Ways to Organize/Manage Your Fonts

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
Adobe
Berthold
Hoefler & Frere-Jones
ITC
Michael Cina
YWFT
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
Serif
Sans-Serif
Slab Serif
Script
Handdrawn
Pixel/Bitmap
Thick
Thin
Grunge
Fashion/Couture

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.