Extensis Suitcase Fusion 4: New version brings useful features

Suitcase FusionExtensis has released Suitcase Fusion 4, and brought with it a few new features that designers will love. In doing so, Extensis has raised the bar for other font managers when it comes to integrating fonts in the print and web world.

For years (long before the OS X days) my font manager of choice has always been Extensis Suitcase. It’s always been reliable and worked as smoothly as can be expected. But when Fusion 3 was released, I began noticing problems. Nothing major, but it took forever to load, and the Fusion Core System Preference began to forget to launch quite often. It could have been my system and not Fusion, but I never found out. Overall it just wasn’t a smooth experience, so I switched to Font Explorer X and all was well… for a while. When Apple released Lion, however, Font Explorer began exhibiting all sorts of issues for me. As luck would have it, Extensis just released Suitcase Fusion 4. Within hours, it became my preferred font manager. Again.

At first glance, Suitcase Fusion 4 doesn’t appear to have changed much beyond the new icon (part of their new corporate re-branding). But use it for an hour or so and you begin to see they’ve changed much more than just its icon.

For starters, the problems I was having with slow load times of Suitcase, as well as Adobe InDesign with the auto-activation plugin installed, have gone away completely. Suitcase and InDesign both launch quickly and continued to run smoothly over the last two weeks. And because the Fusion Core is part of the app itself, there’s no System Preference amnesia to deal with anymore.

Suitcase Fusion 4 interface

The Suitcase Fusion 4 interface will look familiar to existing users

Integration

Fusion web font integrationThe first thing I noticed was that Extensis’ WebINK technology is fully baked-in to Fusion. Your purchased WebINK fonts show up right in Fusion’s font source list, as well as approximately 4,600 other available fonts for purchase and use on your websites. I actually use WebINK for the fonts you see here on The Graphic Mac – so it’s nice to have access to them right in Suitcase. But Extensis didn’t stop there.

You also have Google’s Web Fonts available at your disposal for use in any application. Google Web Fonts show up in the source list as a separate library as well, so there’s no confusion as to where a font came from.

Fusion feature goodness!

All the past and expected features such as auto-activation in Adobe CS apps, font smart sets, and identification/keyword tools are available in Suitcase Fusion. The ability to leave fonts in place or add them to the Fusion Vault is still there (I prefer to use the Vault to prevent corruption and make backups easier), but a few more goodies are really what makes Fusion 4 a great upgrade.

Fusion 4 introduces an independent font panel into Adobe Creative Suite apps that not only allows you to preview fonts, but create customized font digests for specific projects. The panel requires CS 5 or higher to work.

On the maintenance front, you can now check for font corruption and clear font caches right from within Fusion – avoiding the need for other 3rd party utilities. But the new feature that really made my day was QuickMatch.

Fusion 4 Quick MatchSelecting an available font from your installed fonts list and clicking on the new Quick Match icon displays a list of other fonts in your library that closely resemble the selected font.

OH HELL YEAH!!!

QuickMatch offers a slider to adjust the relevance of the matched results. You can also tick a checkbox to limit the results by font style or classification, making the task of finding just the right font quite simple.

To me, Quick Match is the killer feature that every designer will absolutely love!

And how’s this for cool… you can load an existing website (right from the web) and apply any font in your collection to the site to see what it will look like. Awesome! This is particularly useful if you plan on using the WebINK or Google Web Fonts technology I mentioned above.

Suitcase Fusion 4 is available for Mac OS X 10.5.8 and higher on an Intel Mac, and works with Adobe Creative Suite 3 and higher (I’m sure a CS6 plugin update will arrive shortly after Adobe releases CS6 to the public). The full version costs just $99.95, and upgrades from Fusion 2 or 3 cost just $49.95. A demo is available to see if Suitcase Fusion 4 is right for your preferred workflow.

With this latest updated, Extensis has cemented its dominant lead in the font management market, in my opinion. And it has certainly earned its place back in the Dock of my Mac Pro and MacBook Air.

If you’re in the market for a new font manager, or feel the need to use one for the first time, I HIGHLY recommend giving Suitcase Fusion 4 a try.