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Troubleshoot font issues in Adobe applications on Mac OS X

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This document can assist you in resolving problems that occur when you install fonts or when using fonts with Adobe applications in Mac OS X. Font problems can manifest themselves in many different ways, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Fonts don't appear in the font menu of your applications.
  • Fonts don't print correctly.
  • Fonts in menus and dialog boxes have incorrect letters or characters.
  • Fonts don't appear correct onscreen.
  • Errors or crashes occur after installing fonts.
  • Fonts are available to certain users only. offers thousands of free fonts to enhance your own websites, documents, greeting cards, and more. You can browse popular fonts by themes, name or style. helps millions of designers across the globe expressing their creativity with much more diversity. On the Mac you use the Font Book to add the font and then copy it to the Windows Office Compatible folder. Many third parties outside of Microsoft package their fonts files to reduce file size and to make downloading faster.

To benefit most from this document, perform the following tasks in order.

If you use an unsupported font format, the system can't display or print the font in applications.

Mac OS X supports the following font formats:

  • .dfont
  • Multiple Master (Mac OS X 10.2 and later only)
  • OpenType (.otf)
  • TrueType (.ttf)
  • TrueType Collection (.ttc)
  • Type 1 (PostScript)

2. Make sure the font is installed in the correct folder.

Mac OS X includes five font folders that allow you to use fonts in different ways. You can install fonts to as many folders as required because Mac OS X permits duplicate copies of a font in the system. If fonts have duplicate names, Mac OS X uses fonts—without regard to font format—from the following locations in the order listed:

  1. Users/[user name]/Library/Fonts
  2. Library/Fonts
  3. Network/Library/Fonts
  4. System/Library/Fonts (Avoid changing this folder. It contains .dfont fonts that Mac OS X requires for system use and display. For more information, see Mac OS X: Font locations and their purposes.)
  5. System Folder/Fonts

Note: Fonts installed in System Folder/Fonts are available to all Classic, Carbon, and Cocoa applications.

To install a font in Mac OS X, do the following:

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  1. Quit all applications (to use the font in those applications).
  2. Log in:
    • If you're installing fonts to the Users/[user name]/Library/Font folder, log in with your user name.
    • If you're installing fonts to the Library/Fonts folder, log in as Administrator.
    • If you're installing fonts to the Network/Library/Fonts folder on a networked server, contact your network administrator.
  3. Drag the font files from the original media (for example, a CD) to one or more of the following folders on the hard disk:

    Note: When installing PostScript fonts, drag both the outline font file and bitmap font suitcase to the appropriate folder. (In Mac OS X, font suitcases look and behave like other font files. You can't open them by double-clicking the file as you can in Mac OS 9.)

    • System Folder/Fonts, to access the font in applications running in Mac OS X and applications running in Classic mode (Mac OS 9)
    • Library/Fonts, to access the font in all applications by all users in Mac OS X. (The font isn't available in applications running in Classic mode.)
    • Users/[user name]/Library/Fonts—used by a specific user in Mac OS X. (The font is available in all applications in Mac OS X only when you log in as the specified user.)
    • Network/Library/Fonts—accessed by remote users on a networked file server running Mac OS X over a local area network (LAN)

3. Check that both screen and printing files are installed. (PostScript fonts)

To use PostScript fonts in Mac OS X, install the bitmap (screen), or the suitcase containing the bitmap fonts, and outline (printer) fonts to the same folder. (Adobe bitmap font files use the font name. The outline files use a shortened, PostScript version of the font name [for example, 'Isabe' for the Isabella font].) If an outline font file isn't installed, the font can print incorrectly. If the bitmap font file isn't installed, the font isn't available in the font menu.

4. Use Adobe Type Manager (ATM) with Classic applications.

ATM prevents fonts from appearing jagged onscreen and therefore helps PostScript fonts print more smoothly on nonPostScript printers when running applications in Classic mode. You can download a free version of ATM Light 4.6 from the Adobe website.

5. Troubleshoot third-party font management software.

Deactivate all font management utilities, such as Extensis Suitcase Fusion, Insider FontAgent Pro, or Linotype FontExplorer X. Attempt to perform the action that previously produced the problem (launching your application, accessing the font menu, and so on). Then do one of the following:

  • If the problem recurs, move on to the next section below.
  • If the problem doesn't recur, reactivate your font management utility. Use it to perform a binary isolation of the fonts by disabling 50% of your fonts and comparing the results with both halves. Then, continue this process for the half that reproduces the problem.

Move font files from the Fonts folders in the Users, Library, and Network folders to the desktop or other location, and restart the computer. If the problem doesn't recur, one or more of the font files you moved is causing the problem. Replace font files a few at a time to determine which font is causing the problem. (For example, replace font files that start with A-E to the System/Library/Fonts folder, and then restart the computer. If the problem doesn't recur, add another small group of font files. If the problem does recur, one of the font files you just added could be the cause. Remove the font files, and add them back one at a time. Restart the computer each time until you find the particular font file that causes the problem.) When you find the font file that causes the problem, reinstall the font from the original media.

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Make sure you are using the latest version of the font.

To check a font from the Adobe Type Library, select the font file, and choose File > Get Info > General to check the creation date. (If you're using PostScript fonts, check the creation date for each outline and suitcase file.) If the font's creation date is before 1992, a new version of the font could be available. For upgrade information, contact Adobe Customer Support at 1-800-833-6687.

Corrupt font cache files cause fonts to appear damaged even if they are not. A common symptom is garbled text onscreen. Once the cache has been cleared, a corrupt font cache can be eliminated as the possible source of the problem.

A system error can occur if an application accesses a damaged font.

  1. Drag the contents of the Library/ Fonts folder to a new folder on the desktop. (If you manually added fonts to the Library/ Application Support/ Adobe/ Fonts folder, also drag those fonts to the new folder.)
  2. Type AdobeFnt.lst, select the system drive, and then press Return.
  3. Delete all AdobeFnt.lst files found (for example, AdobeFnt10.lst).
  4. Restart InDesign. InDesign creates new AdobeFnt.lst files.
  5. Try to re-create the problem. Then, do one of the following:
    • If the problem doesn't recur, move one font back to the Library/Fonts folder, and then repeat steps 5-6 until you identify the problematic font.
    • If you have a font management utility, restart it and activate fonts in small groups or individually to identify the problematic font.
    • If the problem recurs, move the contents of the new folder on the desktop back to the Library/Fonts folder.

Note: If no adobefnt.lst file is found in the search, make sure the search criteria are set to 'any' in the Find dialog box.

To troubleshoot fonts if you use Font Book, do the following:

Important: Do not empty the Trash before the final step in this process.

  1. Navigate to Home/Library/Preferences and remove the following files:

    Note: The first file is the preferences file for Font Book. The second file specifies the fonts you disabled in Font Book. After you delete, all previously disabled fonts load when you next log in. If you installed hundreds or thousands of fonts, the performance of your system could be slow when all previously disabled fonts are loaded.

  2. Delete your font cache. To delete your font cache, do the following:
    1. Locate and delete your font cache folder. For example, if you are the first user defined on your Mac, the folder is named 501. If you are the second user, the folder is named 502.
      Note: If you use Fast User Switching, several, folders could be in the ATS folder. Move them to the Trash.

  3. If requested to authenticate trashing any of these folders, provide your Administrator password.

After purchasing your fonts you’ll be presented with several font formats you can download. Read on to learn more about the formats, and more importantly, when to use each.

Desktop Fonts

If you’ve downloaded a desktop license, most fonts allow you to download both the OTF and TTF files. You should install only one format at a time. Installing and using both simultaneously could cause unexpected collisions.

This begs the question, “If I should only install one format, should I download the TTF or OTF files?”

Try OTFs First

In most cases we recommend that you download the OTF files. By default, clicking the download button will download these.

In the rare case that the foundry hasn’t provided us with OTF files, clicking the download button will instead download the TTF files. If the OTF files are unavailable there won’t be a dropdown arrow next to the download button.

If you need OTF files, ask our support team for OTF files and we’ll try to acquire these for you.

Check out our support articles for installing fonts on Windows and installing fonts on Mac.

Advantages of OTF Files

  • OTF files may contain additional alternative characters and typesetting features, including contextual alternatives, that can be used in supporting applications. Read more about Opentype features in our article OpenType 101 and blog post Typographic Feng Shui And OpenType.
  • OTF files tend to be significantly smaller than their TTF counterparts.

When Should I Use TTFs?

While most programs support OTFs, some software (especially older programs) only support TTFs or exhibit strange behavior when using OTFs. If you’re experiencing issues with an OTF font, we recommend that you completely uninstall the OTFs and try the TTF fonts instead. To download the TTF files, click the dropdown arrow next to the download button and select the option labeled “Download TTFs”.

We recommend that you restart your computer after installing the new fonts since some software won’t refresh their font cache. If you’re still experiencing issues, contact our support team.

In many cases you can still access the alternative characters and typesetting features available in the OTF fonts, however you have to search through their table of glyphs and copy the specific characters instead of using the more user-friendly OpenType controls.

What’s the technical difference between OTF and TTFs?


OTF stands for Open Type Format, a format for vector fonts developed by Microsoft and Adobe Systems in the mid-1990s. The format was based on the TTF format and intended to succeed it. Open Type Fonts (OTFs) can contain approximately 65,500 glyphs, supports the Unicode character encoding, and is supported cross-platform.

The glyph outline data within an OTF font can either be in the Compact Font Format (CFF) or TrueType format.

  • The CFF Format is based on the PostScript language. People sometimes refer to this format as OpenType PostScript or OT/CFF. This format uses cubic Bézier curves to describe the glyph outlines. As the name “Compact File Format” implies, these files are much smaller than files that use the TrueType format.
  • The TrueType format, sometimes referred to as OpenType (TrueType Flavor), uses the same method of describing glyph outlines as TTF fonts. This format describes the glyph outlines using quadratic Bézier curves.

The CFF format is far more popular. While foundries who sell through Fontspring are free to use either format, most OTF fonts have been produced in the CFF flavor.


TTF stands for True Type Format and was created by Apple in the late 1980s. It describes the glyph outlines using quadratic Bézier curves. This requires more points than cubic Bézier curves to describe the same line, but is simpler and faster for the computer to process.

TTF fonts also allows type designers a high-level of control over how the rasterizer converts the mathematically-defined glyph paths into pixels. This allows for crisp fonts at small point sizes when displayed on low resolution displays. However these days smarter rasterizers and higher-density displays have minimized the benefit of manual hinting. Most platforms today ignore much of the hinting information provided.

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TrueType-Flavored OpenType Files (OpenType TT) may use the TTF extension instead of the OTF extension to distinguish them from PostScript Flavored OpenType Files. OpenType TT files (regardless of whether they use the TTF or OTF file extension) are backwards-compatible with programs that support Windows TrueType fonts.

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Web Fonts

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Our basic webfont kit comes with the WOFF and WOFF2 file formats which have wide support across all modern browsers. View the browser support for WOFF and WOFF2. @font-face allows multiple fallback files to be listed, so if a browser doesn’t support WOFF2 it will download WOFF instead.

If you need to support legacy browsers, we also provide EOT, TTF, and SVG web fonts for download.

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Read more about our web font download options.