|FreeHand 10, by Macromedia
Macromedia FreeHand 10 is an OS X-native vector-based application for coupling of print and web graphic illustration production. New tools and an enhanced feature set add to an already impressive toolset. Flash integration allows the conversion of drawings into animations and the export of FreeHand objects directly to Flash.
FreeHand 10 Price:
$399.00 US (full) $129.00 US (upgrade).
10 is a tool for graphics illustrators, designers and web artists. If you used older
versions of FreeHand, the new tools and capabilities will allow you to become a true
multi-publishing professional, allowing you to create sophisticated designs and illustrations
that can be repurposed across multiple mediums quickly and efficiently. With Macromedia
FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator competing for the desktops of graphics professionals,
FreeHand 10 is the first of its class to go native on Mac OS X.
After an initial stint running FreeHand in OS 9.2.2, I found performance fairly unbearable: page re-drawing was not crisp, artifacts from drop-downs would cover panel buttons, pop-up menus contained artifacts, viewing hidden drop-down menu items involved an intermediate selection, and opening a document (or a Save) required a trip to the Finder before the activity would complete. In fairness, a 350-mHz machine is a tad under-powered for a graphics program of this sophistication.
The remainder of my testing was performed under OS 10.1.2. FreeHand 10 now was humming along with the power and beauty of the new OS. Re-drawing of layers and other processor-intensive activities still reflected the G3's speed handicaps, but the anomalies seen in 9.2.2 were no longer evident.
Given that FreeHand 10 was my first dive into an illustration program, I can attest to FreeHand's steep learning curve. With seven standard toolbars comprised of over 100 toolbar icons, a Tools panel, Inspectors, pallettes, etc., a thorough understanding of FreeHand only comes with frequent use and perhaps a knowledgeable teacher to help the novice along the way. I scoured the Using FreeHand manual (included as a 500-page PDF or HTML), various websites and newsgroups to facilitate an acquaintance.
The lessons were hampered by sloppy case usage, wherein URLs for the "UsingFreeHand/" directory were mislabled as "UsingFreehand/" (note the lower case "h"). This can become more than an annoyance if you try to use the HTML help and receive the "File not found" error.
Installation was fairly simple, although the OS X version contains special instructions to relax the privileges on a number of directories to allow multiple users update access to a dozen folders. It would have been better to have delivered as a single shell script with which to make the alterations.
Printing from FreeHand 10 was difficult since I don't own a PostScript Level 2 printer. I was only able to get the Stylus 740 up and running under OS X after fiddling with it for a couple of weeks. You are able to use a non-PostScript printer by choosing Preview and then printing from there or by saving (in FreeHand or Preview) as a PDF and then printing the resulting file. However, the Graphire 1 graphics tablet was a different story as this tool worked without a hitch.
As the flagship of Macromedia's fleet, Flash has now become an integrated part of FreeHand. This enables the designer to assign Flash actions to objects and to export these as SWF's. Animations can be previewed by using the new Navigation Panel and the new Flash Player Test Window. FreeHand files can be directly imported into Macromedia Flash 5. URLs may also be attached to text or objects. The actual amount of Flash work that can be done in FreeHand is still rather limited. You can create objects and FreeHand will apportion those to layers and the animation will be based upon layers or you can set up the layers themselves. The Controller contains Test Movie, Export Movie and Movie Settings buttons along with the navigation buttons. This may be sufficient for those wishing to add a small animation or to assign a URL or a Flash action using the Navigation panel. The good news is that you can get the full version of Flash as part of the Flash/FreeHand package (and save $299).
The "Publish as HTML..." option saves an HTML page containing a layer for some objects in the original file. This seems to be somewhat random as during one publishing session, objects are bundled into several files and the next into a single file. An HTML Output Assistant allows you to choose positioning with tables rather than layers for pre-4.x browsers. These may be saved in an images directory as Flash format (SWF), GIF, JPEG or PNG. Some features (fills, strokes or images) are not supported in the Flash format.
Print area allows you to define a rectangular area of a document or an entire work area for printing. This is saved as a part of the document and can be re-sized or deleted. The example below shows the results of a Print Preview of a two-page FreeHand document.
The new Pen tool is now the typical pen nib rather than the cross-hair, reflecting the "standardization" of the Macromedia pen tool between Flash, FreeHand and Fireworks (and other illustration tools.)
The Brush Stroke feature allows you to arrange a graphic symbol along a path as a repeating stroke or a single stretched instance. Brushes can be created and saved from all manner of FreeHand objects including gradients. The notion of brush use takes a bit of thought since the application of a brush "fill" to an object seems counter-intuitive to the sable brush user. It did work nicely once I stopped expecting each path to display my chosen brush until I applied it.
Master Pages are template pages that can be used for any object or symbol other than page numbers. These may be shared by multiple children within a document. Changes to the master page are reflected throughout the child pages. These may be imported and exported.
Contour gradients have been enhanced to allow objects to be filled based upon an adjustable center point (see figure below).
A new File Info dialog allows the user to enter the IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) header information for your files which may be used by the news media. Third-party applications (or the Perl freeware IPTC Info Extractor) can access these meta tags such as copyright, credits and search words. These will assist even the casual user with a way to create a database to allow easy search and recovery of graphic files.
Import File Formats