNA preview window generated a near instantaneous update with the reflected changes. (I’m using a solid state drive, so if you’re running on a traditional HDD, your mileage may vary.)

TypeDNA Font Manager Screenshots

The big advantage to having access to TypeDNA within Photoshop is that you can incorporate it as part of your workflow in a seamless fashion. You don’t have to leave Photoshop to compare fonts – you can do it directly from within the plug-in.

Like a particular font? Select the text layer in Photoshop and double-click the font from the TypeDNA plug-in. Your changes are automatically reflected. It’s important to note that if you’re currently editing a Type layer (i.e. typing text), you’ll have to confirm your edits before substituting fonts out with TypeDNA.

Is It Worth It?

I have not used another Font Management application. I do not share fonts on a local network. I’m a single user using fonts on one machine only. For my usage, TypeDNA is an amazing program. It’s really changed the way I approach selecting fonts for my design work. The price is a very reasonable $29 – you’re not going to find anything that comes close to that price with the same feature-set that TypeDNA Font Manager has.

There are a few caveats. The big one is: If you are using an earlier CS version (CS4 and lower), you will not be able to use the TypeDNA plug-in. You can, however, still use the stand-alone TypeDNA Font Manager software.

For me, TypeDNA Font Manager was a no-brainer purchase. If you use Adobe CS5 applications like Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign, it’s easily the best $29 you’ll spend on font management software (heck, it’s only $9 more than the recent Comicraft New Year’s font sale!). Run, don’t walk, and buy it while it’s still cheap!

If you work with numerous fonts on a regular basis, and do not have any need for network level font management, TypeDNA’s Font Manager is a must-buy.

TypeDNA’s Font Manager gets 5 out of 5 Bob Weiners.

These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • cashxx
    January 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I just select the fonts in the Finder and hit the Space bar. You have a couple of options then to view them, index is my favorite. Or even in icon view you can see all the fonts samples.