Funky Graphics on Your Browser? Text Scrambled and Illegible?

Corrupted Microsoft FontI recently had a funky problem on my Mac that really flummoxed me. Here is a picture that shows a page from my own site: it has heavy black diagonal lines and triangular boxes slashing across the page. I discovered this error in various pages on the internet, in my email and in a Powerpoint presentation that a PC user sent to me.

I asked my Mac computer tech if he had any idea of what could be the problem. I had noticed this same problem years ago on my previous Mac laptop and never did figure out what it was because it eventually went away. Now it was back on my new Mac! This was really irritating. I found that the only way I could read some of these messed up pages was to copy and paste the text block into a TextEdit document.

The following email thread documents the problem and arrives at a final solution.

>> On Aug 15, 2009, at 1:26 PM, A Marr wrote:
>> These are two pictures from my own site — one that works and one that’s messed up.

>> I checked the documents: both get the CSS from an external stylesheet. You’re right: the tags should not mix, plus the tag does not have an end tag, but this is not where the problem is, I’m sure.
>> The error is in the Dreamweaver document too, but I don’t think that that is where the error lies, since I have seen the same problem on various websites when I browse the web. It seems to be connected with the browsers.
>> Aliyah Marr

> Subject: Re: text problem?
> One easy thing to try is to log in as a different user and then go to the troublesome websites. You may have to create a new user (with Admin privileges) in System Preferences -> Accounts. If the sites look good then the problem lies in your user account. If nothing changes, then look for the problem outside the user account.
> Here are some suggestions from Adobe:
> 6. Restart in Safe Mode and then restart again to clear the font cache. (Mac OS X v10.4.x and later)
> In Mac OS X 10.4.x, safe mode disables all fonts other than those in the System\Library\Fonts folder, and it moves to the Trash all font caches normally stored in \Library\Caches\\[uid] where [uid] is a user ID number such as 501.
> To start up in Safe Boot or Safe Mode, do the following:
> 1. Shut down the computer.
> 2. Press the power button.
> 3. Immediately after you hear the startup tone, press and hold the Shift key.
> 4. Release the Shift key when you see the gray Apple and progress indicator. During startup in Mac OS X v10.4.x or later, you will see “Safe Boot” on the login window, even if normally you log in automatically.
> To leave Safe Mode, restart the computer normally, without holding any keys during startup.
> 7. Remove font files from all Mac OS X fontfolders, except the System/Library/Fonts folder.
> Mac OS X uses fonts–without regard to font format–from the following locations in the order listed:
> 1. Users/[user name]/Library/Fonts
> 2. Library/Fonts
> 3. Network/Library/Fonts
> 4. System/Library/Fonts (Avoid making changes to this folder. It contains .dfont fonts that Mac OS X requires for system use and display.For more information, visit the Apple Web site at
> 5. System Folder/Fonts
> Move font files from the Fonts folders in the Users, Library, and Network folders to the desktop or other location, and restart the computer. If the problem doesn’t recur, the problem is caused by one or more of the font files you moved. Replace font files a few at a time to determine which font is causing the problem. (For example, replace font files that start with A-E to the System/Library/Fonts folder, and then restart the computer. If the problem doesn’t recur, add another small group of font files. If the problem does recur, one of the font files you just added may be the cause: Remove the font files, and add them back one at a time, restarting the computer each time until you find the particular font file that causes the problem.) When you find the font file that causes the problem, reinstall the font from the original media.
> [After moving them, make sure you put the Font folders exactly where they came from!]
> 9. Try a third party utility to clean out the system font cache.
> Download Leopard Cache Cleaner from It works with Tiger, too. Run in Demo mode and select Caches tab with these settings:


> I tried the Adobe fix. When I first emptied the font folder, putting the fonts on desktop, and rebooting, everything online was better, but the Powerpoint document still had problems. I decided to ignore the PPT problem for now and put back every font except the following:
> any TTF (true type font)
> any Microsoft font
> any font that wouldn’t come up in FontBook when I double-clicked
> any foreign font
> any weird font no one ever uses
> My online pages are fixed! As for the Powerpoint presentation, well, I know those guys are PC users. Who knows what fonts they used.
> New development:
> I was looking in FontBook and discovered the graphical error there in Arial Bold Italic under User account. The same font is OK on the Computer account. I figure the font from Computer has been duplicated and the dupe is corrupted. When I try to remove the font (from the user), it won’t let me. So I am going to create a new user, reboot under that user and remove the corrupted font. Then I am going to dupe it again from the Computer original. Should solve the problem.



MS Office has its own font caches:
> Try deleting the following files/folders:
> ~/Library/Caches/
> ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office Font Cache
> and check for persistence of the issue.

Let me know if that fixes it.



Well, I couldn’t seem to get rid of the Arial Bold Italic font in the user folder; it kept coming back each time I deleted it from Font Book. So I created a new user account with Admin privileges, but once there, I couldn’t see the User account fonts in Font Book. So I logged out and re-logged into my original account.

Surprise! All font problems fixed! Even the PPT presentation.

Goes to show that whenever there is a funky problem on the Mac, one should first search everything Windows. The French say that whenever there is a mystery or problem, “Cherchez la femme.” Look for the woman.

My new quote: “Cherchez le Microsoft!”

I just removed the Microsoft caches as you suggested.

Thank you so much! I had no idea that it could be the fonts, but you keyed me into that possibility.

The thing that really let me know which fonts it was was looking in Font Book (the error was only visible in the browser window, not in the window that pops up when you double-click the font in FontBook), but I suspected one of the PC browser fonts all along as the browser was what was affected the most. Makes sense: Windows PPT users use the same stupid fonts. Especially those who aren’t designers.

Aliyah Marr

“What do you want to create today?”

I coach artists, designers, authors, and entrepreneurs through the entire creative process.

• develop a personal vision
• establish a personal brand
• creation of supportive materials (website, blog, book, webinar, video, etc.)
• market product/service
• promote via viral and social networks

Parallel Mind, The Art of Creativity


Final note from Apta:

Relogging in renewed the MS font caches with clean info.

Fonts are one of the most hideous things with computers and they can cause absurd problems.  It’s much better now than in the pre OS X days but still can bite you.  I wouldn’t trust Font Book to remove fonts.  Next time just go into the fonts folder, remove the font manually and restart to renew the caches.
Glad you fixed it and thanks for the details of what you did.
* apta