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Insider Smashes Suitcases

What’s the most important feature of Mac OS 7, 8, and 9 that was destroyed and never restored or replaced when Mac OS X came along? Okay, I’m sure you miss being able to collapse windows into their title bars, or to resize them without waiting for the computer to catch up. But I’m talking here about something far more fundamental – the capability to open font suitcases.

A font suitcase, as you probably remember, is what we used to keep fonts in. They originated deep in the history of the Macintosh system, but starting in System 7 it became possible to open a font suitcase as if it were a folder and move font files in and out of it. Font suitcases were the normal way to present a font to the system (by putting them in your Fonts folder); they let you keep together multiple fonts, or various forms of a single font, such as a font and its italic and bold variants, or a TrueType font and some bitmap versions to improve rendering at small sizes.

With the advent of Mac OS X, font suitcases suddenly became opaque. In Classic, there is no Finder, so features that appeared as aspects of the Finder such as desktop printers and openable font suitcases unceremoniously vanished. Font/DA Mover, which preceded Mac OS 7, is ancient and clunky and can’t deal with the contents of more modern suitcases. So my suitcases have essentially sat immobile for the past several years, mysterious and taunting.

Now Insider Software’s Smasher has come along at last, to bust open your suitcases like so many recalcitrant walnut shells. It lets you see right inside font suitcases, telling you what types of fonts they contain and what their typefaces look like. Hand Smasher a folder and it shows you all the TrueType and PostScript fonts in all the suitcases in that folder. (OpenType and Windows TrueType fonts are ignored, but these were not in suitcases to begin with. More disappointing is that bitmaps are ignored; these are not valid on their own under Mac OS X, but they are still fonts, they still exist in suitcases, and you still might like a way to manipulate them.)


Once you’re seeing inside your suitcases, you can recombine their contents into new suitcases containing individual fonts or families or styles. Smasher can also convert .dfont files to old-style TrueType fonts to make them available to your Classic system. As a bonus, Smasher also helps you delete your system font caches or the font caches of certain troublesome applications, such as Microsoft Office, or the AdobeFnt.lst files that can spontaneously appear all over your hard disk; eliminating these and then restarting has often solved mysterious misbehaviors on my machines and those of many others.

The Web site and the manual are full of spelling mistakes, which suggests rather a rush job on this release. Still, the program seems to work well and is worth trying out. The unlicensed version lets you view fonts in suitcases but not recombine or convert them. Smasher costs $50 (or $25 if you already own an Insider product such as Font Agent Pro), and is a 3.8 MB download. Mac OS X 10.3 Panther or higher is required.


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