1 March 2013
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Choosing the best custom fonts plugin for WordPress

Today I’m going to review four WordPress plugins that can help you get custom fonts set up easily on your blog.

Custom fonts have swept the web, starting with Flash & Javascript based solutions such as sIFR and Cufon. Next came @font-face and high quality hosting services such as Google Web Fonts, Typekit and Fonts.com.

Whichever you choose, you’re eventually going to have to install it on your website, and if you don’t want to take the path of installing it yourself, there are a plethora of plugins that can help you.

The thing that irks me most about using plugins though, is their poor usability, lame interfaces and clunkiness.

Here, I’ve rounded up and tested the 5 best, and given them a score and brief description so you can make up your own mind.

Anyfont

The reason I wanted to review Anyfont was because it provided the feature of uploading a font from your computer, and using it on your blog.

I was hoping for something easy, something for the masses. And to an extent, it worked.

As you can see here, the default setting is to generate images based on the .otf or .ttf you upload. Which is easy, but… very ugly. The anti-aliasing is shocking. Well, the complete lack of antialiasing for this feature is probably the cause!

After signing up for a fontserv.com account (the service that Anyfont uses to convert your fonts to web fonts, much like Font Squirrel), I found my way around the (cluttered) UI to enter my API key.

This allows you to convert fonts, and use the CSS attribute @font-face to create beautiful web fonts.

After that, I found it quite hard to find the button to actually convert the fonts! Hidden away, you click ‘Convert to CSS font’ and get notified Fontserv is processing your fonts.

Then you need to head over to the create styles page, and finally go back to the first settings page to activate it on the main settings page.

In my opinion, the UI is incredibly tedious to use.

If you’re one of those people that slugs around a plugin until it works though, it’s a handy too. If you manage to get as far as setting it up properly, the results are as you expect- nicely embedded @font-face fonts. All without touching any code.

Unfortunately for me though, the UI killed it.

I’d probably find a better font using one of the coming plugins that use this plugin in my own projects. The reliability on a fontserv account is a little bit of a killjoy too. That said, it may work well for some people that have pre-existing fontserv accounts (though I can’t imagine anyone that would!).

Overall, I give it a 5/10.

5 points for being able to upload your own fonts, 0 for UI and 0 for usability and ease of use.

WP Google Font

Sneakily hidden in the Settings Menu in wp-admin, this plugin was a pleasant surprise to use. It has a clean UI without fluff, cleverly limits your custom fonts to 6 (as to not need too many resources), and the ability to add custom CSS to each selector.

Simple, no-frills settings page for easy use.

It’s no frills and it works. With the enormous Google Web Fonts library at your finger tips, it would be hard to not go with this plugin.

Out of all I review, it’s my favourite. The only thing that is lacking, is the ability to preview fonts. This caveat means you have to first find the font you want on the Google Web Fonts page, and find it in the list. A small sacrifice for such an easy to use plugin.

Seamless Google Web Fonts.

Another caveat I found, was the inability to add custom selectors, i.e. if you’re after a specific button to add the font to.

Overall, I give it 9/10 for it’s simplicity and effectiveness. Maybe that’s only because it’s powered by Google’s service, a mammoth font library.

Typekit

For me, the WordPress Typekit plugin was a bit of a let-down.

I was expecting some in-admin ability to add fonts to projects, publish them, etc. Instead, all I was faced with was a slot to put in my script, and then a slot to put in my custom CSS to use the fonts. Which by the way, it doesn’t provide in the back end. You’ve got to know your font names and CSS within projects on hand. IMO, you may as well skip the plugin and just put Typekit fonts in your theme.

Not to mention you have to have a pre-existing typekit account (adobe ID). If you can write CSS and know what the script does, you can modify your theme. A generally useless plugin to me.

2/10 for making it slightly easier to hook into wp_head() and wp_footer().

Font Meister

I was really excited to review this plugin. It promises a lot, being able to essentially syndicate all your font resources into one place for use across your theme. Font-Squirrel, Google Web Fonts, Font Deck and Typekit.

To an extent, the font-squirrel service works really nicely standalone. You can browse fonts, preview them, then download them to your install.

From there, you actually get to use custom selectors to tell the plugin which elements to target. As a developer, I like this. It’s the sort of no-frills approach that gets stuff done quickly.

The weird thing is, you don’t have access to the Google Web Font library easily. You have to enter a Google API key (which I didn’t even bother with) to access what I assume will be a project based system like Typekit.

Typekit requires a premium account to use this plugin for an API key. Same goes for Fontdeck. If the way it works is identical to the font-squirrel upload, this could prove to be an excellent plugin.

That is, if you have multiple font source subscriptions! I imagine you’d only go with one, and doubt people would subscribe to both FontDeck and Typekit. Who knows though!

And the winner is…

By far, the plugin that stood out the most to me was the Google Web Fonts plugin.It’s simple, easy to use, you can add custom CSS and it just works. Font-Meister also has serious potential for heavy web font users.

Unfortunately, the other two were sub par in various areas. If you can find a font you love on Google Web Fonts, I’d 100% recommend installing the WP Google Fonts plugin.

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