Suitcase Fusion is probably one of the most stable and robust font management systems available. Version 3 has some new features that are bound to crush the competition. Suitcase Fusion has an integrated web fonts panel for Extensis’ new WebINK service and some other new features for local fonts that designers will like.
Suitcase Fusion 3 has received a slightly different interface with the new version. On top is now the preview panel, while at the bottom fonts are listed. This change of hearts is probably due to the biggest new feature in Suitcase Fusion: WebINK. WebINK is an online font rental service for web designers. With WebINK web designers can choose fonts for a web design, rent these fonts on a monthly or yearly basis and get help with the CSS code for embedding the rented fonts in their design.
WebINK is one of the first services to approach web font usage as an integrated part of the design process overall. It makes a lot of sense and it’s not to expensive. The services you’ll get are well thought out; the CSS code, for example, saves a lot of time and irritation because it’s not as straightforward to embed fonts from a third party server as you would think. I had the pleasure of testing WebINK briefly when it was still in beta, and I found it easy to use and effective for my test design.
Web fonts are going to become very important in the near future, so Extensis is well in time to catch a good deal of the market. In Suitcase Fusion 3, WebINK exists as another library, living peacefully besides your system font library and your local font library. When you select the WebINK library, you’ll immediately get access to your own sets. If you deselect WebINK, only the WebINK library icon reminds you of its existence.
WebINK fonts — and indeed, all fonts, including local ones — can be previewed in any web site by selecting the Web Preview option instead of “ABC” or “Waterfall”. Inside Suitcase Fusion 3 a special web browser will open, where you can navigate to the site you’re designing. All text ‘blocks’ on the web page you open in the Suitcase Fusion 3 browser will become selectable (a fat dashed border will appear around them). When you click on a text selection that you want to preview, the selection becomes static and will start showing fonts from WebINK or from your local font library as you click on them. You can select as many text blocks as there are on the page and fill each one up with a different font.
This, I found, is one of the most powerful and innovative features of Suitcase Fusion 3.
For print design, Suitcase Fusion has other novelties that make it a very strong contender in the font management market. Application Sets allow you to activate sets of fonts for any program, not just Adobe’s Creative Suite. It works with most applications, but not with some — e.g. BBEdit… Existing sets can be converted into Application Sets using the context menu.
With QuickMatch you can have Suitcase Fusion 3 show you fonts that are much alike the one you select before performing a QuickMatch query on your font database. The feature allows you to quickly find look-alikes both locally and on WebINK.
Auto-activation now works with Photoshop as well as with Illustrator, InDesign and QuarkXPress. Of course, Suitcase Fusion 3 is CS5 compatible.
Suitcase Fusion 2 had floating previews, which enabled you to see how specific fonts would look in specific documents. Version 3 now also has Font Snapshots, a tear off capability which produces a PNG file showing your font preview as a bitmap on a transparent background.
Finally, Suitcase Fusion 3 has a font cache cleaner and comes with a full license of Font Doctor to keep your font database healthy.
Suitcase Fusion 3’s biggest news is of course the integration with WebINK, but I believe the other new features are at least as important. In fact, I think the Applications Sets functionality will appeal to more users in the immediate future, because designers are only just now starting to use web fonts and so WebINK might even be a tad too early on the market in order for it to create big waves.
From experience and to my personal taste, I find Suitcase Fusion the best solution for font management, especially Suitcase Fusion 2 was a great application. After having used version 3 for about a month now, I can only say the best has got better. Suitcase Fusion 3 costs approx. 130.00 Euros.