Free FreeHand!!!

This was an e-mail that I sent in response to one of the guys from While it is not specifically a tip or trick regarding the internet, I figured it is blog worthy while I was typing it.

I am excited about the movement to get the FreeHand codebase released into the open source arena. I also would like to mention that I am still using FreeHand on a regular basis and avoid Illustrator at all cost.

Please note that these are my comments or observations and do not reflect the opinion of my former employer Adobe Systems (Macromedia).

Lets step back in the way back machine to the time of 1994 Adobe was acquiring Aldus and FreeHand future was first questioned. Would Adobe continue to be the distributor and have both FreeHand and Illustrator? Fortunately, Jim VonEhr and the leadership at Altsys the developers of FreeHand and Fontographer negotiated to sever the contract bringing FreeHand back home.

Then came the talks to merge with Macromedia which was buying up companies and technology in a wide variety of areas with Director, SoundEdit and a bunch of other little programs that finally died or was rolled into another new product. Then in January of 1995, FreeHand 5 (Mac) was release and the merger with Macromedia was final. FreeHand 5 was the first version under the Macromedia banner. Development was hot with the windows and Mac version 5.5 release shortly there after.

Then there was FreeHand version 6… wait I mean version 7. In many users opinion the best release since the sainted version 3. The marketing was one of the biggest pushes I ever saw. There was a world tour that was happening and the support team was going on site visits to major customers and user groups around the country. The excitement was big. The features were big, Shall I mention Graphic Search and Replace? I still remember demoing that feature to the team at National Geographic in Washington DC and they were sold. FreeHand 7 if I recall did capture some market share but did not get majority share.

Then the focus of Macromedia changed, it was dotcom this that and the other. Shockwave was the new push of the company, all applications had to write to the web in some manor. Director had Shockwave. Authorware had Shockwave for Authorware. Dreamweaver was in its infancy, Flash was now in the product line and FreeHand was now trying to figure out its place in the new corporate focus. GIF and JPEG format was added. There was even a cool Shockwave player for FreeHand that looking back was in competition with Flash.

Lets not forget this was also the point that Macromedia did the re-branding of the company with the new logo and icons for the products. RIP Pat. It was at this time that the clock started ticking down the remaining life for FreeHand.

Yes there was continued development of FreeHand all the way up to MX AKA version 11 but there was never a push to market it like there was with Version 7. Macromedia was only continuing to produce because the loyal fans were still wanting more and dare I say, there was still profit in it. Trade shows never put FreeHand in the spot light it was only in a side station and if someone asked it would be shown. So yes, software too can experience Cinderella Syndrome, FreeHand was now the step child that no one wanted to focus on at the corporate level.

Adobe was the 2000 lb. gorilla and was dominating the market. Photoshop was an industry standard, (Remember xRes?) anyone doing anything with images was using Photoshop. Because of this they had an advantage in pushing Illustrator as the industry standard. By default, users assumed that Illustrator was what to use despite the fact that it has two pointer tools (yeah, now FreeHand has two also). Shall we bring up Quark XPress and InDesign?

While FreeHand and Illustrator are both illustration applications, they clearly have a difference in the person that would be using them. You and others can ask yourself this question. Did FreeHand get in the way of your creativity? Does Illustrator?

Lets jump back in the way back machine once again to 1988, I was looking and evaluating everything I could get my hands on to find a more efficient way to do illustrations, than pen and ink. My step dad just spent a fortune on a Macintosh SE with a 10 MB hard drive. I was a moth attracted to the porch light on a warm June evening. I got my hands on a bootlegged copy of Illustrator 88, FreeHand 1.1, Super Paint and anything else that I could beg, borrow or well steal to find the answer to my nagging question that there had to be an easier way to get my job done.

Illustrator could only work in keyline mode. FreeHand was allowing me to work in preview. Super Paint well, it really sucked. It was at this point that I found that FreeHand was not getting in the way of my creativity and causing me to jump through hoops to get the job done. I went on to make my employer millions with with FreeHand. I could also mention the whole color and black and white thing also. It’s kind of like the Mac vs. Windows thing. Yeah you can do the same things on both. But which OS works in harmony with your creative side?

OK, back to today. I would love to see Adobe let go, it is time to let the 22 year old Adult move out of the house and out on it’s own and create it’s own future. There is still room for two illustration applications on this planet. Releasing the code base into the open source arena would be exciting to see what could become of FreeHand. Snow Leopard and IntelMac not to mention Windows 7 compliance. New features and Xtras could be exciting along with fixing a few of the bugs would not be bad also.

Free FreeHand!!!!

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