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Mac OS X: Font locations and their purposes

Mac OS X has multiple Fonts folders. Where you install a font determines who can use it and when.

Managing fonts with Font Book

It is recommended you use Font Book (included with Mac OS X v10.3 and later) to install, remove, view, organize, validate, enable, and disable fonts. See Mac 101: Font Book for detailed information.

If you wish to manually manage fonts instead, see the next section.
 

Manually managing fonts

Note: Mac OS X has four or more Fonts folders, depending on software installation and number of users. This article differentiates them by pathname. To learn more about pathnames, please see: this article.

You may install fonts by double-clicking them and following the on screen prompts in the Font Book application, or by manually copying or dragging font files to any of the standard Fonts folders in Mac OS X.

The folder in which a font is located determines who can access and use the font. For example: If a user manually installs a new font at ~/Library/Fonts/, the font is available only to that user. If a root or admin user installs the same font at /Network/Library/Fonts/, all network users can use the fonts (assuming that the network administrator has set up computers for this type of sharing).

Changes to fonts take effect when an application is opened or a user logs in to the account or computer on which the changes occurred. Duplicate fonts are resolved based on the order of precedence defined for the standard Fonts folders and are described from highest to lowest priority below.

Note: Some fonts are required by applications such as those included with iLife or iWork. If you find that projects related to these applications don't look the way you expect, or if the application no longer opens after disabling a font, try re-enabling the font and check again.


Font locations

Note: The tilde character (~) represents a user's Home, which may be local or remote.

Font use
Font folder location
Description
"User" ~/Library/Fonts/
Each user has complete control over the fonts installed in their Home. These fonts are available to that user when he or she is logged in to the computer. Fonts installed here are not available to all users of the computer.
"Local" /Library/Fonts/ Any local user of the computer can use fonts installed in this folder. Mac OS X does not require these additional fonts for system operation. An admin user can modify the contents of this folder. This is the recommended location for fonts that are shared among applications.
"Network" /Network/Library/Fonts/ The Network folder is for fonts shared among all users of a local area network. This feature is normally used on network file servers, under the control of a network administrator.
"System" /System/Library/Fonts/ Mac OS X requires fonts in this folder for system use and displays. They should not be manually altered or removed.
"Classic" /System Folder/Fonts/ This folder contains fonts used by the Classic environment (Mac OS X v10.4 or earlier only). If more than one Mac OS 9.1 System Folder is present, only fonts in the System Folder selected in the Classic pane of System Preferences are used. Classic applications can access only these fonts, not those stored elsewhere. Conversely, Mac OS X applications can use these fonts, even when the Classic environment is not active.
Last Modified: Feb 21, 2012
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  • Last Modified: Feb 21, 2012
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