29 Nov 2009 12 am eastern

Last Tangle in Firefox

Incorrect Helvetica in Firefox rendition of zeldman.com

Snow Leopard plus FontExplorer X equals screwed-up fonts in Firefox (especially Helvetica).

  • Google Search on “Snow Leopard Firefox FontExplorer X” reveals numerous incidents of CSS displaying incorrectly in Firefox (wrong font weight, wrong font style) when Font Explorer X is on Snow Leopard Macs.
  • My Flickr thread contains a screenshot demonstrating the problem plus a useful discussion of causes and possible workarounds.
  • Disabling FontExplorer X solves the problem.

Update: Buying FontExplorer X Pro and clearing font caches also solves the problem. (The problem is with Apple’s fonts, not with Firefox or FontExplorer X, but it takes mediation to fix it.)

Filed under: Browsers, bugs, Compatibility, CSS, Design, Fonts, OSX

21 Responses to “Last Tangle in Firefox”

  1. Chris Wallace said on

    I have definitely experienced the problems you are referring to. Very annoying.

  2. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Disabling FontExplorer X seems to be the answer. Pity. I love that program.

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  4. Ryan Gasparini said on

    The same thing happens for me with Windows when I have Helvetica enabled via Adobe Type Manager.

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  6. Mark said on

    I had the same issues after upgrading to Snow Leopard, with additional font inconsistencies crashing Google Maps in either Safari or Firefox. Eventually I moved from the free FontExplorer to FontExplorer Pro (2.03) and ran the system and application cache clearing tools from within the program — atsutil db commands in terminal hadn’t resolved the issue — and haven’t had any issues since. Unfortunate that the free version is essentially unsupported in 10.6

  7. Dominic said on

    It seems there are other variables at play, because this doesn’t always occur. I can’t replicate this – at least I should spot it if and when it does.

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  10. Oh Hai said on

    Another reason to abandon Firefox.

  11. John Daggett said on


    Did you clear the font cache after upgrading? We’ve had reports of various problems that appear to boil down to font cache corruption problems. Reboot, hold down Shift to reboot in Safe Mode (which clears font caches), then reboot again normally.

    Also, do you have other versions of Helvetica Neue around, beyond the ones that Apple ships? Are they Type1 or OpenType? And what’s the version of Font Explorer X you were using, I’d like to see if I can duplicate the problem.



    John Daggett
    Mozilla Japan

  12. Wez Maynard said on

    I had the same problem with Font Agent Pro – the issue is with system fonts rolled up in the OS – and my ‘proper’ versions of helvetica/neue (all 100+ of them) in my font agent.

    Again disabling these fonts has cleared the issue… Just need to remember to turn them back on for Print work. :( Im running Leopard btw – which i loathe. Tiger ‘just worked’, kinda wish i didn’t upgrade. I’ll be giving Snow Leopard a miss – thats for sure!

  13. Sam Brown said on

    I’ve been tearing my hair out over this problem for a few weeks now, except I am having the same issues in Safari. Will try clearing my Font Caches as John described above and if that doesn’t help looks like I too will have to disable FontExplorer X. Thanks J.

  14. Ben said on

    #aerm, no ? Not here, 10.6.2 // FontExplorer X pro

  15. Kari Pätilä said on

    The same thing happened with a fresh copy of Windows 7 after running Windows Update. No font managers or even additional fonts installed.

  16. awesomerobot said on

    I know everyone loves FontExplorer X – but before upgrading to pro (if you do) I REALLY recommend looking at Font Case (http://www.bohemiancoding.com/fontcase/) – if you work in an office the share feature alone it worth it.

  17. Paul Irish said on

    FontExplorer is a bit more obtrusive than this, still.

    from http://paulirish.com/2009/bulletproof-font-face-implementation-syntax/#fontexplorerfail:

    Some people experience a dialog asking for permission to use a local font. This only happens in webkit. [screenshot]

    Thibault Bardat-Bujoli indicated that this behavior is due to Linotype FontExplorer X. For any font added but not 'activated', it will intercept requests to use it. You can disable this behavior within the FontExplorer UI [jpg]. I have heard no reports of this behavior on machines lacking FontExplorer

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  20. rick said on

    so glad i searched the mozilla bugbase and followed the link here. thought i was going crazy.

    similar thing happening to me – a good illustrative example is http://www.macintouch.com.

    if i have my firefox default proportional font set to helvetica neue lt std (from linotype) the section headings and dates render as bold outline fonts instead of bold.

    if i switch to the generic helvetica neue that apple ships it works again.

    i’m on font agent pro 4.0.3 btw. cleared font caches (via cocktail) and that didn’t seem to make a difference.

    btw – 3.5.7 does not exhibit this problem, only 3.6rc1 – both on snow cat 10.6.2

  21. Round Diamond Solitaire Ring said on

    It seems there are other variables at play, because this doesn’t always occur. I can’t replicate this – at least I should spot it if and when it does.

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