RIP Freehand…

Free hand

It’s a sad day today, the final last gasp of a once great application – FreeHand. Adobe have posted a document outlining what you need to know to transfer from Freehand to Illustrator. Freehand is basically dead.

After the takeover of Macromedia by Adobe last year, most people were concerned about the web development apps, such as Dreamweaver – would they survive?

Little attention was given to an application that I have fond memories of, it being one of the first applications I knew back-to-front & inside out – Freehand.

Freehand has had an odd history. It’s been passed around from pillar to post for years Macromedia to Aldus, over to Adobe and then back to Macromedia again. Some upgrades were fantastic (3.1, 7 & 10), but others were dogs, if you ever used Freehand 4, you’d know what I mean.

I used to use Freehand alongside Quark (remember that app?), many, many years ago, and they were a great team. This was before transparency, before PDF & Postscript 3 and the combination of these 2 apps made it possible to create some great designs.
I’ve always liked the way in which Freehand handles bezier curves, much more intuitive than Illustrator. It allowed you to get right down to the task in hand, be it re-drawing a logo, or creating a complex illustration. At this point, I worked for a design department of a newspaper, and we worked exclusively in Freehand creating adverts & editorial background designs.

But then things started to change. Freehand 4 came along and something went wrong. This upgrade was a dog, slow, unintuitive and buggy, and with Illustrator snapping at it’s heels, Freehand 5 solved most of the problems, but even back then the writing was on the wall.
I started to use both Illustrator & Freehand side by side, but I kept on going back to Freehand, and only using Quark for huge, multi-page documents. When Freehand added multi page documents, it became possible to leave Quark behind completely, in fact for a few jobs (8 page brochures, complex gatefold leaflets), entire jobs were done in Freehand, much to the anger of various repro houses who were part of an inflexible Quark-based workflow.

When Apple released OS X, Freehand was one of the first apps to be ported and it worked like a charm. I continued to use it for creating logos & small adverts, but then Adobe released InDesign.

InDesign was a huge change for me. I’ve always hated Quark, and when I got the excuse to move from it to InDesign (Quark had no OS X support) I leapt at the chance.

But, on leaping I started to use Illustrator more because EPS files created in Illustrator seemed to print more reliably than EPS files created in Freehand, and Freehand’s fate for me was sealed.

I never upgraded it again, and it stays on my hard drive to this day, unused.

But you have to move on, and having grudgingly learned Illustrator and marveled at its transparency effects which have totally changed my workflow and my viewpoint of the app, I feel that Freehand does deserve its fate.

Illustrator’s still a pain to use though. RIP Freehand.


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