Best Free Font Viewer

 
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Introduction

 

Font viewers are just that, programs for viewing fonts on your system. They still have a place despite the font preview feature being more widely adopted in office software. Word processing and desktop publishing software providing font previews to make it easy to select the font you want. They commonly have pull-down list of fonts with each font name displayed. Although many free font viewers are not being actively developed you may find an old one that is useful to you. Even Windows' standard font utilities may be sufficient for some users.

Many of the viewers are primarily character maps. These focus on the character set used by each font. This is the view you need when trying to decide what symbol to insert into your document, or when you need to type a word in a foreign language full of unfamiliar characters with strange accents. In the past, viewers generally showed only the 256 ASCII or ANSI characters but the most useful viewers now show the extended Unicode character set.

The most capable font viewers are usually in the Best Free Font Manager. Look there if you also need to manage the font files and install/uninstall fonts.

Discussion

 

View Unicode Characters


Andrew West's BabelMapLook at Andrew West's BabelMap if you are interested in the deeper features of Unicode character repertoires (the equivalent of many character sets). This is a program for the more technical user. It is the only viewer I saw that could access all Unicode characters for the latest version of Unicode. I wish I'd used it last year for a Python script that had multi-language features. I would have myself saved a lot of grief. BabelMap allows you to browse the Unicode character repertoire for each font and then search, bookmark, colour-code, copy and re-encode characters from that repertoire. You can also create virtual composite fonts where blocks of characters are mapped to different fonts. Other features are unlikely to interest most users.

 

Mike Lischke's Unicode Font ViewerA simple Unicode viewer is Mike Lischke's Unicode Font Viewer. It is a replacement for Windows Character Map so it is very simple to use: select a font, then a character block, and then a character. The character will be displayed enlarged and you can copy it. That's all but it needs a larger window and more font information to be really useful.

 

Opcion Font Viewer Opcion Font Viewer is a good option if you need a basic viewer that works across Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. It only provides a preview list for your installed fonts and allows you to create favorite groups. But you can set the number of fonts to display in the preview list.

 

 

 

Other Unicode viewers include:

  • Keith Fenske's Character Map (Java) provides font information with character and glyph notations. It requires Java and doesn't have an install program so you have to manually set-up to run “Java CharMap4”.
  • Microsoft Microsoft OpenType Font File Properties Extension aka Font Properties Extension does not provide a font or character preview. It expands the font information available when viewing the properties of a font file. In this one area It is better than most of the other viewers and makes a powerful combination with Windows Character Map.

 

Cannot View Unicode Characters


 Gary Dix FontMapFontMap by Gary Dix is a very good font viewer with a comprehensive selection of views. For example, I liked the font browser which displays the font files in the folder tree so you don't have to click on a folder to see if it has font files. Notice that It is a Unicode viewer but it is frozen in 2005. Key features require paid registration to get a newer version. It is disappointing that you will have to pay to see the Unicode character set. But that shows how essential Unicode is. You also won't have printing although you can see the previews in the free version. Even with these limitations it is well worth considering.

 

Mathijs Lagerberg FindThatFont!Mathijs Lagerberg's FindThatFont! is easy to use but has two important failings. First, it only works with Unicode fonts due to a limitation of the programming language used. This means none of Windows standard dingbat fonts will preview. Second, despite only viewing Unicode fonts it does not provide views of character above the ANSI characters. However, it is easy to use because it automatically groups your installed fonts into 36 pre-defined classes. These classes can be re-defined, returned to the default, and exported or imported in text files. Fonts not assigned to any class are Uncategorized. You can also mark favorites. The previews look good and print in the same way but the font information goes no deeper than the previews and the name.

 

Think BIG Information Technology's Font ViewerFont Viewer by Thinking BIG Information Technology has a good preview. Fonts appear in a row with the regular font and the bold, italic, and bold italic variations. Fonts can be selected and the font list saved in a text file or a Font Viewer file, or a lower quality PDF preview.

 

 

 

 I've reviewed all font viewers that people have suggested so I want to save your time by listing them here. There are some that may be OK for you but check out the Best Free Font Manager first. I don't recommend the font viewers here because they lack current features such as viewing fonts in any folder or support for newer types:

  • Anatoli Klassen hasn't updated akFontViewer since 2000 so it doesn't show OpenType fonts. The interface is quite simple with the list of previewed fonts, a character map, and a larger preview of the selected font.
  • Karen Kenworthy's Font Explorer, last updated in 2003, is one of her Power Tools range. You view the installed fonts for each device that supports fonts, typically the screen and printers. It is slow to load because the font list is reloaded each time you look at a different device. Visual Basic Runtime is required.
  • Kirys' FontGlancer was last updated in 2004 and the download links have expired or have a low WOT rating. So I cannot recommend it even though it has some useful features.
  • Peter Theill's FontLister is very good for a 1997 application written for WIndows 95. It covers many of the basics including preview lists, character view, printing, and viewing uninstalled fonts. There is a newer paid version.
  • Michael Vinther's, MeeSoft FontView shows installed fonts only. If there are less than 200 you can view them all on one screen. But you can't print. The separate character viewer doesn't resize the grid for characters larger than about 24 points. By 36 points some font characters were not visible at all.
  • FontUtilities.com's Fast Font Set is a good print previewer. You select the view settings then refresh the page to see what it looks like. It can only view installed fonts, just like most of these programs do.
  • FontViewOK from Nenad Hrg alows two lists of font previews to display side by side. This is useful even though both only look at the same folder. FontViewOK also installs fonts but as it doesn't uninstall fonts, group fonts, or manage files I've left it out of the Font Manager category.
  • While Alexander G. Styopkin's Free & Easy Font Viewer is actively updated, it is quite limited. Styopking has a more capable font manager - Advanced Font Viewer - but you have to pay for that. The font viewer can only preview and display font information for the installed TrueType and OpenType fonts. I liked the large zoom when selecting a character in the character map.
  • Markus Welz is actively developing MW-Fonts. It is very basic, viewing Installed fonts only. Print in other programs by exporting to an RTF file or the clipboard. It runs on Windows 95 to 7 and needs Visual Basic runtime.

Keep away from the following products:

  • ExtendedCharacterMap was useful in 1998 but Windows Character Map is much better from XP on.
  • Richard Garside's Font Picker should not be installed/ The web version of Font Picker does much the same.
  • Lanmisoft Fast Font Preview doesn't do much so don't install it.
  • Lamnisoft FontNet Explorer finds fonts by searching its pre-defined list of sites but the main thing it found for me was a virus.
  • Peter Theill's Font Selector is old and it shows. It has not been updated since 1999 and uses the Windows Font Viewer to print fonts so you are limited to one at a time.
  • PigFontViewer appears on various lists but has no home website and crashed on more than one PC.

I haven't reviewed the following products:

  • HP FontSmart Lite which shipped with older HP printers.
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

Best Free Font Manager if you also need to manage font files and install or uninstall fonts

  • Amp Font Viewer
  • cFontPro
  • dp4 Font Viewer
  • Font Frenzy
  • Font Runner
  • Font Xplorer
  • FontMatrix
  • NexusFont
  • The Font Thing
Quick Selection Guide

BabelMap
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
work with the entire Unicode repertoire (many character sets); lots of detailed information
complex software and content; no help file
http://www.babelstone.co.uk/
6.0.0.2
2.64 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000 to 7

Works with TrueType, OpenType and True Type Collection.
For an example using BabelMap read All 100K+ Unicode characters and more…

FontMap
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
many useful views such as displaying the font on a keyboard layout; good folder browser
"printing, as well as the display of unicode and National character sets, is only available to registered users"
http://www.ccountry.net/~dix/
2.41
0,4 MB
Time limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP, Vista, 7

Works with Type 1, TrueType, OpenType

FindThatFont!
2
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
easy to use; installs with a list of classes; print what you preview
only Unicode fonts; font information ends with the preview and name so no character blocks/maps; reports of instability and slowdown with 1000+ fonts.
1.0.0
5.0 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows ME to Vista, Linux

Works with Type 1, TrueType, OpenType, TrueType Collection - have not tested with Linux FreeType.

Unicode Font Viewer
1.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
simple; large preview of selected character
little font information; can't change the size of the character block pane so the entire block can be seen at a good size
http://www.soft-gems.net/
0.3 MB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows 95 to XP

Works with TrueType only

Font Viewer
1.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
display many fonts at once; save selection
limited functionality
http://fontviewer.net/
http://fontviewer.net/
2.0
0.4 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98 to Windows XP

Uses TrueType, OpenType, TrueType Collection.
Requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0

Opcion Font Viewer
1
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
simple; cross-platform
limited functionality; limited to TrueType
http://opcion.sourceforge.net/
1.1.1.0
1.0 MB
Open source freeware
Windows 95 to XP, POSIX (Linux/BSD/UNIX-like OSes), Solaris, Mac OS X

Works with TrueType only

 

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Change Log

Date

Change

Editor

October 2011 Converted QSG to the new database and format. Remah

Nov 2010

Major rewrite.

Remah

Tags

font, font list, font preview, font viewer, best font viewer, best free font viewer

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Comments

by Simple Simon on 27. January 2012 - 18:57  (87904)

For simply seeing what my installed fonts look like (and nothing more), I only ever use Nattyware's "Fonster". It's 3kB (not a typo), and it shows you what your installed fonts look like.

A screenshot is cunningly hidden in the online help section of the support page. Don't bother with the zipped version, it's simply the older v1.02.

Aside from Fonster, Nattyware also make the illustrious "Pixie" colour picker, but you'd need to have an extra free 12kB disk space for that too...

http://www.nattyware.com/fontster.php

[Moderator's note : link to Fonster included]

by Simple Simon on 27. January 2012 - 19:39  (87909)

Me again. Whilst I'm still here, a far more advanced viewer I always like is "Arjan Mel's Font Viewer". It's quite astonishing that it's over ten years old and still works flawlessly on my XP system, full Unicode support and tons of info.

The homepage is long gone, but the search result for Freelang.net is for v1.99.1, as opposed to v1.14.1 on Softpedia and elsewhere.

During installation, you must enter an email address (any made-up one will do), and NOT enter a company name. Don't let this put you off though, it's well worth a good look at.

by Remah on 28. January 2012 - 0:16  (87913)

Thanks for all the info.

by Philipz (not verified) on 30. November 2011 - 8:18  (84161)

A unicode viewer you can add to the list, 'ViewGlyph'.
http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&id=ViewGlyph_home

by Philipz (not verified) on 30. November 2011 - 8:37  (84162)

Forgot to mention a character map type apps that is worth being on this page in the same category as babelmap.

Unicode Character Map (aka CharMapX)
< http://www.veryltd.com/Products/CharMapX/ >

Some others I came across include Character Map Pro 1.8.1, CharMapEX, and of course MS Character Map (C:\WINDOWS\system32\charmap.exe).

by Remah on 30. November 2011 - 22:42  (84195)

Thanks, I'll definitely have a look at the products you suggest.

Remah - Editor

by Deep Lurker (not verified) on 4. July 2011 - 8:39  (74714)

I'm looking for a replacement for the Windows Font Viewer, a viewer that isn't something where you run the program and it lists all the installed fonts, or all the fonts in a folder.

I want to be able to right-click on a .ttf or other (uninstalled) font file, choose "open with $replacement_font_viewer," and get a view of the font similar to but better than the view provided by the built-in Windows Font Viewer. In particular, I'd like to be able to type in custom text and see it displayed in the chosen font, at a chosen size.

It would also be nice to be able to choose "install this font" as an option from within the viewer.

Anyone know of something like this?

by Remah on 4. July 2011 - 10:27  (74719)

Windows Font Viewer is the program associated with the font file formats .ttf, .fon, etc. You can simply change the file association to whatever program you choose. Do a web search and you should find lots of help such as this Microsoft article for Windows XP:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307859

One of these font viewers will probably do the job: FontViewOK or BabelMap. If they don't then checkout the related category: Best Free Font Manager

by Deep Lurker (not verified) on 5. July 2011 - 2:55  (74765)

Yes, I know about associating file types with programs. What I'm looking for is a program that will actually properly *work* when I do this, displaying the font when I associate .ttf files with the program and then double-click on the font file. Bablemap doesn't to this. The other font viewers and managers I've tried don't do so either.

The problem is that the programs I've tried will load all the installed fonts, and won't load the particular font I'm interested in looking at. What I want is a program that - like MS font viewer - will load ONLY the particular font I double-click on.

by Remah on 5. July 2011 - 3:12  (74767)

Sorry, I misunderstood. But I can't think of a replacement for Windows Font Viewer that has either or both capabilities for custom text and installing a font.

by szAlert (not verified) on 21. June 2011 - 12:58  (74080)

Is there a font viewer out there which does not do any kind of font substitution/linking/replacing/etc. when previewing a sample text? I am currently using a thing like the Character Map which works, but I have to scroll manually to check for various characters (code points?) if they are available or not. I tried many other tools which offered the possibility to configure a sample text for preview, but unfortunately all of them also did font substitution which defeats the purpose (my purpose for trying them).

by Remah on 21. June 2011 - 20:29  (74118)

When I was testing I didn't notice any font substitution for sample texts. But then I was usually only testing with keyboard characters. I'll have to remember to always create samples with non-ANSI characters when I next update the review.

That means that I can't point you to one that definitely does not substitute. So just start with the best font managers and viewers and work your way down the list as most allow sample texts to be defined.

by hajduk on 30. March 2011 - 2:00  (68809)

What I think we need is a font viewer, stand-alone or part of a font manager, that will handle Unicode and non-U. fonts, display all Unicode glyphs and also dingbats, and allow the user to define categories to group the fonts. And display multiple fonts at a time. Is there such a thing?

by Doranwen (not verified) on 12. December 2010 - 3:46  (62332)

What info do we have on whether font viewers (or for that matter, font managers, but I don't want to double-post and I don't care which I get so just a font viewer works) can display fonts inside zip files? I have a ton of fonts zipped up (usually with the assorted documentation) and don't want to unzip everything just to view in a font viewer or manager. I'm not seeing anything that lists those characteristics and don't really want to install everything just to test that.

by ReplyToComment (not verified) on 6. January 2011 - 18:26  (63978)

FontHit-FontTools is able to display fonts inside zip files. Drag and drop zipfiles.
However the program is old (March 2005) so not suitable for Vista, or 7, I guess.

by Remah on 12. December 2010 - 9:39  (62341)

Sorry. I can't help with what you want. I checked my notes and didn't record that feature for any of the free font viewers/managers that I reviewed. I would probably have noticed because my main test folder contained both a zip file of a font folder and the unzipped folder. If the font program could transparently view zip files then I would have seen the same folder name twice.

I suggest that you look at using Windows "compressed folders". The compression is more limited than the complete zip specification but it is transparent to programs and you will still save disk space and get faster access. Unfortunately you won't avoid unzipping the files into the compressed folders.

Note the difference between a) "Compressed (zipped) Folder" and b) "Compressed Folder". This description is for Windows XP:
a) A zipped file (with the extension .zip) will usually be viewable as a "Compressed (zipped) Folder". It can be created in Windows Explorer from the main menu by selecting File | New | Compressed (zipped) Folder.
b) A "Compressed Folder" is created as a normal folder then compressed. From the main menu in Windows Explorer select File | Properties | Advanced | check Compress contents to save disk space.

by GeorgeD (not verified) on 15. November 2010 - 3:28  (61200)

I think this would be just a font viewer: FontViewOK, freeware, unicode and non-unicode versions, portable. Recently upgraded to version 2+.

http://www.softwareok.com/?seite=Software/FontViewOK

Also consider Meesoft's FONTVIEW. One big scrollable page of all installed fonts, listed by name of the font in the font itself. Apparently no unicode support. Has a separate character viewer. A useful additional font app for those times you don't know what you're looking for, or just want to quickly browse installed fonts.

http://meesoft.logicnet.dk/

[Edit] Please note that both the "download with installer" locations provided by MeeSoft have a bad WOT rating. Anyone interested is therefore advised to only download the zip version direct from the authors own website or use a trusted site like Softpedia.

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Others/Font-Utils/FontView.shtml

by Remah on 15. November 2010 - 6:44  (61210)

Thanks, GeorgeD.

[Edited] I've now reviewed FontViewOK and it only just makes the list. FontView did not.

Remah

by chesscanoe (not verified) on 12. November 2010 - 15:18  (61089)

AMP Font Viewer http://ampsoft.net/utilities/FontViewer.php ,
Karen's Font Explorer http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptfonts.asp ,
and most frequently for me, Windows 7 Character Map (Advanced view) meet my font needs well.

by Remah on 13. November 2010 - 4:34  (61120)

Thanks.

[Edited] AMP Font Viewer is reviewed and recommended under the Best Free Font Manager category.

Karen's Font Explorer is reviewed here but I don't recommend it except if you want to view devices supporting fonts.

by Diana (not verified) on 12. November 2010 - 12:06  (61080)

Can I recommend the Free & Easy Font Viewer? It shows all the fonts, each font in various sizes, whatever chosen text. It's very easy to use.

by thad greene (not verified) on 11. November 2010 - 13:38  (61034)

I use Font Frenzy. Very good display of fonts. Create your own sample text. Real time display...what you type is what you see. Shows multiple fonts at the same time, not one at a time. And it's free!

by Remah on 11. November 2010 - 18:58  (61049)

You're right. Font Frenzy is reviewed in the category Best Free Font Manager

by duddly did it (not verified) on 9. November 2010 - 18:56  (60938)

As an artist, I work with both graphics and text extensively, and have gathered quite a wide variance of fonts. Some time ago, while searching the Internet for a Free Font program, I came accross what I feel is one super
font manager. It's called "The Font Thing" by Sue Fisher and it's absatively FREE - here's the link: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~scef/tft.html

Once you learn how to use it, you'll wonder how you ever did anything connected with fonts and design without this jem.

by Remah on 11. November 2010 - 19:04  (61050)

The Font Thing is not included in the font viewers because it also provides font file management. I have this separate font viewer category so I can present viewer programs that would not get sufficient rating as a font manager.

Check out Best Free Font Manager if you want to find better font managers.

by Remah on 10. November 2010 - 1:52  (60950)

It is very good. I like the product and have reviewed it under the Best Free Font Manager category. I had problems running it on Windows XP particularly installing/uninstalling fonts. So have a look at NexusFont which has a similar feature set. But it does have the obvious disadvantage - you'll see it immediately - that it previews fewer fonts on each screen.

by duddly did it (not verified) on 12. November 2010 - 18:36  (61101)

Hi Remah! I saw your input regarding 'The Font Thing' and apologize for not recognizing or rather knowing the difference between a Font Viewer and a Font Manager. However, when I first discovered 'The Font Thing', I was running Win 98; then transferred to Win XP Professional and installed and ran 'The Font Thing' with absolutely no problems. I have since installed it on Windows Vista Ultimate 64 Bit and now again on Win 7 Ultimate 64 Bit, and although I had to reinstall it twice, it is now working fine. I don't know why there was a problem on Win XP as it performed perfectly for me including the installing/uninstalling fonts feature. Thank-you kindly for pointing out the difference between the two Font programs of viewer and manager.

by Remah on 13. November 2010 - 4:42  (61121)

duddly did it,
No need to apologise. The Font Viewer category was created because they are often smaller utilities that have their place but don't compare well with larger Font Managers. Also, wonderful programs like BabelMap have a narrow focus that is best showcased away from the general purpose font managers.
Thanks for the install info - that is very helpful as my current test system runs XP. The problem's I had with "The Font Thing" didn't affect the ranking. It is on the list because it is a good option.
Remah

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