How I solved the A-in-a-box problem

Today a strange thing happened.  I was checking out the Kupima site and all of a sudden the fonts went weird.  Some (but not all) of the fonts were appearing as a capital A in a box.  Which of course was not the plan.

This was, by all accounts, a weird one indeed.  A quick search on the web suggested that the problem was probably not any particular website but something to do with the font library in OSX.  Thus, I dutifully loaded up the FontBook app:

Tip: it lives in the Applications folder in OSX, or you can use Spotlight to find it by pressing cmd-space and then typing font book.

Anyway, what it seemed to be is that some of the installed fonts had become a bit confused.  An identity crisis, of sorts.  I had duplicate fonts and others with ‘issues’.  The solution (in my case) was to highlight all fonts, right click and choose to ‘Validate’ the fonts.  Lo and behold, there were around twenty (!) in total that weren’t as they ought to have been.  And this on a new machine(ish); less than seven months old anyway.

With my list of ‘invalid’ fonts, I selected all and chose to remove the duplicate or invalid fonts.  This made things initially go from bad to worse, from frying pan to fire, so to speak.  However, this was simply existing applications getting even more confused as I’d effectively pulled the typographic rug out from under their little app feet.  Silly me.

Restarting the apps seems (so far, fingers crossed) to have solved this problem entirely.  I guess a full reboot would be a better bet but I hate rebooting my Macs – they tend to be on for weeks if not months at a time so I try to defer any reboots to ‘necessary’ things like system updates.

Hopefully this might help someone out there should they ever encounter anything similar on their Macs.  It’s a strange thing to have happen, and I’m still a bit puzzled why it targeted the fonts that it did (which, as it happens, weren’t even the root of the problem) but there you have it.

About John Clark

My name is John Clark and I previously ran a software house called Reynard Thomson, from which this blog originally grew. In the meantime, we launched a video-based user testing service (Kupima) which didn't really take off, and I have since moved into a new field specialising on software-based research & development consultancy. I'm active on LinkedIn, and would love to connect to anyone who has an interest in software prototyping or R&D:
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