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Tech Tuesday, Week 1: Organizing Fonts

Hi there! I’m going to start a new Tuesday series, which I’m going to call Tech Tuesday. Catchy, no? Every week we’ll discuss all things technology + memory keeping. Probably closely related to, but not involving actual Photoshop, which is still what Photoshop Friday is for. ;) Feel free to put requests in the comments as well, and I’ll take a look at them for future Tech Tuesdays!

January’s theme is Organization.

We chose this one because the New Year is a natural time to take a look around you and notice all the piles of crap items slightly out of place, and feel like hey, I could fix this! and wouldn’t life be better if I did?

Like how good it feels when you dump all your socks out of your sock drawer and get a divider and sort out the uglies, the singles, and the holey ones, and then put them back in folded neatly and sorted by color? That feels good.

Also, sock drawers are projects that don’t take very long, which also feels good. Can’t say that about everything, right? Unfortunately, you can’t say that about today’s topic, either. :\

This month I’m going to be talking in general about organizing your tech life. And today, I’ll be talking specifically about organizing FONTS.

Trouble with fonts, is that if your font collection is pushing 3000+ (ahem), organizing this mess ain’t no little sock drawer. More like a four-bedroom house.

However, it’s best to make a start, yes? And type can be so incredibly powerful, that in the end, it’ll be worth it. I think for most of us, we download a font thinking it’s cute and useful and then it goes into oblivion in our filesystem. And heaven help us if we ever need to find “just that right scuffy block serif” font for a project.

Step 1: Get a Font Management Program

First off, if you are on Windows, you need a font organizing program. Turns out the fine folks at Apple thoughtfully included one on Macs (called FontBook, which you can learn more about). But on Windows, no such luck. However, there is an array of products you can use, and after doing a bunch of research, I’ve settled on one I’d like to share with you.

My criteria for judging a great font manager is pretty simple, actually. What I want is the ability to categorize fonts using some kind of tagging system (not actually moving fonts into folders), and be able to quickly access fonts with that tag so I can compare them as a group. The ability to add multiple tags/categories to a single font is also critical. So a font can be Script, Handwriting, and Have Multiple Weights, and Have Alts, for example (I’ll share the tags I use here in a second).

Other features, such as install/uninstall aren’t as important to me.

Nexus Font by Xiles

Nexus Font The first one is for Windows only, but is absolutely FREE. And I am still trying to believe it, because this application is pretty darned awesome.

First off, the program itself is really small. Not a lot of extra mess in there, both from a literal program-size standpoint, and from a visual UI standpoint. It focuses on the things I really want from a font manager, which are, above all:

  • The ability to categorize my fonts with tags, and
  • The ability to quickly locate a particular tag from a list.

That way when I’m looking for a scuffy typewriter font, I can click the tag for “Typewriter Dirty” and see the fonts I’ve tagged in a list to compare them.

I can change the font size, style, and color, and choose from a pre-set alphabet preview or type my own (gotta see whether the & sign is any good, right?). I can search for a font.

And the last one is a great feature for me, but which you might find a different use for - and that is the ability to add a little tag that is separate from the category list. For example, I can add the tag “commercial” to all my commercial fonts without having to add them to a category, and add the “personal” tag to all the personal ones. Since I teach with type so often, I can also tag the items I’ve found at Dafont.com, vs. other sites so it’s easy to see where students would need to go to download this font.

Here is a screen shot so you can get an idea of what the interface looks like. Nice and clean. Love it.

Nexus Font. Click for larger.

Step 2: Create Categories

This step is kind of an evolving process, because everyone is different and everyone has different ways of categorizing fonts. I have a pretty good collection, and pretty specific ways I am thinking about fonts when I go to find one, so I’ve generated a list of font categories (Nexus Font calls them “sets” you can start with if you like:


Step 3: Organize Fonts

Now comes the heavy lifting, which is really the most time-consuming part after you’ve settled on a tool and made some categories. This can take tens of hours or hundreds of hours, depending on how large your collection is. Daunting, yes. But if it’s broken into bite sizes, maybe better.

So let’s start a font-organizing challenge for this last two weeks of January. We have 15 days. So tally up the number of fonts you have, then divide by 15. This is how many you’ll have to categorize every day to get them all done in a couple of weeks. And what a start to the new year!

Ready to take on the font organizing challenge? I’ll check back at the end of January to see how we’ve done!

Happy Cataloging!



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