Font management heavyweight Extensis will release a new product next week that it says will bring font management into the modern era. As non-designers, we’re interested in the steps this niche product is taking that are similar to emerging industry wide trends.

The makers of the popular Suitcase font manager are now combining that product’s user friendly front end with acquired technology to power the back end IT control. The Extensis Universal Type Server will offer Mac and Windows server software, a web interface for administration, offline access to shared fonts and granular user groups and control.

Extensis has released a series of videos demonstrating the product (see below) and it looks quite nice. The company’s primary competition appears to be Insider Software’s Font Agent Pro. Extensis says that their product is superior because it is identical on both Mac and Windows and has greater IT control on the back end. The front end, though, won’t be available for Windows machines for a few weeks. Since cross-platform usability is a big question in this software vertical, releasing the product prior to the availability of a Windows user interface seems like a questionable move. So many designers use Macs, though, that maybe it will work out ok.

For the best view of the video below, click menu and then select full screen.

Font Agent Pro has made its own video series on YouTube, including customer testimonials alleging that Extensis products haven’t solved their problems as well as Font Agent Pro’s. Those videos have embedding turned off and have hardly been viewed by anyone at all, but it’s humorous to watch two niche products fight it out on YouTube. Customer discussion of Extensis products on Twitter, for what it’s worth, is almost universally positive.

We don’t regularly review B2B software here, but when we do we’re noticing that an increasing number of them are moving towards cross-platform, client-server solutions instead of Software as a Service. Font management probably wouldn’t work as a entirely hosted software, but the trend is notable none the less as questions bubble up about the long term viability of the expected transition to a wholly Software as a Service world.

The Extensis Universal Type Server is available for pre-order now, will ship on June 18th and is available for user groups large and small.

marshall kirkpatrick