on Monday will release FreeHand MX. The latest version of the graphics-illustration software will be available for download from Macromedia's online store, with the boxed version due in the next couple of weeks.
With the latest version, FreeHand joins Macromedia's MX line of products and will be included in the Studio MX package. FreeHand MX integrates with Macromedia Flash to let users create graphics that can be transitioned from print to the Web, according to David Morris, product manager for FreeHand.
The update also brings the Macromedia Studio MX User Interface -- a standard interface across the entire Macromedia MX family of products -- to the illustration package.
"We made a lot of changes in FreeHand to make it more powerful and easier to use," Morris told MacCentral. "We want to help people speed up the production process in illustration, design and Web page creation."
According to Morris, key features of FreeHand MX are:
Mac OS X optimizations and multi-user support.
Improved workflow: You can group dockable panels and collapse or expand them as needed.
A Connector Lines Tool: You can use the drag-and-drop Connector Lines tool to build persistent relationships between objects, and stroke styles remain completely editable. Connector Lines let you map information architecture, data flows and site maps.
Object Panel: This new feature lets you inspect and change object properties such as Stroke, Fill and Effect in one centralized location. The Object panel also lets you order attributes.
Object Panel styles editing: You can now directly edit graphic and text styles in the FreeHand MX workspace. Styles can be created or redefined by dragging and dropping attribute lists from the Object panel to the Styles panel.
Answers Panel: This offers instant access to what's new in the product, tutorials, and more. The Answers panel is now standard in Macromedia MX applications. It integrates content from Macromedia.com to provide access to the FreeHand MX Support Center.
A Point and Click Blend Tool: You can create blends through this tool's point-and-click metaphor. For instance, you can just drag a line between two blend shapes.
A Vector-based Eraser Tool: Akin to a graphics eraser, this new tool deletes the portion of the vector path that it passes over.
Swap Object for Symbol: FreeHand MX can now better select an object or an instance and replace it with a symbol from the library just like Macromedia Flash can.
Output area: You can now assign a page area or a series of pages for output to print or export formats.
An Action Tool: Lets you assign ActionScript navigation commands by dragging and dropping a link between the source object and the target page.
Multiple attributes: You can apply and order an unlimited number of strokes, fills and effects to a single vector or text object. Plus, you can now apply both raster and vector effects to a path and save multiple attributes as a style to reuse.
Live effects: You can apply vector effects like Bend, Sketch and Transform and raster effects like Bevel, Blur and Transparency just like any other attributes -- either to an entire object or to selected attributes of the object.
Live-edit graphic primitives: You can reshape graphic primitives while maintaining their editability. You can round rectangle corners, turn ovals into arcs and reshape stars.
The ability to reposition while drawing: You can use keyboard commands to reposition a selection marquee or drawing tool object before committing the object to the pasteboard.
Snap to Objects: Designed to offer more precise controls to allow users to decide where they want an object to snap while drawing. Now you can snap to anywhere on a path, while getting visual feedback as to the snap point.
Extrude Tool: Lets you add a 3D effect to an object, while the original shape remains editable. Once you apply the extrude, you can adjust the surface resolution, rotation angle, extrusion depth and vanishing points.
Pen Tool enhancements: The FreeHand MX Pen tool now includes a rubber-banding feature that lets you preview the next line segment.
Calligraphic Stroke Pen Tool: With this, you can create modifiable calligraphy on the fly. This new tool lets you assign shaped, angled strokes to a path, creating an illustrative calligraphy-style tip to defined strokes.
Rounded Corner Brush Attribute: Gives brushed paths a more organic look.
Gradient fill enhancements: FreeHand MX introduces new gradient fill behaviors and new gradient types. Behaviors are attributes that determine how a gradient will fill an object. A single gradient type can have four behaviors: Normal, Repeat, Reflect and Auto Size.
Gradient Fill Handles: Gradient-filled objects now display handles. You can use them to directly edit the gradient, including its direction and center, from within the object.
JPEG Thumbnail Preview: Export thumbnail previews can be in JPEG or BMP format; you can select the size of the preview.
New Style Panel Views: Three new views -- compact list, normal and icon -- offer more information about the current document's style usage.
Anti-Alias On-screen Previews: Add anti-aliasing to all the drawing modes.
Image AlphaChannel Support: Provides full import and display support for the alpha channels of TIFFs, PSDs, PNGs and GIFs.
SWF import/re-export: You can now import, place, preview and re-export SWF files in a FreeHand MX document.
The ability to launch and edit with Flash MX: To streamline your workflow, you can now launch and edit between FreeHand MX and Macromedia Flash MX. SWFs placed in a FreeHand document can be edited in Flash MX with a click in the Object panel. Updates made in Flash MX are automatically applied to the placed SWF in FreeHand MX.
A new FreeHand importer for Flash MX lets you open FreeHand MX files directly from within Flash MX.
Fireworks PNG importer: As in Flash MX, you can now import Fireworks PNG files and still edit the objects and text.
The ability to launch and edit with Fireworks MX: Bitmap images placed in a FreeHand MX document can be edited and optimized in Fireworks MX with a click in the Object panel.
FreeHand MX now shares the same Studio MX spell checker for spelling consistency across the Studio family. Morris said that all the changes were based on customer feedback.
"The feedback might be in the form of a request from a user, from watching people work, or from talking to people about how they work," he said. "Every feature in FreeHand MX is customer-driven."
FreeHand MX runs natively in Mac OS X, as well as Mac OS 9.x. The cost is US$399 for the standalone product. Upgrades from FreeHand 9 are $149; upgrades from FreeHand 10 or existing Studio MX users are $99.
Localized versions in French, German, Japanese, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Korean, Swedish, Spanish, and Italian will be available at a later date. Education, government and volume licensing is available.
In related news, Macromedia also unveiled its new
DevNet Subscription Service, which offers Macromedia developers a way for making sure they stay up to date with the latest technologies and resources. Subscribers can download their products, upgrades and extensions through an online portal, and have them mailed on CD.
DevNet subscriptions are being offered at Professional and Essentials levels; Professional provides single-user perpetual licenses to producvts like Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, and Freehand, as well as development-only licenses of all Macromedia server products. Essentials, meanwhile, offers developers an annual subscription that provides access to the quarterly DevNet Resource Kits (DRKs).
Shipping in March, DevNet subscriptions run $1,499 for the Professional tier, with an upgrade for Studio MX users for $599. Essentials costs $299.