When the next revision of
Macromedia FreeHand — the illustration tool used by many artists and designers — arrives in early May, it will be Carbonized for Mac OS X and revamped to help traditional illustrators get their work on the Web, according to Keith Hutchinson, FreeHand product manager.
In overhauling the venerable illustration program, which has been around since 1988, Macromedia focused on three “themes” — illustration, productivity, and multi-publishing — Hutchinson told MacCentral. And the company has been working hand in hand with Apple to ensure that FreeHand 10 is ready to run on OS X, he added.
“We’ve spent two years with people at Apple working on this,” he said. “The upcoming version of FreeHand leverages a lot of things users expect from the new operating system.”
FreeHand 10 is also poised to capitalize on the changes in workflow over the years. Before the burgeoning popularity of the Internet, designers would typically create vector graphics with vector illustration software (such as FreeHand or Adobe Illustrator), create bitmap images with raster-based software (Photoshop being the prime example), then composite the images into multi-page documents via layout programs such as Quark XPress. However, today many print-based designers are now recreating their designs for the Web. In fact, many multi-publishing professionals now create artwork and graphics designs for the Web first, then re-purpose them for print and other media.
“FreeHand 10 is designed to address these workflow changes,” Hutchinson said. “Our goal is to help break down the barriers between publishing for print and the Web. FreeHand 10, unlike traditional design tools, lets you publish to both media.”
The cornerstone of the upgrade is a professional set of vector illustration tools, he added. They include “breakthrough” perspective grids, enveloping and auto-tracing features, and editable vector transparency. There are new features such as contour gradients, custom paint and brush strokes, and editable symbols.
According to Hutchinson, over 65 percent of FreeHand users frequently publish multi-page documents. The application has long had a multiple page management workspace that uses the metaphor of moving papers on a desk. However, version 10 adds new Master Page functionality.
Master pages provide template-like behavior for increasing productivity, Hutchinson said. You can share and preserve page attributes that can be shared by multiple pages in a document. You can edit master pages at any time, and edits are reflected in all “child” pages. As of version 10, you can now modify and manage as many as 32,000 master pages in a single document.
Using master symbols, you can now move graphics across as many as 660 pages per document. A new page tool lets you resize, move and even duplicate multiple pages of any size without opening the Document Inspector.
A new Print Area feature lets you print even large design iterations so you can share them with others, Hutchinson said. You can print a portion of a page or the entire workspace.
The new symbol-based brush and spray strokes mean that you can apply brush strokes to any FreeHand path to distribute a graphic symbol instance on a path, either repeating the strokes or stretching them along the length of the path. You can control the way instances behave, as well as stack multiple instances on a path. This feature takes advantage of the aforementioned reusable symbols to keep files small.
New “smart” cursors give you more information and control when dealing with points along a path, Hutchinson said. This feature is an early step toward bringing FreeHand in line with other Macromedia products to provide a common “first user” experience of the applications.
In fact, FreeHand sports a new common Macromedia user Interface that’s based on the company’s Web publishing products. For instance, you can now color the same way in both FreeHand and Macromedia Flash. An updated Standard Pen tool looks and behaves identically in FreeHand, Flash or Fireworks. Plus, it’s more compatible with the pen tool in Illustrator. Consistent elements such as standard shortcuts and toolbars, and customizable features are designed to make it easy to move between products.
Customizable, common keyboard shortcuts mean that you can quickly move between apps without needing to remember different shortcuts for similar actions, Hutchinson said. Consistent tool layouts and groupings let you easily select tools across Macromedia products, he added. Menu items and submenus now maintain common structures.
With version 10, you can control docking and snapping in application panels to suit your workflow. You can even save and share layout states. Color selection models and interfaces look and behave identically in Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, and FreeHand.
“Making the user interface work smoothly across all applications was a daunting task,” Hutchinson said.
FreeHand 10 users can publish Macromedia Flash files to the Web as static vector graphics or animations, with a wide range of export options. Flash 5 users can also import sophisticated FreeHand illustrations while preserving layer information and master pages. You can even enhance the illustrations with additional animation, interactivity and sound.
FreeHand also supports Web standards such as HTML, PGN, GIF and JPEG. There’s industry standard IPTC header file support for cataloging information. You can preserve IPTC header information within FreeHand, including copyright, credits, captions, search words and other information used to catalog image files.
WF export for preserving backgrounds when testing animations within FreeHand has been improved. When you export to Flash, background graphics and illustrations are saved once and used across multiple pages in FreeHand. This increases productivity and minimizes Flash movie file sizes, Hutchinson said.
A Flash Navigation panel lets users apply Flash Actions “easily” inside FreeHand. You can use the FreeHand 10 URL Editor to set up hyperlinks and hot spots to multiple pages within a document.
Upgrading to FreeHand 10 will cost US$129, a reduction from the $149 fee of the past. Hutchinson said that Macromedia was very “pleased and excited” about the update and wanted as many users as possible to experience it.
Macromedia FreeHand 10, available for Mac OS X, Mac OS 8.6 and higher and Windows platforms, is expected to ship in May. The product is priced at $399, with upgrades from previous versions available for $129. The Macromedia Flash 5 FreeHand 10 Studio is priced at $599 with a special limited time offer available for $499. Upgrades to the studio from previous versions of Macromedia Flash for FreeHand are $199.
By the way, much of the preceding information is based on a beta version of FreeHand 10.