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 with management functions are usually in the Best Free Font Manager. Look there if you also need to manage the font files and install or uninstall fonts.

 

Rated Products

BabelMap  

Supports all Unicode characters and works with TrueType, OpenType and True Type Collection.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Works with the entire Unicode repertoire (many character sets); lots of detailed information.
Complex software and content; no help file.
Read full review...

Opcion Font Viewer  

An open-source Java-based font viewer to view installed and uninstalled fonts across multiple platforms.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Open source)
Simple and easy to use, cross-platform, adjustable font size and the number of fonts to view per page.
Limited functionality, raster fonts not supported.
Read full review...

FindThatFont!  

Shows a preview of all installed Unicode fonts grouped in categories or in alphabetical order.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Open source)
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.
Read full review...

Font Viewer  

Arrange and view a large number of installed fonts in their styles with text and size of your choice.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Display many fonts at once; save selections and export to txt, fv or pdf files.
Limited functionality, raster font not supported.
Read full review...

Unicode Font Viewer  

A simple Unicode viewer works as a replacement for Windows Character Map.


Our Rating: 
2.5
License: Free
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
Read full review...

Honourable Mentions

  • 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 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.

 

Other Font Viewers

I've reviewed all font viewers that people have suggested so I'm listing them here for ease of reference. Some of these font viewers may lack certain 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.
  • Fast Font Set by FontUtilities.com 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.

 

Related Products and Links

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Comments

There is now a portable version of BabelMap.

It is available at portableapps.com