Tuesday, April 1, 2008

OS X Leopard Helvetica Font Conflict Problem: Solved

Suitcase Fusion for Mac - Boxed
Update July 21st, 2008: A very powerful font management tool called Extensis Suitcase expertly handles font conflicts and can no doubt help you take control of Helvetica on your Leopard machine. Click here right now to check out Suitcase Fusion for Mac.

Recently upgrade to Leopard? Does your MacBook or MacBook Pro now insist that there is a conflict with the font "Helvetica"?

I was once in your shoes, young man (or woman).

This issue has plagued me since upgrading to Leopard on my MacBook Pro. Every time I boot up my computer it gives me this conflict message, and quite often when I start up an iWork or Office program, I get error messages and font problem junk, etc. etc.

I did a bit of research on the problem, and there are a lot of posts that, to be honest, are a bit over my head. Either that or I just don't feel like the time it will take me to really get to the bottom of the issue is worth it - I need to get to work, not sit and learn all about deep-level system junk (although I like to pick up what I can here and there from websites or local programming and design buddies that hang around coffee shops like me).

If you are like me, and are having this Helvetica font conflict problem, and understand a tiny bit more than the average MacUser, but are far from a programming or design genius, this easy, step-by-step tutorial is for you.

Before you read on, at least skim these pages:

Why there is now a problem with Helvetica
Where OS X stores fonts and why

If you know more than me and want to add to the conversation, please feel free to leave your comment.

I am not responsible for any failures or errors or problems that arise because of trying to follow this advice. I take no responsibility for your choices and I make no guarantees. I just honestly testify that this worked to solve the Helvetica font problem for me and my 17" 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro (3 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM), running OS X 10.5.1 Leopard.

Sometimes messing with fonts brings on more problems than you started with. Consider yourself sternly warned.

Fair warning: I have had over 30,000 fonts on my system at some point in time, because I inherited a disc from a printer. Most of these were corrupt, and I have been through font hell because of it. To me, its worth cleaning my font library up at the expense of losing fonts. I figure that system fonts will force themselves to survive (or my Mac will die if they die, or something - knock on wood), and any design fonts I need will be given to me, or I will purchase. My tutorial will naturally reflect this posture toward my fonts. Keep that in mind.

Personally, I also chose to run Titanium Software's OnyX before and after I went forward with this font stuff. OnyX is a free system maintenance utility for OS X (they keep different versions for Tiger, Leopard, etc.). I pretty much ran most all of the "Cleaning" and "Automation" functions within OnyX.

Ok, here it goes:
Step 1: Download and install the newest version of LinoType's FontExplorer X (this is a free iTunes-like font management application available for both Mac's and PC's. It even has a built-in font store. You should also be able to follow similar steps with the much more powerful Suitcase Fusion for Mac).

Step 2: In the preference panel for FontExplorer X, go to "Font Requests" and check all boxes (these will be things like "Enable interception of font requests", "Automatically activate requested font if possible", and then a list of applications and a box for "All others").

Step 3: In the preference panel for FontExplorer X, go to "Advanced" and check "Manage font files", and select the bubble for "Move".

[NOTE: I personally like my fonts to be held at /FontExplorer X, so I changed FontExplorer's font folder to this - that way I can tinker with permissions without having to sort through user folders when I want multiple users to be able to mess around with fonts.]

Step 4: Click the "Move now" button and go refill your coffee and use the restroom.

Step 5: In the "Advanced" preference panel, check "Use FontExplorer X as default handler for font files", and close the Preferences window.

Step 6: Open a new Finder window, and type the following into the search field: ".dfont" OR ".ttf" OR ".otf". Make sure Finder (Spotlight) is searching the contents of every file on your entire Mac (I saved this search so that I can go back and reference it in the future). Make a phone call while you wait, or take a minute to pray for someone you care about.

Step 7: When the search is complete select all of those files, and drag them onto FontExplorer X. Get out of your seat and do a few push-ups while you wait for everything to go through.

Step 8: In FontExplorer X, click on "Conflicts" and in the bottom window, select "Multiple times activated PostScript Name" from the drop-down menu. FontExplorer should show you a column that displays each fonts "Path". If it doesn't you can turn this on in the "view" menu. Systematically go through and uncheck the box next to each duplicate font whose path does NOT start with "System". If there remain any duplicates, uncheck the box next to each font whose path does NOT start with "FontExplorer".

Step 9: While still in the "Conflicts" section of FontExplorer X, select "Duplicates" from the drop-down menu in the bottom window panel. Check both "Replace removed duplicates in Sets with remaining font" and "Move files of removed duplicates to trash" at your own risk (I did). Check every font, and select the bubble next to each version whose path does NOT start with "System" or "FontExplorer". Push the "Resolve duplicates" button at your own risk (I did).

Step 10: While still in the "Conflicts" section of FontExplorer X, select "Fonts listed in FontExplorer X but deleted in Finder" from the drop-down menu in the bottom window panel. Select all the fonts that show up and press the "Remove selected font(s) from FontExplorer X" button at your own risk (I did).

[Note: As for "Fonts with missing printer-font files" - I just cut my losses and deleted all of them.]

Step 11: Under the "Tools" menu option, systematically select each item that starts with "Clean". Follow any instructions the program gives you (I think it asks you to restart). Then go back and run the "Optimize database" menu item.
And that's all I got. After doing this and running OnyX, my font problems disappeared.

Best of luck to you in your journey through font hell because of Apple's poor decision to suddenly make Helvetica a system font without providing adequate support for those of us fiercely loyal (religious? cultish?) MacUsers who actually have a couple fonts and are (heaven forbid) upgrading to Leopard from Tiger.

May God bless your trials and errors, and may your system run smoothly and efficiently, without any further font conflicts.


  1. note this title: "OS X Leopard Helvetica Font Conflict Problem: Solved".

    On behalf of your readership, if anything such exists in the wake of this blog post, please avoid such blunders. If you ever find yourself alone and unheeded, know that you and your boring computer sagas are to blame.

  2. On behalf of me (as a reader), I wouldn't have to try his solution to know that your reply is nothing short of arrogant empty words intended to trivialize his considerable effort, which was done on our behalf. Whereas, you contribute nothing at all. Your bloated and pretentious reply is far worse than boring.

  3. Yeah, Jon. Louis Swingrover is changing the world one font at a time. What have you ever done? Have you ever saved fonts' lives? Have you ever held a tiny baby font in your arms, having given it life? Has a font ever suckled at your teat? I don't think so. Respect.

    Nightrain, why is there a 1 after your name? Are there many Nightrains?


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