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100 Fonts for $49

One hundred of the best-selling professional-quality Macintosh laser fonts for only $49! Sound too good to be true? Well, maybe, but then again, maybe not.

When I saw the ad for KeyFonts in the MacWarehouse catalog, my first reaction was font envy. Most "bargain-bundle" font packages consist entirely of display or headline fonts – fancy, but not useful for everyday use. (Ever try to read a document written entirely in a display font like Cottonwood?) With the KeyFonts offer, however, about half of the fonts are real body-text fonts, based on such popular standards as Goudy and Garamond. Thus, for only $49, you get not only a good selection of popular display fonts, but also an equally good selection of readable text fonts.

Naturally, when the packaging says you are buying 100 fonts, it doesn’t mean 100 font ~families~, it means 100 ~fonts~. In other words, you get Americo, Americo Bold, and Americo Italic, and that counts as three of your 100. If you look at the full-page ad in the MacWarehouse catalog, or on the back of the box, you can see all the fonts listed, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Not surprisingly, the fonts aren’t the genuine fonts from the original designer. Rather, each font is a clone of the original. KeyFonts comes with a manual that lists each font family, and tells you which fonts are cloned from which originals. (I’ll include a table of fonts and clones at the end of this review.) Curiously, some fonts are listed as clones of more than one original, which leads one to wonder how faithful the clone is to its model(s).

Print quality? Generally good, I’d say, although the KeyFonts seem to lack any kind of hinting that would preserve readability at the smaller point sizes. This is especially noticeable in screen displays with thin-stroked fonts, like Americo. For general-purpose laser output, the font quality should be adequate for most jobs.

The KeyFonts package includes both TrueType and PostScript versions of all fonts, as well as bitmapped screen fonts for use on non-TrueType systems. The PostScript fonts are Type 1 fonts, compatible with Adobe Type Manager, so you may not need the TrueType versions. In fact, if your experiences are like mine, you may not want the TrueType versions.

Installing all 100 KeyFonts on my Mac proved to be an exercise in disk space management. First I copied the bitmap and printer font files from the six PostScript disks onto my hard disk. Total size: 3.9 MB for 149 files. The TrueType fonts came in slightly smaller: 3.5 MB for 51 files, copied from five floppy disks. Once I had the files copied from floppy to my hard disk, I tried to drag all the TrueType fonts into the System file. Surprise! Apparently System 7 needs free disk space equal to the total size of the fonts you are installing, and I just didn’t have it.

In the interest of speedy installation, I simply deleted the bitmap fonts, leaving me with enough space to install the TrueType fonts and print out sample sheets for each font. I used Jim Lewis’s freeware theTypeBook application to print out sample sheets for each font (which took HOURS, by the way, to print all 100 fonts). Just so I could write a comprehensive review, I tried sample sheets based on using TrueType alone, then another set using TrueType with the PostScript printer files in the System Folder, and then another (partial) set after removing the TrueType fonts and replacing them with 10- and 12-point bitmapped screen fonts (re-loaded from the floppies).

Results — The TrueType-only setup produced by far the most problems. A number of fonts exhibited character-width problems, with words from one column of text spreading out to overlap text in the adjacent column. Also, a few fonts had problems with certain letters disappearing, so that, for example, the line "This page was generated by theTypeBook" turned into "This pag was gnratd by thTypBook." Missing characters included "t", "e", and "l" in various fonts.

Adding the PostScript printer fonts to the TrueType fonts in the System Folder resolved all of the above problems, but introduced a new and mysterious problem: the curly quotes would not print. They weren’t totally absent, as were the missing characters in the TrueType-only scenario, but they left a blank space where the quote mark ought to go. Fortunately, this "invisible quote" problem goes away if you remove the TrueType fonts entirely and just use the PostScript fonts. Since this also saves about 3.5 MB of disk space, this is definitely the way to go, provided of course that you have ATM.

The best results came from eliminating the TrueType fonts and using only the PostScript versions with the corresponding bitmapped screen fonts. Though by now my toner cartridge was running low, I did manage to print out enough samples to verify that all characters printed correctly, and that there weren’t any obvious spacing problems, as had been the case with the TrueType versions installed.

Once I had all my sample sheets printed out, I next turned to theTypeBook’s "Character Set" and "Keyboard Map" printing capabilities. Another surprise: most of the option-characters, and all but two or three of the shift-option-characters, were missing! The manual mentions that KeyFonts comes in a DOS and a Windows version as well as a Mac version, so presumably they eliminated missing characters for the sake of compatibility. Unfortunately, the missing characters include all the accented characters (vowels with aigu, grave, circumflex, umlaut, etc.), so you will find KeyFonts virtually useless for any kind of international application. Also missing are the fancy "f" (option-f), the math-type symbols like greater-than-or-equal-to, and all the ligatures (fi, fl, etc.). The Keyboard font, for some strange reason, has an Enter key but no Return key (probably reflecting the lack of a Return key on DOS keyboards), but the Dingbats font, at least, has managed to keep all its characters (mainly because it has been split into two Dingbats fonts).

The value of KeyFonts is further diminished by the fact that a number of the fonts are clones of the standard Macintosh LaserWriter Plus fonts, so in effect you waste disk space on redundant fonts. Presumably, DOS KeyFonts buyers benefit from finally being able to duplicate (to some extent) Mac-based laser printer output.

So, is the KeyFonts package worth the $49? I suspect the answer would be something like "80% of users will be satisfied using KeyFonts for 80% of their work." Though seriously limited by the missing characters, KeyFonts should suffice for most text-processing tasks intended for the average American consumer. The cloned fonts look pretty much the same as the originals, and for $49, you’re getting clones of a lot of good fonts. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for.

Bottom line — I’ll keep my KeyFonts, and I’ll use them, and if I get into a situation where I know I have to use a specific a font, with a certain option-character, then I’ll spring the bucks and buy the genuine font (at $65 and up, mail order). Meanwhile, I can get away with using my bargain fonts for a lot of real-life work, and most of my readers will never be the wiser.

 Fonts included in KeyFonts
     B = Bold
     BI = Bold-Italic
     Bk = Black
     BkI = Black-Italic
     C = Condensed
     EB = Extra Bold
     EBI = Extra Bold Italic
     H = Heavy
     I = Italic
     L = Light
     M = Medium
     O = Outline
     (items in parenthesis indicate additional styles included)
     [names in brackets indicate original font this font imitates]

     Americo (B, I, O) [Americana]
     Arena (C, B, I, BI, O) [Arial, Helvetica, Swiss]
     Avian (B, I, BI) [Avant Garde]
     Basset (B, I, BI) [Baskerville]
     Bordeaux (L, M, H, Bk) [Bauhaus]
     Boston (B, I, BI, Bk, BkI) [Bodoni]
     Brush Hand
     Brush Script [Brush Script]
     Casque Open Face [Caslon Open Face]
     Chancery Cursive
     Chancery Bold
     Cookie (I) [Cooper Black]
     Cornet Script [Coronet]
     Dingbats 1 & 2 [Zapf Dingbats]
     Formal Script [Spenser Script]
     Fritz (B) [Friz Quadrata]
     Futurist (B, I, BI, Bk) [Futura] NOTE: Futurist Black looks
                                      more like Stencil than it
                                      does the other Futurist fonts.
     Garnet (B, I, BI) [Garamond]
     Gilde (B, I, BI) [Goudy]
     Grail Light [Graphic Light]
     Hammer Thin [Harry]
     Hammer Fat [Harry]
     Hobby Headline [Hobo]
     Koffee (B) [Kaufmann]
     Krone (B, I, BI, EB) [Korinna]
     Letter Gothic (B, I, BI)
     Marquee [Broadway]
     Marquee Engraved [Broadway]
     Minstrel Script [Mistral]
     Old English Gothic
     Optim (B, I, BI, EB, EBI) [Humanist, Optima]
     Oracle (I)
     Palamino (B, I, BI) [Palatino]
     Park Place [Park Avenue]
     Schoolbook (B, I, BI) [Century Schoolbook]
     Soutane (B, I, BI) [Souvenir]
     Technical (I) [Tekton]
     Ultra [Umbra]
     Vagabond (B) [Vag Rounded]

Product Information


SoftKey Software Products, Inc.
4800 North Federal Highway
3rd Floor, Building D
Boca Raton, FL 33431
407/367-0005 (sales)
407/367-1611 (fax)

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