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Presenting: The Acid Fonts Freeloader

Direct link to the app: Acid Fonts Freeloader

I don’t do a large amount of graphics or Web design related work, but every now and again I have the need to find a new (typically free) font to use on a logo, Web site, etc. For years, I’ve used a Web site called Acid Fonts.  Historically, Acid Fonts has hosted a large amount of free, and commercial, fonts.  Their selection is quite extensive.

Over time, they’ve slowly added things like ads, multiple (bogus) download buttons, etc., to offset their costs.  And I totally get it.  After being in the server business for years, it can be hard to break even, let alone turn a profit.  However, recently I returned to Acid Fonts and found that instead of being able to download free fonts like I had done before, I was being prompted to install – and run – an executable installer.  I’ve seen this sort of thing before and it’s the kind of thing that really rubs me the wrong way.  Curiosity got the better of me and I had to see what, exactly, this ‘installer’ would do.

Prior to running the installer, I fired up my favorite [Windows-based] HTTP proxy, Fiddler.  A long-time free application, Fiddler was recently acquired by Telerik.  It’s a tremendously useful application, so hopefully they continue to keep it free, in some version.  My thought here is that unless they’re creating unique installers for each font, most likely the installer is delivering its payload of ad/malware and then simply downloading the font (via an HTTP GET), much like before.

I run the installer and sure enough, it installs a number of useless applications.  Worse than that, it hijacks a number of browser settings.  Windows Defender identifies one of the browser extensions as known adware and disables it.  At the very end of the install process, sure enough, a simple GET is executed and the font (as a zip file) is finally downloaded to my machine.  But the damage was already done.

I’m sure Acid Fonts gets huge kickbacks for this (unfortunately this is fairly common), but it’s these types of nefarious tactics that really irritate me.  What’s worse is that this appears to only target Windows-based platforms.  It makes sense to target your customer’s most popular platform…  On my MacBook, the download button on Acid Fonts simply downloads the font, sans installer.  Simply switching the browser’s User-Agent string would most likely work around this issue.

But for me, that wasn’t good enough.  And thus the Acid Fonts Freeloader was born!  This is a simple Web app that works around their crappy installer and provides a direct download link for any font that they host.  It’s extremely easy to use.

First, just find the font that you’re interested in, on Acid Fonts and open up that particular font page.  From there, simply copy the URL of the font from the top browser bar, either by right clicking and selecting copy, or simply pressing ctrl+c. As the screenshot shows, hovering over the ‘download’ button reveals the installer:

Acid Fonts Download Page

Find the font you want and just copy the URL.

 

After that, paste this URL into Step 1 on the Freeloader page.  After that, just hit “Go!”

Acid Font Freeloader

Paste the URL into the Freeloader Web app.

 

If everything worked as expected, Step 2 should now be visible on the Freeloader page, featuring a button for you to download the font you wanted.  Click that guy and a zip file containing the requested font will be downloaded to your machine.  Done & done!  That was easy!

Acid Fonts Freeloader Download

Hit go, watch it work and then viola – download your font, free of their wretched installer!

 

Working on this simple page was fun and let me kick the tires on Bootstrap, a CSS framework originally developed by Twitter, now available on Github.  It’s a 100% client-side Web app, using jQuery to make an AJAX call.  Pretty simple stuff.

Hopefully this simple page can help others avoid downloading and running the crappy Acid Fonts installer.

@Acid Fonts: grow-up, guys.  There are better ways to subsidize your site.

One Comment

  • od on Mar 03, 2014 Reply

    My experience was very similar to yours, being a developer and occasionally doing graphics, I’ve used acidfonts over the years and was slapped in the face with their less than honest download link. I still gave the installer a try and it was a lot worse than I ever expected. The malware left a bad enough taste that I took a brief moment to look at their site’s code and write my own freeloader (it simply reads a javascript section that contains the real download link on the font page, if yours is any different). I didn’t just stop there though… I continued to write code that will parse every font section, download every free font, and finally extract & install. A total of 4,557 fonts sizing at 189MB. I really hate malware.

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