Draw power – Macromedia’s FreeHand 5.0 draw software – Software Review – Evaluation
Rating: * * * * FreeHand 5.0 List/Average Street Price: $595/$395 Publisher: Macromedia, 415-252-2000, 800-989-3762 MAC
It’s always nice to see good products get even better. Such is the case with Macromedia’s FreeHand, which is now faster and more adept at creating and applying colors. It also boasts a bunch of new word processing, page layout, and typesetting features, making it ideal for designing the occasional flier, brochure, or any other business document.
The most impressive improvement is FreeHand’s ability to use plug-ins, or add-ons. The program not only supports industry-standard Adobe Illustrator 5.5 plug-ins but also add-ons created specifically for FreeHand, called Xtras.
FreeHand ships with several Xtras, including Spiral for drawing spirals; Eyedropper for picking up color; Fisheye Lens, which warps objects; Smudge; and 3-D Rotation–all of which greatly improve the program’s brute strength and help enhance the creativity of a graphic artist. Look for more plug-ins in the near future, both from Macromedia and third-party developers.
FreeHand’s new floating color-mixing palette makes the process of adding colors to the active Colors List a snap. Just mix your colors (or select a spot color from one of several models) and then drag the new color into Colors List. Although previous versions of FreeHand supported only two-color gradients (fading one color into another), version 5.0 supports up to 64 colors per gradient fill.
FreeHand has always been capable of creating such multipage publications as newsletters and reports. But slow screen redraws and inadequate text handling made using a desktop publishing package more desirable. Version 5.0 is almost twice as fast at redrawing and opening files than version 4.0 (and it’s much faster than Illustrator).
Text style sheets, which are similar to those found in such professional desktop publishing programs as PageMaker and QuarkXPress, greatly improve formatting text across several pages.
A new text ruler for setting tabs and indents makes type-setting easier, and an updated spell-checker and a find-and-replace feature make FreeHand much more adept at multipage documents. Whether you’re creating a simple flier or a company newsletter, Free-Hand is up to the task.
New to FreeHand are an array of automatic special effects. The Fisheye Lens lets you distort objects and the adding perspective to an object much easier Now making objects appear to be moving toward or vanishing into the Arc Xtra makes it easier to draw arches and semicircles.
The race between Illustrator and FreeHand continues to move along. FreeHand, with its improved speed and support for plug-ins, moves closer to the lead. Furthermore, FreeHand can read and write Illustrator 5.5 EPS files. Illustrator, on the other hand, can read and write only in its native format.
It’s difficult to find anything negative to say about FreeHand; it’s simply a joy to use. It’s East, flexible, and provides a wealth of features for both the professional illustrator and the occasional desktop publisher. The beauty of your output is limited only by your imagination.
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