First off, as a type dealer and the developer of FontFinder, the first program to ever identify type, I was fortunate enough to have the support of most of the major foundries and was given their type libraries or acquired them at a discount. FontFinder, BTW, is no longer available and I use a German application named FontExpert for automated searches. Those fonts are all organized on my file server for easy access.
Having done that, I added in 5000 of my fonts to the FontExpert database, which is a nice feature of that application, so that when I do an automated search I am covering everything in their database (almost 30,000 fonts) plus 5000 that I have immediate access to.
An automated search requires a bitmap image of unmodified text with good contrast on a horizontal baseline at a reasonable size to be able to see its features. If an automated search using FontExpert doesn't make an identification, I then turn to my font libraries which are organized into style groups and scroll through them using TypoGraf.
TypoGraf has two important features.
1. It will display uninstalled fonts be they TrueType, Postscript Type 1 or any other.
2. It will allow you to enter any phrase you want for viewing them.
Using TypoGraf, I am scanning for matching artistic features (earmarks) so I can make an ID even when the font has been modified.
FontExpert sells for $149 and is available from Smart Designs. http://www.smartdesigns.com/fonts.htm
TypoGraf is shareware and costs $35 to register it. http://www.neuber.com/typograph/index.html