Common Font activation issues in newer versions of macOS
MacOS 11 (Big Sur), macOS 12 (Monterey), and macOS 13 (Ventura) include and automatically-activate many common fonts such as Arial, Courier, Helvetica, Times New Roman, and more. This can create several issues with font management tools in regards to how they handle managing these same fonts included in a personal font collection since those fonts are already present and automatically-activated by macOS.
Fonts that macOS includes in their default font collection are called System Fonts.
In recent versions of macOS, system fonts are automatically activated and locked; as such, Apple does not allow the user to deactivate, move, or remove system fonts in macOS 11 and later. If a font resides in the /System/Library/Fonts location, it's a system font. Neither Connect Fonts nor Apple's built-in font manager Font Book.app are able to remove system fonts due to a security feature called System Integrity Protection native to macOS, which is used as a self-preservation technique to ensure macOS always has access to the fonts it needs to.
Below are examples of some Helvetica system fonts that are active and locked by macOS:
- Helvetica Bold
- Helvetica Bold Oblique
- Helvetica Light
- Helvetica Light Oblique
- Helvetica Neue (multiple faces)
For a full lists of System Fonts included in recent versions of macOS, see these articles:
macOS 11: Fonts included with macOS Big Sur
macOS 12: Fonts included with macOS Monterey
macOS 13: Fonts included with macOS Ventura
What can you do now?
If you have fonts in your personal font collection that share the same name or Postscript Name as any of the included system fonts, you will be unable to activate and use them as macOS will always favor using its own system font version instead.
Trying to activate fonts that are conflicting with system fonts can cause [?] icons to render in place of text in various applications, or be unable to render text where text should be.
To combat font conflicts, use the system font version supplied by Apple instead of copies from your personal font collection in any of your projects moving forward.
Extensis and others have provided ways over the last several years on how to minimize these system font conflicts to keep these issues to a minimum. For more on information about this, please download our macOS Font Management Best Practices guide.
We are also advising our customers to contact Apple directly to inquire about restoring the ability to manage their own system fonts in future versions of macOS, like was present in previous versions of Mac OS X.
If you have any additional questions please submit a support request for further assistance