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The latest version of FreeHand features new productivity tools, a redesigned interface, and tighter integration with programs such as Flash. But it's FreeHand 10's system compatibility that will likely grab the most attention for the illustration and layout application from Macromedia (800/470-7211, )-the software will run natively on OS X.

"FreeHand is the first professional illustration program of its kind to be Carbonized," says Macromedia Product Manager Keith Hutchinson. FreeHand certainly beat rival products to the punch. Adobe (800/833-6687, ) says the next major release of Illustrator will be OS X savvy, although it won't comment on when that release is coming. The last major upgrade, version 9, came out a year ago. Corel (800/772-6735, ) plans to release a Carbonized version of CorelDraw in July 2001.

The latest FreeHand update-which also runs on Mac OS 8.6 and higher-is more than just an OS X-ready application. Macromedia added a Master Pages feature to FreeHand for creating objects and page attributes that can be shared across a document. Make a change to the master page, and it occurs in the child pages. A Symbol Library feature lets you edit objects and apply changes across multiple copies or instances. " Productivity is really the watchword for this release," Hutchinson says. New illustration tools include a Contour Gradients feature, reminiscent of the Gradient Mesh feature in Illustrator 9, and symbol-based brush and spray strokes.

Like other recent upgrades from Macromedia, FreeHand 10 now sports a common Macromedia interface, making it easier to use with programs like Flash and Fireworks. The latest version also tightens FreeHand's Flash integration-a navigation panel lets you test SWF animations in FreeHand before exporting them to Flash.

Expected to ship by late April, FreeHand will sell for $399. Current owners of the program can upgrade for $129. Macromedia will offer the illustration and layout software in a suite with Flash 5 for $499.

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