Best Free Font Manager

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Introduction

What do I want from a font manager? These are several requirements of a font manager and form the basis for this review:

  • Font lists with each font previewed = no guessing what font I'm working with;
  • Font grouping in one file folder or many file folders = organise my fonts the way I want;
  • Font file management preferably from a font preview list = manage files by managing the fonts;
  • Font installation and activation (without installing) = load the fonts I need not every font;
  • Flexible output whether to print or file = so I can show others what I've got;
  • Compatibility with fonts types, platforms, and languages (Unicode) = free the world.

The last might be a bit of a surprise for those North Americans who are blissfully unaware that there is anything more than the ANSI characters. There is a whole world with many languages and the need for more than 256 (actually 224) characters in a font.

Note that these programs are usually developed by individuals and are not limited versions of commercial products. So they have fewer updates, are generally outdated in their interface and operation, and are missing other features that I expect. For example, they store their application settings and font files in the program folders. So if you have documents and settings stored on a drive separate to applications, as I do, then you have to do a bit more work to move them or back them up.

If you only want to preview fonts and do not need file management capabilities then check out this companion category Best Free Font Viewer.

Finally, if you are confused about the difference between a font and a typeface then read this:

  • A font used to mean one specific member (or representation) of a type family or typeface. Now it usually means one specific style (e.g. normal, italic, bold) of a typeface.
  • A typeface is a set or family of fonts with a consistent appearance or style.

 

Rated Products

NexusFont  

A powerful font manager with an extensive range of font and file attributes


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Font preview and categories on the main screen; displays full file properties; view and sort on many attributes; access any font while it is running; many languages.
Not enough fonts visible at one time in the preview list.
Read full review...

Font Runner  

Easily organize and search your font collections


Our Rating: 
3.5
License: Free (Open source)
Simple interface; share fonts without installing; character search.
Large download compared with the other programs; doesn't default to the system font folder; uses Windows Explorer for file management.
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AMP Font Viewer  

Allows you to create categories or groups of fonts


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Categories to group fonts; temporary installs; view more fonts in one window.
The interface could be improved.
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FontMatrix  

A cross-platform font manager with most high-end features


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Open source)
Cross-platform; some high-end features such as PANOSE font classification and glyph comparison.
Complex interface; no font file management; slow regenerating previews; unstable in Windows.
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Cfont Pro  

Gives you a wide range of views including a glyph viewer and character zoom to pixel level


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Comprehensive viewing options; lots of different windows/panes for different views.
Lots of different windows/panes for different views; limited user-defined grouping; project abandoned.
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Font XPlorer  

A free font manager good for older versions of Windows


Our Rating: 
2.5
License: Free
Widest range of features; customisable: menus, toolbars, call external programs.
Not supported in Windows Vista or 7 and not updated since 2001; have to group fonts in folders.
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Font Frenzy  

Manage fonts to install and uninstall from the system fonts folder


Our Rating: 
2.5
License: Free
Simple interface focused on four buttons; revert system fonts to those shipped with the OS.
Limited font information visible; no Unicode; can't change standard text.
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The Font Thing  

Group fonts in collections which you can then install or uninstall together


Our Rating: 
2.5
License: Free
Easy to use; uses collections of fonts to make management easy.
Not updated since 1999; no Unicode support.
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dp4 Font Viewer  

A portable font manager handles Unicode with some nice filtering options


Our Rating: 
2.5
License: Free
Simple; handles Unicode; temporary install for the current session.
View one folder at a time; limited file management; no grouping of fonts.
Read full review...

Other Font Managers

There are other products I looked at which I don't recommend for various reasons:

  • ATM Type Manager Light is discontinued and only useful for a small group of users who need its Type 1 font support. Avoid any version on Windows Vista and higher. Avoid version 4.0 from Windows 2000 onward.
  • Bitstream Font Navigator can be extracted from CorelDraw but as it is not freeware or shareware.
  • California Fonts Manager is new and has a useful web search feature but was too limited and buggy for me.
  • FontHit Font Tools is discontinued but can still be found. It has some useful features such as predefined categories. But not enough to  make this list.

 

Related Products and Links

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Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

A lot of research went into this page - thanks!
For me, one of the primary criteria for a font manager is that it automatically puts fonts in categories, as in: serif, sans-serif, fixed-width, script, decorative, other. This is immensely helpful when looking for a alternative font. None of the freebies do this. I'm still using PCMag.com's FontViewer 2, which they temporarily gave as a freebie way back in 2001, and it still works perfectly on Win 8.1.
So if any font manager programmers look here for ideas, there you go.

Do any of these offer support for viewing .fon files? The reason I ask is because I play Angband and it's hard to find which characters a particular .fon file supports.