List of font locations in Mac OS X

  • By Christopher Kielty, last updated September 07, 2016
  • Filed under: Mac

I recently experienced a pretty irritating problem where a certain program was unable to find the Helvetica font on my Mac. I did some looking around and to my horror, there were a lot of different places where fonts might be hiding in my file system (ok, so I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it was more than I expected). Some apps may be able to find all the right fonts in all of these places. However, other apps just don’t seem to do this correctly. That’s a problem.

In the interest of better understanding the inner workings of OS X (and maybe even fixing this annoying problem), here is a list of the common locations of fonts in OS X that I am aware of.

  • ~/Library/Fonts (“~” means home directory)
  • /Library/Fonts
  • /System/Library/Fonts

Why are there so many different places for fonts? I’m not really sure, actually. I suppose it could be to keep system fonts, user fonts, and the (main?) fonts separated from each other. However, Inkscape, for one, appears to like all of its fonts in /Library/Fonts. In OS X 10.9 Mavericks, fonts like Helvetica seem to like to reside in /System/Library/Fonts.