Macromedia FreeHand MX test and review

In the field of vector illustration, FreeHand is not the most attractive software market. Certainly, its wealth of drawing tools and functions is honorable, but Freehand is not competitive against its competitors. In their latest versions, CorelDraw and Illustrator offer sophisticated special effects, an important support for editing raster (bitmap), nifty tools for web graphics as well as a collection of facilities to give luster to paths . By comparison, the test of the beta version of Freehand 10 was disappointing. Macromedia certainly brought some improvements and redesigned the interface to conform to those of Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Director but these changes leave Freehand in a weak position.

As Illustrator, FreeHand has an interface centered on a tabbed palette set, which can now be nested within each other to save space on the screen. These pallets are used to access most functions – colors, fills, strokes, transformations and layout. Unfortunately, Macromedia refers to it by different names (Panels, Inspector). Hence the confusion of which we were victims to identify the Windows menu what we wanted to open. Moreover, its Layers palette is much too limited. Has no line manager as CorelDraw or Illustrator, Freehand does not group the layers or to organize objects. No Preview in either thumbnail to help identify himself.

A confused organization

FreeHand toolbox is rich in plot devices of lines and geometric shapes. But again, the organization is poor. The tools are in fact distributed over three bars. circles plot of tool, for example, is provided on the main bar while that for the arc route is part of an extension bar. And while the Envelope function is accessible from the Modify menu, Emboss is in the range of complementary operations. Fortunately, the ability to create his own toolbars allows to reintroduce a bit of logic! However, we believe that Macromedia should consolidate the tools and functions in a more natural way. Regardless of the user to know that such a tool is an elementary function while another is an extension.

Freehand tools generally work as you would expect. Version 10 introduces color gradients that follow the contour of an object and easier to create realistic shadows. These gradients are however not as flexible as those offered by Corel Draw or Illustrator, but they represent a significant improvement compared to version 9 where they were linear and radial type. We also liked the Perspective Grid tool to generate perspective effects. Also welcome are the Envelope tool that distorts objects and function Symbol Editor / Library which provides the ability to define and modify global objects updated automatically when edited – it should be noted however that these tools are not not specific to FreeHand. Among the new and also note the Spray Brush strokes. We could define an object as brush symbol and use it to paint, but we regretted the lack of pressure sensitivity. In fact, FreeHand provides only a very limited support of the pressure and only for the Line tool.

Job simple tools usually respond well but we would like more complete. We could not add a shadow bitmap or text (in the case of the latter, it must first convert the text to paths, which even Illustrator no longer required). And special effects such as transparency applied to objects using a limited set of static lenses, are not comparable to those offered by CorelDraw or Illustrator.

No web graphics tool

Given the lack of functions for precision drawing and creating illustrations, we were a bit surprised by some novelties. It is possible for example to print any area of ​​the workspace by selecting through the cursor. This improvement may be helpful in some circumstances is not major. FreeHand 10 also introduces the concept of master pages. Indispensable in publishing software, they are of limited interest in a product of vector illustration. We would prefer to have more basic tools such as quotes, hanging sliders (who click on specific points of an object such as the center or ends), mixtures of improved opportunities, macros, contouring, fillings bitmaps assortment more developed.

The lack of interest in web graphics surprised us from a company such as Macromedia, very focused elsewhere on the internet. Apart from the possibility to export a page as an HTML file, to create simple Flash animations or assign URLs to objects, Freehand includes no built-in web graphics tool. Unable to create buttons with rollover effects or interactive images. No Preview optimization for web or file overview. It is clear that Macromedia does not wish to compete with Fireworks, its flagship web graphics editor, but the absence of such tools Freehand seriously handicapped.