About the Fonts folder in Windows, Part 3 (aka What changes in Vista?)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/08/27 04:11 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2006/08/27/726378.aspx

Previous posts in this series:

This time, I will be just quickly talking about the changes in Vista. Qucik, because not very much has changed....

One thing that has not changed is that diaog for adding fonts that I talked about back in Part 2 of the series. Sorry folks, I know people have been wanting this one to go away. It won't be going away for Vista, though.

Another thing that has not changed much is the typical way people use to install and remove fonts -- dragging them in and out of the Fonts folder. Although, since Administrative permissions are still required to install fonts into the Fonts folder, the addition of the UAC feature to Vista will change the experience for some people. I mean, since even an Admin is not really an Admin anymore unless they okay the elevation.

Which gets us to something that has changed -- copying files to the Fonts folder and then opening the folder in an Explorer window, one of the weirdest ways to install a font programatically that I could ever imagine, will no longer work in Vista. As a feature, it never worked all that well anyway. Hopefully people won't miss it too much, if people do I'd love to know what you were doing with it....

Perhaps one of the biggest changes for fonts in Vista is that you no longer need to specially install other language fonts via checkboxes in Regional and Language Options. All languages are installed automatically, which is a wonderful thing for almost everybody (though there is a small group of people who unhappy with the huge font list. I look forward to an update to the ChooseFont dialog in a future version that manages the huge font list a little bit better.

Otherwise, it is business as usual for the Fonts folder, in Vista.

I'll be talking about Unicode version support of fonts in a future post....


This post brought to you by F (U+0046, a.k.a. LATIN CAPITAL LETTER F)

# Font Guy on 27 Aug 2006 11:58 AM:

If not in Vista, when *will* the font management experience, including the dialog, be updated? This is embarrassing!!! It's from Windows 3.x!!!

# Michael S. Kaplan on 27 Aug 2006 2:47 PM:

Well, you are the font guy. I should be asking you, shouldn't I? :-)

# Mihai on 27 Aug 2006 4:04 PM:

<<copying files to the Fonts folder and then opening the folder in an Explorer window, one of the weirdest ways to install a font programatically that I could ever imagine>>

And I think the the idea comes from Mac OS.
I would not call this "programatically" :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 27 Aug 2006 4:06 PM:

Well, I meant like in an automated method....

# Greg Hewgill on 28 Aug 2006 5:45 AM:

Not having ever had to manually install a font in Windows before, I was faced with the prospect of doing this on XP just the other day. The context was I had a program that required a certain font to be installed, and it would let me know if it wasn't installed. So, I tried what I thought would be a likely way to do this: I copy/pasted the file into the Fonts folder using explorer. I swear that didn't work. After futzing around trying a few things, I finally copied the file using the command prompt into the Fonts folder, and opened the font preview using Explorer. That finally worked, I think.

I was really expecting to be able to right-click on the font in its original location, choose "Install", and have the right things be done for me. Installing a font shouldn't involve having to know where it should be copied (and how to get it there).

# RubenP on 28 Aug 2006 4:13 PM:

What's so weird about copying font files to the Fonts folder? What on earth does Windows need to do to 'register' a simple .ttf or .otf file? To me, copying is the most natural way to think of 'installing' fonts. Does anyone actually do that, 'install' fonts?

It's like forcing people to use drag and drop to manage their files in the (My) Documents folder, rather than the command line, just because it's 'special'.

But then again, the Windows 3.x dialog is really a visual reminder of the age of Windows' font handling. A pity, as it's such an easy topic to score on, things being as they are.

BTW, how am I supposed to 'install' fonts within, say, a logon script? Or a command line?

# Dean Harding on 28 Aug 2006 10:24 PM:

Ruben: As pointed out in the original article, fonts may be made up of more than one file, so you need to install them properly to get them all linked up (for example, regular, bold and italic versions are specified in different files, but they're "logically" the same font, see the new Vista fonts for example, there's four different files that make up each of Calibri, Cambria and others).

Also, I assume that special pre-processing of the fonts happens to work out things like the scripts they support and so on. Better to do that stuff when the font is "installed" rather than doing it the first time you use them (especially if you've just installed a lot of fonts)

Besides, why would you install fonts in a login script? They're system-wide, so you only do it once. Typically, you'd install them with Windows Installer. Or if you just need them for your particular app, you can use private font collections (see: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2005/11/20/494829.aspx)

# RubenP on 29 Aug 2006 3:29 PM:

You're pretty much missing my point here. Sure, you've got .ttc files. So what? They're just files. Whenever you copy the file into the one and only Fonts folder, the font system should just pick it up.

The font system can cache available fonts as much as it likes, but it should never do 'magical' stuff, requiring exotic API's and whatnot. And it should never, ever get confused when someone uses a perfectly plausible way of adding a font: by copying the font file into the Fonts folder. If it doesn't like that, then don't allow that. Don't just allow it and ignore it. Backward compatibility is not an argument, as it's already not backward compatible to start with. (Used to work most of the time vs. doesn't work any longer = breaking change = not backward compatible.)

What's been created here, is an overly complex and obviously fragile system (hence the posts), for the most bare bones font management system on the market to date. If the font system had been designed along the OSX model, there would have been no need to explain these things. Otherwise, the Fonts folder should have been a hidden readonly system folder under System32, containing cryptic file names and subfolders (.NET GAC anyone?), and disallowing any user account to add or remove files from it.

And we STILL don't have per user fonts or font libraries. Or a decent installation window. Or a decent font selection window. Or GDI support for OpenType features. Or ClearType for .otc fonts. Just more limitations.

(And to paraphrase: Just say no to MSI's.)

# Sara on 21 Nov 2007 3:36 PM:

I had read this a few months ago, which helped me install my fonts from my XP to my Vista. But then I started opening old artwork files and would find missing fonts all over the place. So I went back to the XP machine, copied the font folder onto an external HD, plugged it into the Vista, opened the folder on the drive to install the missing fonts only to find them not listed in the folder.

I unplugged the HD, went back to the XP machine, plugged in, opened folder and there they were. Went back to the Vista, plugged in HD, opened folder and again the fonts were not listed. So how can I install font if Vista Explorer won't see them?

I even tried copying the folder onto the Vista and installing from there, but still no go for mainly the TrueType fonts.

So any ideas on what the issue is with my invisible to Vista fonts.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Nov 2007 3:55 PM:

What fonts are we talking about here?

# Keola Donaghy on 28 Nov 2007 5:45 PM:

Aloha, I found this series of posts very informative, mahalo. I work for our College of Hawaiian Language, and have had to deal with typography issues for Hawaiian for many years. Thought adaptation of Unicode would end my woes, but unfortunately it hasn't.

I'm hoping that Michael or some reader can point me to an installer application that we can use to create an installer package for our Hawaiian fonts. I have one that works on XP using Installer Creator, but it doesn't work on Vista. I've read a few forums that talk about elevated status and such in order to be able to write to the Fonts folkder. Even when using an admin account and turned off User Account Control, the installer runs and tells you that the fonts have been installed, but when you look in the fonts folder they have not. I'm hoping to find something cheap (or free!) and simple as this is the only Windows installer I need to create. Any help is gratefully appreciated.


# Michael S. Kaplan on 28 Nov 2007 5:53 PM:

You might want to put it in the suggestion box for a possible future topic?

# Tony on 30 Nov 2007 4:08 PM:

Hm, the Fonts folder has changed drastically in Vista.

I'm one of the people trying to install Office 97 SP2b and getting hung up because the installer can't rename Tahoma.ttf.

It seems in addition to all the nice NTFS ACLs, Microsoft in its infinite wisdom has added magical protection so that not even Administrator can change the privileges on fonts or the font folder.

So where's the manual override now?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 30 Nov 2007 5:58 PM:

Another one for the Suggestion Box? :-)

mark on 12 Jun 2008 5:50 AM:

I fully agree with ruben - why the hell cant windows just use whatever fonts are in the folder?

and in answer to

"Besides, why would you install fonts in a login script? They're system-wide, so you only do it once. Typically, you'd install them with Windows Installer"

well because i have to do it on 600 computers silently

I've found that copying the file(s) in AND merging a reg key from a pc that had it manually installed seems to work 99% of the time.

reg key same location the author mentioned

Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Jun 2008 8:19 AM:

Fonts are added via an overt act -- someone has to load them, and someone has to tell windows to load them next time you boot.

What they removed was the process catching the people "sneaking in" to register them later (a process FRAUGHT with bugs and problems). If it worked for you 99% of the time then all I can say is that this was not everyone's experience....

jdub_one on 26 Jun 2008 4:29 PM:

We have been battling the Type 1 install issues on Vista and found that if you select fonts in whatever folder (or CD) you are installing FROM and right click "Install" it worked. We are NOT using the install dialog from the Fonts folder.

- Have fonts in whatever folder/CD

- Sort by Type

- Select Type 1 files only (we are not grabbing the PFB)

- Right click and choose install

* We had some issues when selecting a lot at a time so we were limiting it to around 50 at a time. Not sure why, it's just what we did.

Not sure why but this seemed to work. Hope it does for someone else as well. Cheers.

Shaun on 9 Nov 2008 8:27 PM:

I unzipped a large number of font folders into my Windows/Fonts folder and now the unzipped folders are not showing up… my Fonts folder is only showing about 4,500 fonts and there are 65,000 fonts in there somewhere but they can’t be viewed and they’re not installed, just sucking up space and invisible. My “show hidden folders” option is enabled in Folder Options, and I can see the folders when I go into “Install Fonts”, but I can’t delete them!

Any ideas on how to access these folders that are obviously there, but unaccesible?

HippoMan on 18 Nov 2009 2:13 PM:

Sorry to come in so late. I just discovered this discussion.

I'm on a system where the %WINDIR%\Fonts folder is read-only. I can install fonts from other folders as long as "Copy Fonts to Fonts Folder" is not checked, but then, they are no longer installed after reboot.

Is there a command-line-based method to install my fonts that does the same as running the Fonts utility with "Copy Fonts to Fonds Folder" unchecked? If so, then I could arrange for this to always run at login, thereby loading my fonts without my having to repeatedly do so manually.

Thanks in advance.

greg aiken on 14 Apr 2010 1:04 PM:

so for all of this wonderful information, i would ask, 'how may one programmatically install a font to the newer vista and seven microsoft os's?'  the only hint of this ive found seems to come from this url.  


i havent had time to try it yet, but will soon...

possibly this is the simple answer for non-win32\64-api programmers?

Michael S. Kaplan on 14 Apr 2010 1:24 PM:

Yes, fontinst.exe does the best possible job here, though I've written about some limitations even there....

referenced by

2008/11/11 On blowing a font cache, and overwhelming a Fonts folder with the raw power of typography

2008/10/09 About the Fonts folder in Windows, Part 5 (Nothing personal!)

2008/09/14 About companies and their fonts

2008/07/02 On installing and removing fonts, Part 0: A long journey begins with the zeroeth step

2007/12/13 About the Fonts folder in Windows, Part 4 (Eto Akta Gamat, aka Magical Protection?)

2007/11/06 Like a mattress tag, the rule is DO NOT REMOVE

2007/05/26 On installing fonts

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