Article suggestion: useful utilities and tricks

In the past 48 hours I have both: discovered a useful addition to a set of shortcuts I thought I knew extremely well (and use frequently); and discovered a long-standing utility that looks very useful to me but I was previously completely unaware of. I’ve been using the Mac for 25+ years and have always been interested in system enhancement utilities, customising my setup to be as efficient as possible, and obscure but useful shortcuts (cmd-shift-. to toggle displaying hidden files is one of my favourites of the last couple years). These last two days have shown me that even for someone who’s spent a lot of time filling their head with this kind of thing, there is still a lot out there waiting to be discovered.

This lead me to think that the following would be an interesting TidBITS article: ask TidBITS staff/regular contributors for:

  1. their top 3 favourite utilities are (ideally things that enhance the system or common daily tasks like renaming files) with 3-5 sentences for each on why it’s so useful
  2. their top 3 (or some other small number) favourite keyboard shortcuts

I know there are various in-depth articles about useful utilities that TidBITs has published, but I thought this might be a way of bringing to light some things which don’t merit a full article or much more than a mention, but would be of interest. Having limits on how many and how much has to be written about each would hopefully make this not too onerous for TidBITS staff, and people can explore them more in the ensuing discussion.


At the Huntsville Macintosh User Group, we talk about this kind of thing regularly.

Here’s one to start with. AppCleaner, Better uninstall with more thorough cleanup than most utilities I’ve tried. There’s at least ten more utilities I could list.


The only utility I use somewhat regularly is Mac’s system level Font Book. Before its debut in OSX, font management utilities were expensive, usually over $100 and not as full featured or easy to use. Even if you’re not a designer or a hoarder of fonts, the ability to create libraries and collections, disable or enable, remove or delete, and validate and repair fonts that have gone wonky is something that will make any Mac user’s life easier. It can even be used to organize server side fonts for workgroup projects. It also validates fonts, and will try its best to repair wonky ones.

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How do you use a font library? Font Book help tells how to create a library, but not how to use it. In fact, all it says is “Your collections appear in the Fonts window, available from apps such as TextEdit, but your libraries do not.”
OK, so my libraries don’t appear. What do I do with them?

Libraries work like they do in a physical library system. There are hierarchical Collections of works within specific libraries, and your Mac already has preexisting libraries for all fonts, computer and user fonts. If you wish, you can create Libraries and Collections and however you want them to be…work, home, invitations, holidays, clients, projects, etc., etc. Like in physical libraries, the collections organize the books. The big difference is that the fonts in Collections are kind of like hyperlinks to the Library. If you have a 20 projects that require Helvetica, you don’t need 20 copies of Helvetica in 20 different folders on your Mac. And if you want to get rid of a font in a Collection, you can delete it there and it will still remain in your Library and any other Collections it might be hanging out in. Just be careful before deleting anything in the Library, says she who has no patience and found this out the hard way.

You can also create Smart Collections using multiple fields. For example, you are working on a project that requires PostScript fonts, it will include only include PS versions. And if a font is being problematic, you can verify weather Font Book can fix it or not. Font Book is also great for previewing fonts. You can change sizes, weights and colors before messing around in a document. And as I mentioned before, Collections and Libraries can be shared within work groups.

There’s good “how to” stuff here:

I have older copies of FontGear’s Utilities of Font Doctor and Font Vista. Do these do more than the validate of the Font Book?

Geez, IIRC, Font Doctor was included with Extensis Suitcase sometime long ago in the pre OSX past. Though I used Suitcase, which was the only effective way to manage PS fonts, it didn’t have any fix it functions. IIRC Font Doctor didn’t fix any of the fonts I tried with it, but they were probably in bad shape anyway. I checked, and they do have a current version, but I don’t know how it compares to Font Book. Since Font Book is free, and ready and waiting to use on your Mac, it’s worth a try as it does organize well, and I’m guessing that Font Doctor still doesn’t have organizational features. I don’t know about Font Vista, but Suitcase was a PITA. You can always try to fix something in Font Book, and if it doesn’t work, try Font Doctor.

Thanks for the suggestion! We’ve tried doing various things like this in the past, and they often end up feeling rather forced. Our general approach is to encourage contributors to write about the stuff they’re using—and that we haven’t previously covered.

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