Ten for Ten: FreeHand Update Runs on OS X

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In the latest version of FreeHand, Macromedia gives users a Master Pages feature to speed up workflow, a Contour Gradients tool that easily adds depth to illustrations, and tighter integration with Flash. But these days, the only thing many Mac users want to talk about is OS X and when developers will come out with retooled applications that take advantage of the new operating system.

No sweat, Macromedia says-FreeHand 10 runs natively in OS X, as well.

That puts FreeHand in pretty exclusive company. When the illustration software ships later this month, it will be the first professional illustration program of its kind to take full advantage of OS X, says FreeHand Product Manager Keith Hutchinson. Indeed, rival Adobe-while affirming its commitment to releasing Carbonized versions of its flagship products -hasn't announced when an OS X-native Illustrator might ship. Corel will roll out Carbonized applications this summer, with CorelDraw 10 set for a July release. Until then, FreeHand has the stage to itself.

That's not to say FreeHand users who haven't made the jump to OS X are out of luck; version 10 also runs on Mac OS 8.6 and higher. You just won't see FreeHand running with an Aqua interface or, more significantly, benefit from the under-the-hood features of the next-generation OS.

Those benefits are quite noticeable, Hutchinson says. When you move windows around in the OS X version of FreeHand, the document doesn't have to redraw itself anymore. "With really large files, everything counts," Hutchinson adds. Also, standard vector files appear to print faster if FreeHand is running in OS X, Hutchinson says, though independent tests won't be able to verify that until the application ships.

Still, OS X compatibility is hardly the only significant news surrounding FreeHand. Macromedia has added several new tools and features aimed at bolstering productivity and creating more-sophisticated illustrations. And, continuing with the concept introduced in the last FreeHand upgrade, the new version includes tools that help designers publish illustrations in both print and on the Web.

Mastering Productivity

The new Master Pages feature seems to have garnered a lot of attention among FreeHand's beta testers, Hutchinson says. Master pages are templates that contain objects and page attributes shared by multiple pages in a document -- a single document can hold up to 32,000 master pages. Make any change to a master page, and it's immediately reflected in every child page.

"People are realizing, 'I can make changes to 500 pages with one mouse click,'" Hutchinson says.

The power behind master pages comes from FreeHand's new Symbol Library -- similar to a feature in Flash. You can save any object as a symbol to reuse within your document or to share with others. This lets designers reuse the same pages and objects without ever having to recreate them. And like master pages, any changes you make to a symbol in the Symbol Edit window get automatically updated throughout the document.

Of Gradients and Brush Strokes

Macromedia wants designers to have an easier time creating graphics, so it added several illustration tools to this version of FreeHand. The most notable addition is Contour Gradients, an attempt to enhance the application's existing gradient capabilities.

With Contour Gradients, Macromedia's goal was to allow anyone -- from professional designers to novice users -- to create multicolor gradients that follow the contour of an outlining path. The feature also controls color shading to add depth and highlights to images. The result is more-lively illustrations.

Macromedia also added symbol-based spray and brush strokes to FreeHand. Using this tool, you can take any object -- such as a pattern of hand-drawn leaves -- turn it into a brush stroke, and apply it along any path, either repeating it or stretching it for the entire length of the path. Using the Edit Brush dialog box, you can control the way each instance of the symbol behaves or stack multiple instances along the same path.

Look Familiar?

FreeHand's interface, which has taken some knocks in recent years, should ring a bell for anyone familiar with Macromedia's other applications. FreeHand 10 now has the common Macromedia user interface introduced in Flash 5 last year and built into the latest versions of Fireworks and Dreamweaver. Macromedia believes this common interface makes FreeHand more immediately accessible to users, allowing them to move between applications without having to fumble with unfamiliar tool bars or keyboard shortcuts.

Besides consistent tool-panel layouts, common menu structures, and consistent color selection, a common interface means that FreeHand now features the Macromedia standard Pen tool. It looks and acts the same way in FreeHand, Flash, and Fireworks.

FreeHand 9 beefed up its integration with Flash, and version 10 continues the trend with an enhanced Flash Navigation panel and a new Flash Player window. The Navigation panel lets you apply Internet links and Flash actions (such as Load Movie) to graphics and text. A new Movie Controller tool bar plays back SWF movies in the Flash Player window, letting you test Flash-format animation with FreeHand. It also includes an Export Movie button that lets you specify a name and location for the file you're exporting.

Have FreeHand, Will Travel

The tighter integration with Flash stems from Macromedia's belief that more designers are publishing across multiple media. Seamless exporting of files from FreeHand to Flash makes it easier to move artwork from print to the Web and beyond. To that end, FreeHand 10 also adds IPTC header support -- of interest largely to Macromedia's news media clientele. The feature preserves International Press Telecommunications Council information such as copyright, credits, captions, and other data used to catalog image files.

FreeHand 10 sells for $399; existing users can upgrade for $129. Macromedia also is packaging the illustration application in a $599 suite that includes Flash 5. A limited offer announced by Macromedia Monday makes the suite available for $499. The software should be available by late April.

Yes, Master: FreeHand's Master Pages feature lets you create a template-like object or page and apply it across multiple pages in a document with the click of a mouse.Getting Greater Gradients: FreeHand now lets you create multicolor gradients that follow the contour of an outlining path. The result? A more-lively and sophisticate image.Brush Up Your FreeHand: Symbol-based spray and brush strokes let you apply attributes--such as a lizard's tongue--along any FreeHand path.
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