Best Free Font Viewer

 
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.

In a Hurry?
  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

  Go straight to the Change Log to see what's new since the major update in November 2010.

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


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
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
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…

Unicode Font Viewer
2
 
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
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows 95 to XP

Works with TrueType only

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
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source 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.

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
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
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

July 2014 Removed FontMap which is now commercial; minor changes to format Remah
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 gsnyder on 22. May 2014 - 23:22  (116369)

There is now a portable version of BabelMap.

It is available at portableapps.com

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