Stuff I Say

Leopard’s Font Pane is Atrocious

Posted in Apple, software by 51future on May 21, 2008

Apple’s “Fonts” pane. It’s bad. Really bad. So bad, in fact, that find myself using Helvetica out of fear and loathing for it. I like the idea of a unified, ubiquitous font panel that is shared between applications. It’s a commendable idea, which suffers from an atrocious implementation.

It’s clear there are problems as soon as you open it. The interface is unfamiliar. There’s a row of ambiguous tools at the top which seem to either share or contradict functionality in the tri-panel view below. These tools are great, really. Select Single or Double from the first pull-down menu (Text Underline) and watch as future text is unaffected by the change. Strikeout and Text Color display the same aberrant behavior. In contrast to the panels below, they don’t actually affect text that is typed after they are changed. The Text Shadow button, as well as the next three sliders (Shadow Opacity, Shadow Blur, and Shadow Offset) with completely baffling icons work the same way– that is, they don’t, unless you manually select the text you’d like to modify.

But really, that’s nothing compared to the bigger usability problems inherent in this menu. There’s no way to preview the fonts in the panel itself. Preview is disabled by default. Fonts in the family column are all in a generic system font, and the Typeface options too refuse to modify their display to match their function, resulting in, well, garbage. Who knows the difference between Bold and Bold Oblique? Was it Gill Sans or Gujarati MT that I wrote that last paper in?

Or at least… This is the way it works in the default collection.

Enter the Favorites collection and you’ll find that a new panel replaces the old two panel format that allows you to preview your fonts. But wait… These aren’t your favorite or most used fonts (as far as I can tell)! Favorites, instead, appears to be a history of your fonts. Only, rather than simply displaying fonts, it instead displays a history of your typefaces, so every time you change the size of a font in a document, it adds a new entry to this collection.

Next comes the Recently Used collection. Case in point:

Both the Colors and Fonts panels look terrible in applications like Pixelmator, whose interfaces don’t conform to Leopard’s UI guidelines, but that I can over. What I can’t get over is that Leopard doesn’t recognize that I have Kotoeri (Input Method) enabled and then automatically add a new Collection that includes Japanese fonts. I mean, I’d add it myself if there was a clear, logical way to go about doing so. As far as I can tell, there isn’t.

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