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If something's wrong with your Macs, check the fonts

The Achilles heel of the Mac has always been its font handling.

The Achilles heel of the Mac has always been its font handling.While Mac OS X is incredibly better than previous versions of the operating system, a corrupted font can ruin your day making a machine flaky and unstable, even if youre not using the font. Worse, there rarely an indication that a bad font is causing the problem.

In the early 2000s, our company had been having a lot of Mac problems, many of which were caused by rogue fonts. People were getting them from who-knows-where, and they were creating all sort of problems from applications crashes to system crashes.

First, if a Mac is behaving in a bizarre way, add check the fonts to your toolbox. You can use the Font Book tool (in /Applications) to check them. Remove any fonts that give you warnings or errors.

Second, have a strict policy about where employees get fonts from. While my biggest problems have been with old fonts  particularly those from the 1980s and even 1990s  even some new fonts cause problems.

Third, considering making a standard font set, and prohibiting the installation of use of any fonts that are not in that font set. Thats what our company did: we have a standard library of fonts that live on a file server.

Fourth, appoint a font maven. Again, thats what we did. The ins-and-outs of fonts on a Mac are rather complex. We have one person in the office who is designated the font maven; everyone goes to her with font questions. She also examines, approves and distributes all new fonts.

Since locking down our font policy a couple of years ago, Im happy to report that we have had virtually no font problems, and our Macs have become very stable.

Here are four references worth reading and then bookmarking:

From Apple: Mac OS X: Font Locations and Their Purposes

From Microsoft: How to troubleshoot font problems in Office for Mac programs

From Macworld: Solve font problems

From Adobe: Troubleshooting font problems (Mac OS X)

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