Universal Type Server 3 review
Price: Lite, £1,138.80 (10 clients); Professional, £1,486.80; Enterprise, £3,474; Client licenses, £135.60 (volume discounts apply)
Pros: Auto-activation plug-ins for InCopy and Photoshop (now compatible with CS5.5)
Cons: Enterprise-level features too expensive for small businesses, who could benefit from them
Asset-management is big business these days – ask anyone responsible for compiling the annual audit of hardware and software for a company of any size. In this respect, fonts can be a particular headache, especially as a business expands to include at least one design specialist. In practical terms too, fonts are the bugbear of many an IT professional who finds that an inexperienced user has just managed to delete a number of system fonts, and has an unusable Mac as a result. Then there are those unlicenced fonts that may lurk on someone’s Mac – an expensive accident if they are used without a licence.
For these, and other, reasons, font management has received particular attention over the years, and Extensis has made some notable contributions to that area, not least Suitcase (desktop font management solution), an essential part of many a designer’s toolkit.
For multiple, networked users other solutions are needed, and Universal Type Server (UTS), now in its third major iteration, was designed to fulfil that requirement.
The User Management Application allows you to add and amend clients and users easily
So, what’s new about this latest version? One major change is that the server software no longer has to be installed on a boot partition, which means that operating system changes can be made without the disruption of having to reinstall your font management setup.
Completely new this time around is an Enterprise Edition, which we suspect will become a favourite of IT managers and support staff, allowing the set up of a second Universal Type Server as a failover. Database gurus will be pleased to note that Universal Type Server Enterprise Edition also allows the use of an external SQL database, making for more efficient maintenance of user and font records.
Except for the Lite version, which includes licences for 10 users, client licences are sold separately, though these are for concurrent users, meaning you only have to buy licenses for the maximum number of users logged in at any one time, not for every employee.
We installed Universal Type Server on a Mac server within a small office network – at this point we should say that upgrading users who do not download and follow the instructions provided by Extensis are liable to come unstuck. The installation itself, however, proceeded smoothly, and we were soon presented with the main, browser-based admin interface.
One feature common to all but the Lite version of UTS is the importing of users from directory services such as LDAP, meaning that large numbers of users can quickly be added as clients. Otherwise, users can almost as easily be added via the browser-based Users Management Application. Once users have been added, the client software can be installed (or upgraded) as appropriate, and fonts added.
On closer inspection, we were pleased to see that Universal Type Client has inherited a number of features from its desktop sibling Suitcase Fusion, notably QuickMatch, a technology allowing for glyph-level comparisons, so that similar fonts can quickly be found and substituted.
Another new feature, Font Snapshots, allows the making of a quick PNG preview file of the font you have chosen for a project, so that it can be emailed to a client for approval. On top of this, the addition of Auto-Activation plug-ins for Photoshop and InCopy CS4 and CS5 would make for a remarkable new feature set in itself, but there’s much more besides, including Tear-Off previews (as the name implies, drag a font preview and it will float above your workspace without having to activate the font), and the ability to create a font set from a selection.
It’s impressive that Extensis has refused to rest on its laurels with Universal Type Server 3. It has taken an already mature product and added features that will please both creative and IT support staff, without sacrificing usability.