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Overcoming Font Overload in Windows

Part 1: Windows Font Limitations


In my Web travels I've noticed that most graphics enthusiasts also seem to be font collectors. In addition, many graphics software programs come bundled with hundreds of fonts. Most of them don't give you the option of which ones you want to install... they just dump all their fonts into your Windows FONTS folder. Often the fonts are visual duplicates of fonts you may already have under a different name. Add to that all those fun, cool, free fonts we find on the Web and before long your system becomes sluggish and you can't seem to figure out why.... Chances are, it's font overload!

Note to the reader: This article was originally written in 1999, when Windows 95 and 98 were the prevalent operating systems. Now most Windows computers are running Windows XP or Windows 2000 where font overload is not as much of an issue as it once was. Although newer versions of Windows areable to handle a virtually unlimited number of fonts, the tips in this article are still useful for keeping large font collections manageable no matter what your operating system.

Most of the information you read about fonts in Windows will say that Windows 95/98/Me can handle as many as 1,000 fonts. This may be true, but you are going to experience a decline in system performance much earlier than when you hit this number. The truth of the matter is, Windows 98 does not "reach its limit" according to the number of installed fonts at all... it has to do with the length of the font names and their filenames. Furthermore, if a font resides in a location other than the FONTS folder or the SYSTEM folder, the entire path to the font has to be stored in the registry, reducing the number of fonts you may install.

To further compound the problem, Windows 95/98/Me does not tell you when you have reached the limit of installed fonts and it will continue to let you think you are adding fonts to your system when in fact, you are not. Let me explain....

Once you reach that mysterious limit of fonts in Windows, you (or a program installation) can keep adding fonts to the Windows FONTS folder. The fonts will appear to be installed because they are in the folder, but they may not appear in the font menu of your programs. The fonts are unusable because you have reached your system's limit. When this occurs, you will find that as you delete fonts, the number of installed fonts that is indicated in the Status bar when viewing the Windows FONTS folder, does not change. This is because as you delete fonts, those extra, unusable fonts are moving up and becoming usable again. When you finally see this number in the status bar actually begin to decrease, you know you are making progress.

It's a good idea to keep the number of installed fonts below 400. If you do this you will find your system and programs will start faster and run much smoother. Does this mean you have to give up all your favorite fonts? Not necessarily... There are a few things you can do to have the best of both worlds. I'll discuss those later; first, I'll explain the safest way to trim down your font collection.

Next page > Trimming your Font Collection

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