Ways to Organize/Manage Your Fonts

Aug 22

Stephen Hallgren asked “[Does] anyone have any good links on how to organize gigantic font libraries (not applications, but methods)?” and then specifically asked me to share my categories for organizing fonts.

Default Stuff
System Fonts
Activate Fonts
Inactive Fonts

Some Example Smart Sets
Try Me (imported but not activated)
I’m a Go To (# of activations > 30)

Fonts by Foundry/Copyright
Hoefler & Frere-Jones
Michael Cina
Type Trust
Manifold Type

Fonts by Division of Use
Display (headline only)
Display (multi-functional)
Serif Body Copy
Sans-Serif Body Copy
Monospaced/Fixed Width

Fonts by Division of Style
Slab Serif

I use Linotype’s wonderful free app FontExplorer X as a font manager. It works much like iTunes, in that you can add sets (drop and drag) and “smart sets” (which update automatically based on the given criteria.) These sets keep things organized so I don’t have to scan through the entire massive list every time I need a monospaced font for something or a nice script for a wedding invite. They also help me organize in ways that make sense to me and how I look for the right font for the right use.

I keep a set called “Go To” that’s full of the 50 or 60 typefaces I use most often and then sets for specific clients/projects so I don’t forget what faces I used for what clients. For the most part, this organizational structure works for me and saves me tons of time that I used to spend scrolling through that massive list, one font at a time. I’ll also add that I spent a solid week whittling down my library to around ~1600 fonts total. That helps save time more than anything else because honestly, most of the other fonts I had were complete crap that I never used.

Hope this helps, Stephen (and anyone else who may benefit from nerdy ways to organize font folders and such.) Happy typesetting.


  1. Awesome! Now this was what I was looking for!

  2. Thanks for posting this I was wondering the same thing Teevio was just the other day.

  3. Ben

    Thanks! This helps out a lot.

  4. I’m interested in how your managing styles in a smart fashion. Are you tagging fonts with comments or doing that by hand?

    I currently have a folder with types of faces (sets of Art Nuevo, Bitmap, Blackletter, Display, Retro, Sans-Serif, Script, Serif, and Slab Serif) and a folder of client-specific sets so as to track which faces are used on which project.

    I have a hand full of sets at the root level that I use for a sort of “typographic note taking.” This includes recent imports, stuff I should try, faces to remember, activated faces. I’d like to have a folder of use-specific sets. I have a few (such as book interior and web safe).

    I should take a Saturday and prune my collection. It’s getting out of hand. If my typefaces were organized as well as my iTunes music, I’d be a happy man. This post made me put it on my Things list.

    And I think it’s funny that you listed Manifold Type in there. I swear I’m working on faces. I swear.

  5. I’m interested in how your managing styles in a smart fashion. Are you tagging fonts with comments or doing that by hand?

    A little of both. Initially, I wasn’t using smart sets and I’d just manually organize stuff, but that’s obviously not ideal. I’ve been using FontExplorer’s comments feature a lot more (especially during that big spring cleaning I did) and then using smart sets based on “comment contains/does not contain” for styles, usage, etc.

  6. Yeah, comments was the only way I could figure out how to manage dynamically. I’ve also begun using ratings to pull favorites out of specific smart folders.

  7. I organize my fonts by styles, such as thin, thick, futuristic, dingbats and more. This high quality clear video tutorial will show my method of organizing fonts and how to easily manage fonts on your computer without spending a dime on a font manager!

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