Since its debut, the font palette has always been highly flawed, but over the past few years I’ve come to terms with it, like many other designers, I’m sure. It has a handy feature that allows users to save preset typographic specimens — 12 pt. Helvetica Bold in black, for instance, or 17 pt. Comic Sans in purple — in a Favorites list that can be easily and more or less universally accessed. I’ve come to rely on that quite a bit because, as people who know my design sensibility reasonably well can attest, I use a hell of a lot of 12 pt. Helvetica Bold.
Below: One of these font palettes sucks less than the other. At left, the Panther version, which allows you to save the same font in many different colors. At right, the Tiger version, which does not.
Each time Apple releases a new version of Mac OS X, I cross my fingers and hope that they will improve this widget’s many usability shortcomings, to no avail. But neglect is something I can deal with; disabuse is another. If I’m correct, we’ve actually lost some functionality in Tiger’s font palette: it’s no longer possible to save more than one instance of a typeface/type size combination in your Favorites. So, if you want to add 12 pt. Helvetica Bold in green to a list that already includes 12 pt. Helvetica Bold in black, you’re out of luck. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s now impossible to save fonts in any color but black. Henry Ford would be proud.
I don’t know if this bug is a byproduct of changes to the font management system for Tiger, or perhaps the result of some well-meaning Apple engineer’s attempt at actually improving the font palette itself. I rather doubt it’s a case of the latter, because there are really no changes to the palette whatsoever, not even the addition of a method of actually deleting favorites. This palette has always borne the marks of a haphazard interface design process, one full of good intentions but very short on foresight, planning and a true understanding of user needs. For an operating system that habitually boasts its credentials as a premier creative platform, to leave this key typographic tool in a state of such disarray is a bit of an embarrassment.