You probably have several hundred fonts installed on your PC. Windows, Mac OS and Linux install a wide variety and you may have purchased or downloaded free fonts. If you’re like me, you’ll regularly browse font foundry websites when you need to create a new logo or title … but you’ll still end up using a font that’s installed on your PC.
Unfortunately, the font viewing applications supplied with most operating systems are basic. There are a few commercial and open source viewers, but many are clunky or won’t necessary run on your system. Fortunately, there are several browser-based alternatives which can preview your installed fonts.
In a word: Flash. Most of these systems use a Flash applet to retrieve font names — even if the interface is primarily HTML.
myFontBook was one of the first browser-based font viewers and it remains the best. Fonts can be previewed in a list or table format, printed, tagged or rated. You can use the application without registering but, if you do, your data is saved between sessions.
myFontBook offers more features than the competition. The only drawbacks are that it can be a little slow to start and you need to click a font to view custom text.
wordmark.it is the first site you should visit when creating your next logo. The interface is simple: the text you enter is previewed in every font. You can select and filter any number of fonts for a direct side-by-side comparison.
wordmark.it may not have the features of myFontBook, but it’s fast and functional.
flippingtypical.com is the only font viewer in this list which doesn’t rely on Flash. It should therefore work on your iPhone or iPad without problems.
The interface is similar to wordmark.it but it’s even faster. The main drawback is the database of font names flippingtypical.com uses; it can never be a fully comprehensive list so it won’t find all the fonts you’ve installed. On my PC, it located just 72 out of more than 400 fonts. That said, it remains a useful system for quick browsing.
Font Picker is one of the simpler tools in this list, but don’t let that put you off. Like wordmark.it and flippingtypical.com, you are presented with a list of fonts showing your custom text. You can then remove fonts by clicking the ‘X’ icon so a set of appropriate styles can be compared.
Unlike the tools above, STC FontBrowser is a full Flash application which was originally released in 2003. It’s very similar to a desktop-based tool.
Font browsing is fast since you’re only shown a list of all system fonts in plain text. You can click a font to see the preview text in that style. It’s an ideal application if you’ve already selected a font and want to experiment with longer text strings and multiple sizes.
Have I included your favorite browser-based font viewer? Do you prefer a desktop application? Comments welcome…
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.