Font Troubleshooting Tips

Problem: I was doing some testing recently was surprised to see that arbitrary fractions were not working in the Myriad Pro font.

Solution: My system had been “infected” by an older 1.006 version of the font that does not support arbitrary fractions. InDesign’s Find Font utility showed that it was in my User: Library: Fonts folder. I’m not sure where this version came from. A quick search revealed that I had the proper version of the font in my Library: Fonts folder, so just removing the bad versions from the User Library fixed the issue.

Source: See Footnote #6.

Explanation: Some Opentype fonts have the ability to create arbitrary fractions—meaning “45/73” or any other fraction you can dream up can be set by the font as a fraction, if the software tells the font to do so. This is done through the use of a set of special numerator and denominator characters, as well as special fraction backslash characters, available in the font and activated when the software enables the Opentype fraction feature. In InDesign this would usually be done via a Character Style, under the Open Type tab. Select only the characters that should be formatted as a fraction when applying the style.

Tips for Troubleshooting Fonts

Know where your fonts are installed, and which folders take precedence: If you’re having difficulties with fonts, it helps to have an understanding of how your system installs and loads fonts. Fonts can be installed in a number of different locations, and this gets more complicated if you’re using a font management service.

Macs load fonts from these locations, in this order:

  1. System: Library: Fonts.
  2. Library: Fonts. Any duplicate fonts replace previously loaded versions.
  3. User: Library: Fonts. Any duplicate fonts replace previously loaded versions.
  4. Some applications load their own fonts. For example, the Creative Suite ships with fonts that are installed to a special folder. These are not accessible to the system unless you move them to a location where the system can find them. However, when a CS app launches, it knows where to find them.
  5. In some cases fonts in other locations might be loaded. For example, modern versions of InDesign will load fonts from a package folder without having to install them onto your system.

Font management software tools have different ways of manipulating this system. Many place shortcuts to the fonts into the user library folder when you activate a font, and then remove the shortcut when the font is deactivated.

Duplicates can cause problems. Multiple copies of the same font installed to different locations simultaneously can cause strange problems. InDesign’s Find Font utility will give you the file name and full path to the version of the font that it is currently using. Run a search on your system for any other copies of that file. Remember that copies of the font located in regular folders are probably ok; Mac users, you’re looking for copies of fonts in one of your Library: Fonts folders. If you find duplicates, Get Info on each one and figure out which is the newest version. Chances are that one is the one you need to keep. Move the other one to a safe place and test before deleting.




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