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I recently added a large number of fonts to my system (OS X 10.6), and have run into a strange problem where HTML formatted emails are rendering with an unexpected font. I have put an example below.

Image with Example of Strange Font

Until recently this and other HTML emails would render with a basic sans serif system font, as you'd want and expect. This problem appears to be confined to Mail, as other rendered HTML (i.e. Safari, etc.) is working fine.

I have looked for font preferences within Mail, but have only found those related to text for composing new email (apple-T).

  • Is there a hidden control accessible via a plist or the Terminal for fonts within Mail?
  • What is the font or fonts on the system that I could try removing or resetting which have this type of system-level effect?
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Preferences -> Fonts and Colors -> Message Font is a sane choice (e.g. Gill Sans)? – Daniel Beck Oct 7 '10 at 18:08

Can you verify in Font Book that your fonts have not been "corrupted" in some way? There is a default font for HTML e-mails in the Preferences of, and I would start there.

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Hmm... I didn't realize this could happen. I'm purging some fonts that Font Book has identified as having serious problems now. Will update once it is done. What does it mean when Font Book flags up problems with a font? Just looking for some background! – dtlussier Oct 7 '10 at 21:33
I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure how OS X handles fonts internally. – Nick Oct 7 '10 at 21:54

Maybe this article from Macworld can help you.

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Thanks - unfortunately this is a bit old (2005) and there have been significant changes since 10.4 in how fonts are managed. – dtlussier Oct 9 '10 at 2:14
up vote 0 down vote accepted

After some looking spurred on by the other comments to this question I came across a couple of very detailed links on how fonts are managed on OS X.

  • Font in OSX with special emphasis on application to graphic design work:

  • Info on using FontBook:

After working through the steps listed and doing a few restarts I was able to fix my issue. I suspect it was a bad font which caused a conflict with presented as Arial. There is lots of information in the first link, on what can cause font conflicts and how to avoid them.

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