Troubleshoot font issues in Adobe applications on Mac OS X

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.

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

1. Check whether the font format is supported.

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:

  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.

 6. Clear the font cache.

Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther)

  1. Close all applications.
  2. Drag the following files and folders to the Trash.




  3. Restart the computer. You can't empty the Trash until you restart.

Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger)

  1. Close all applications.
  2. Go to /Library/Caches/ and drag the folder to the Trash.

  3. Restart the computer. 

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and later

  1. Close all applications.
  2. Launch Terminal
  3. Enter the following command at the prompt and press Return: atsutil databases -removeUser

  4. Enter the following command at the prompt and press Return: atsutil databases -shutdown

  5. Enter the following command at the prompt and press Return: atsutil databases -ping

  6. Quit Terminal

7. Remove font files.

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.

8. Use a current version of the font.

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.

9. Clean out the system font cache.

Customers can be directed to use the freeware utility Font Cache Cleaner. The utility and instructions to use it are at the following address: 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.

Disclaimer: Adobe does not directly support the use of Font Cache Cleaner. 

10. Troubleshoot for damaged fonts.

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. At the Finder, choose File > Find.
  3. Type AdobeFnt.lst, select the system drive, and then press Return.
  4. Delete all AdobeFnt.lst files found (for example, AdobeFnt10.lst).
  5. Restart the computer.
  6. Restart InDesign. InDesign creates new AdobeFnt.lst files.
  7. 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. Quit Font Book and all other open applications.
  2. 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.

  3. Delete your font cache. To delete your font cache, do the following:
    1. Open the Library/Caches/ATS folder.
    2. 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.

  4. If requested to authenticate trashing any of these folders, provide your Administrator password.
  5. Restart your computer.
  6. Log in to your account and empty the Trash.


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