How to install fonts in MacOS

In the article published at the beginning of this week we showed you how to install fonts in Windows. Today is time to give MacOS users a chance to learn how to do that in their favourite operating system.

MacOS font locations

Compared to Windows, Apple’s operating system does not have a centralised folder where all fonts are saved. Instead, there are four different directories which serve slightly different purposes. The following table describes them (from Apple Support):

NoteNote: The tilde sign (~) represents a user’s home folder. You can type it by pressing Alt + 5. Alternatively, you can replace it with the variable $HOME.

Directory Purpose
~/Library/Fonts

There’s one of these folders for each user in the computer. All fonts installed here will only be available to the user the home folder belongs to and unavailable to everyone else (unless the others install it manually or an administrator installs it for all users).

/Library/Fonts Not to be confused with the previous entry, this folder is located in the system-wide Library folder that resides in the root of the hard drive. This directory contains fonts that are available to all users in the computer. Only administrators can add fonts here.
/Network/Library/Fonts If you don’t have a MacOS server somewhere in your house or business, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever use or even see this folder. It makes sharing the same fonts across multiple computers on the same local network. Only network administrators can add fonts here.
/System/Library/Fonts

This folder contains all fonts necessary by the operating system itself and applications. Only administrators can modify its contents (it doesn’t appear to be protected with System Integrity Protection), but Apple advises against tampering with it.

/System Folder/Fonts

This folder is only available on OS X 10.4 or earlier and contains fonts required for compatibility with the Classic environment, which allowed to run Mac OS 9 software.

How to install fonts in MacOS

Installing through the GUI

Installing through Font Book

NoteNote: No matter what method you choose, some applications may require a restart before they can recognize newly-installed fonts. To close an application, click its name on the menu bar and select Quit. Alternatively, right-click its icon on the dock and choose Quit.

Similar to Windows, you can see a preview of a font by double-clicking it. Doing so will open Font Book, an application that lets you browse installed fonts, search for characters, and add new ones. Think of it as a hybrid between Windows’ Character Map and font Preview window.

You can install the font you’ve just opened by clicking the Install font button.

The Install font button at the bottom right corner of the window will allow you to install the currently-previewed font.

Pro-tipPro-tip: By default, Font Book will install fonts for the current user only. To modify this behaviour, open Font Book‘s preferences by clicking its name on the menu bar and then on Preferences. In the window that appears, replace User with Computer.

Installing by dragging and dropping

As you can imagine, installing multiple fonts via Font Book isn’t exactly convenient. Thankfully, you can still drag-and drop font files in one of the folders described above.

Installing for the current user only

Open Finder and browse to the folder containing the fonts you want to install. On the menu bar, click File and select New Finder window. Make sure the new folder is selected and then click Go > Go to Folder… in the menu bar. Type in the destination ~/Library/Fonts.

Drag the fonts you want to install in ~/Library/Fonts and you’re done.

Installing for all users in the computer

This method is similar to the one described above. Make sure you are an administrator for the device. Follow the exact same steps, but instead of using the path ~/Library/Fonts, use /Library/Fonts instead (notice how it’s missing a leading tilde). Drag and drop the fonts you want to install.

Installing via the command line

Normally, installing fonts through the command line isn’t necessary, but it’s fun, amirite?

Installing a single font file

Assuming you already know where the font file you want to install is located, you can use the command

cp /path/to/font-file.ttf ~/Library/Fonts

to copy the file. If you’d rather move the file, use the mv command, like thus

mv /path/to/font-file.ttf ~/Library/Fonts

This will install the font for the current user. If you want to install the font for every user, remove the leading tilde, like this:

cp /path/to/font-file.ttf /Library/Fonts

or

mv /path/to/font-file.ttf /Library/Fonts

Installing multiple font files from the same directory

Since both mv and cp support shell globbing (i.e., the use of * as a wildcard to mean “everything”), you can use the command

mv /path/to/*.ttf /~/Library/Fonts

or

cp /path/to/*.ttf ~/Library/Fonts

to move or copy any file ending with the .ttf extension to ~/Library/Fonts. As expected, you may remove the leading tilde to install the font files system-wide.

About Andrea Luciano Damico 117 Articles
Andrea Luciano Damico is a freelance translator from Italy. Among his interests are linguistics, technology, video games, and generally being a chill guy. He runs Let's Translate.it and Tech4Freelancers.net.