Today FontShop Berlin announced the release of FontShuffle, a type specimen catalog for your iPhone or iPod Touch. When I read this I jumped out of my chair. I’ve been waiting for an app like this since like forever dude! But after downloading it and playing around with it this morning, I’m a little disappointed. First I’ll start off with some of the good things about this app and then I’ll get into the stuff that makes this app fall flat on its face.
The FontShuffle catalogue is constantly updated since it pulls directly from the FontShop database of fonts. Unfortunately it’s not their entire catalogue which would be really nice.
When viewing a font you can access the glyph chart by rotating the iPhone to the horizontal position. From there you can swipe your finger to the left or right to view the glyph charts of the previous and next fonts. This previous and next feature is also available when viewing a fonts main screen.
You can dynamically display any text in any font by simply typing it in. FontShuffle accesses the server and spits out the new text that you’ve typed in. On the same screen there is a camera icon, press it and it will snap a photo of the current text (without any of the surrounding interface elements) and saves it to your photo album. Pretty neat feature.
You can only view 6 fonts at a time and they are selected at random. Not sure why it’s limited like this. I’d prefer one long list of all the fonts in a category organized alphabetically so I can scroll through them. Currently, to list more fonts you have to either shake the phone or press the Shuffle button at the bottom. I really don’t get the point of this. Seems like a gimmick to me. They should remove that and just list all the fonts.
Each font listed is displayed at a random size using the word “Hamburgefont” and the actual font name is underneath, set in very small type in a light gray that’s hard to see. It would make more sense and be less confusing if the display word was the name of the font so that you can quickly scan the fonts. Also it would be great if you could define one type size for the entire list instead of setting each one in a random size. There is no value in comparing Helvetica 12pt to Folio 8pt. The size comparison should happen after you’ve selected a font and within a font family.
Once you’ve selected a font and you’re viewing the default “brown fox” text, there are no options to change the size, the leading or the kerning. You’re stuck with the default size and the awful kerning. Would be great to get the same options when viewing the glyph charts.
There is no global search to quickly find a font and test it.
The overall feel of the app feels unfinished. The fonts aren’t crisp, even in the glyph charts, the text in the buttons aren’t centered and personally I can’t stand when categories like Sans Serif, Serif, Script are actually set in those styles. To me it’s ugly, cheesy and pointless at this level. I prefer them to be set in a default font and then when you get down to the individual font list, that’s where you display the font style. Styling the word Script in a script font in rather insulting. As if we don’t know the difference between a script and a serif font. I also wish they’d capitalize the categories so instead of “serif” it would read “Serif”.
Oh and the icon isn’t so hot.
Overall, the app still feels like a beta and there are many elements that feel unfinished to me. With that said I’m still excited about this app and am looking forward to future releases. It’s a good start and I applaud them but hopefully FontShop addresses these issues and makes FontShuffle a robust type specimen guide for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform.