While walking the crowded aisles at Boston Macworld last month, I spotted a program I hadn’t seen before, called TypeTamer. TypeTamer 1.0.6i, by Impossible Software, organizes Font menus and makes them easier to use. At a street price around $50, it’s worth a look if you tend to have a lot of fonts installed or enjoy using and experimenting with typography. TypeTamer requires a Macintosh running System 7 with at least 4 MB of RAM. The program takes up approximately 500K of disk space.
A Blip in the Continuum — Before I began this article, I didn’t have many special fonts installed, so immediately after installing TypeTamer, I looked around my office for fonts in need of taming. My eyes immediately settled on the obvious choice, a collection of shareware Grunge fonts that came with, a BLiP in the continuum, a recent book by Robin Williams and John Tollet ($22.95 from Peachpit Press, ISBN 1-56609-188-8). a BLiP in the continuum uses text and colorful illustrations to explain grunge fonts, those fonts whose characters look as though they were drawn with a magic marker by someone having a bad hair day or typed with a typewriter that’s been through a centrifuge. As the book explains, these fonts are for people who want to break rules, and that while the fonts may be hard to read, they do make you read more slowly, thus forcing you to retain more of the message.
The book suggests that if you, "look at this kind of typography and gasp in horror, you can rest assured you are not the market they wanted to reach anyhow. So who cares what you think." It’s hard to feel much fondness for fonts used to market stuff that isn’t targeted at me (since I have ambivalent feelings about grunge fonts and tend to think anything marketed with them is for the Pepsi generation, those people about my age who – apparently – continually shun education, work, and any sort of intellectual exercise so they can play on the beach).
Getting Started — After installing the Grunge fonts, I looked at my Nisus Writer Font menu (though I could have looked in most any program, including the font menu on Word 5’s Ribbon) and saw that TypeTamer had transformed the menu as follows:
- The Font menu became shorter and gained an All command. Instead of listing all my fonts, it only listed fonts currently in the active document. To see a full list of fonts, I used the new All option to view the full list in a hierarchical menu, which popped out from the Font menu.
- My font families grouped themselves together. For example, Garamond appeared in the All hierarchical menu, with a hierarchical menu that offered Regular, Italic, Semi-Bold, and so on.
- Each font showed with an icon to its left, indicating whether the font was a bitmap font, a bitmap font with its PostScript counterpart installed, or TrueType font.
- My fonts having foundry information showed with that information to their right, enclosed in angle brackets. In my case, this mainly meant that <MT> showed by fonts from Microsoft Office (the <MT> means the fonts are from the Monotype foundry); the TypeTamer manual points out that serious typographers might find this feature helpful if they had installed both the Adobe and the Digital Typeface Corporation version of a font such as Don Casual.
- My Font menus gained a TypeTamer command. By choosing TypeTamer from any Font menu, I was able to access TypeTamer’s controls, which I used to set up two additional hierarchical menus, one for the Grunge fonts and one for Not Grunge fonts. That was good – now the Grunge fonts were segregated and I only had to think about them when I wanted to. TypeTamer considers each additional hierarchical menu to be a "category," and you can set up lots of categories, based on font types, projects, or whatever. The same font can appear in more than one category, and it’s easy to change or delete categories.
Features — TypeTamer doesn’t work like Now’s WYSIWYG Menus (in fact, they are incompatible – if you launch with TypeTamer active, it will disable WYSIWYG menus) or like any of those other products that display the Font menu using the available fonts (such as Suitcase). Instead, TypeTamer offers the ability to quickly see a full display of what the font looks like. Drag the pointer over the icons that show left of each font name, and a window pops up, showing a phrase displayed in that font in three different sizes. (You can set up TypeTamer with whatever phrase and sizes you like.)
To learn more about special characters in a font, you can press Option or Shift-Option while dragging over the icon or while you have the window open. This causes the window to show the characters you can get by pressing Option (or Shift-Option) and some other key. You can select and insert these characters from the window, or you can note the keyboard shortcut displayed at the lower left.
For an ornamental font (like Zapf Dingbats) pressing Command shows the standard characters that you get by just pressing keys on the keyboard (i.e. pressing ‘n’ in Zapf Dingbats gives you a solid box, and – by the way – if you format that box in Outline, you get a nice-looking checkbox).
Although TypeTamer doesn’t feel entirely polished (the windows that pop-up showing the font’s appearances and character sets look out of proportion), it does have some nice features, and Impossible Software has thought about different issues that might arise while using TypeTamer:
- TypeTamer’s Find Fonts feature helps you figure out what fonts are used in a document. Currently, TypeTamer advertises the feature as working with Illustrator 5.0 and 5.5, Photoshop 2.1.5, PageMaker 5.0, Word 5.1a, and WordPerfect 3.0a.
- You can temporarily disable TypeTamer for a given Font menu by pressing Shift as you drag down the menu.
- The 35-page manual begins with a glossary of terms, ranging from ATM to suitcase to Suitcase to Type Reunion. It’s refreshing to see a manual that acknowledges and explains the existence of other products.
- TypeTamer’s SpeedFont feature helps you quickly navigate a large All category by moving fonts that begin with the letter you type to the top of the hierarchical menu.
Results — Now that I’ve used a few of the Grunge fonts to label a few filing folders (Basketcase-Roman is perfect for my Bills To Pay folder) I’m understanding them more. TypeTamer turned out to be a real help in choosing the fonts, because I could slowly scroll down my Grunge menu, looking at the font samples as I went. I’ll be keeping the Grunge fonts installed for a while; perhaps I’ll use them more. I also plan to keep TypeTamer installed.
You can download a thirty-day demo of TypeTamer from any Info-Mac mirror:
Impossible Software — 714/470-4800 — 714/470-4740 (fax)