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Archive for the ‘Drawing Programs’ Category

FREEFREEHAND.ORG – About 3 months ago, a new website was launched at to try secure a future for the FreeHand application. Soon after Adobe Corporation bought out Macromedia, it appeared like FreeHand’s days were over when the software giant decided to stop further development of FreeHand in order to encourage users to switch to Illustrator. Currently Adobe still sells FreeHand, but without support for future operating systems it will be destined to work only on current and older computers.

The website was put together by Thomas Thü Hürlimann (graphic designer & multimedia artist who has worked with FreeHand since 1987), Jabez Palmer (from Bez Design, Seattle – founded 1997) and Mark Gelotte (book designer and illustrator).

The website currently has about 4000 members and is currently on a membership drive to increase its numbers to raise awareness about FreeHand and to campaign for its future. Membership is free. If you would want FreeHand to be viable for future operating systems and would like to see it have a good future, then please feel free to join and at least get on their mailing list so you can keep up to date.

My Personal Experience With FreeHand

FreeHand has been around for a long long, time is still used by many designers. I remember the first time I heard about FreeHand. I heard about it from an art instructor who was hired to do a photo shoot of an industrial product line for a new catalog. At the time I was just getting started and I was planning on buying Illustrator (Illustrator 7 had just been released that year). He said that most graphic designers used Illustrator but that those who were “really in the know” were using FreeHand – indicating that the real insiders preferred FreeHand over Illustrator.

I bought Illustrator as I planned, but shortly afterwards I also bought FreeHand 8. I used Illustrator mostly, but only a couple of years later I was involved in a book publishing project with a whole team of people. I was doing some technical drawings for the project. It was during this time that I began to use FreeHand on a regular basis for a couple of reasons – first, it was just faster and simpler to work with than Illustrator and second, we were dealing with sub-contractors who had very specific requirements for how they wanted files to be handed off. Their specifications called for all line art to be done in FreeHand format.

When I found out that FreeHand was bought out by Adobe, it looked like it was the end of my favorite drawing program. Then I found out about the website and signed up. If there is a chance that through their efforts, they can keep FreeHand alive somehow, then I am for it. I hope all designers who love this program will sign up. I don’t know exactly what the outcome might be, but if there is a chance Adobe could be persuaded to allow FreeHand future development and support, then that would be a good thing.

In it’s continued support of its flagship graphics application, the Xara Group Ltd has just announced its latest release of Xara Xtreme version 5 on June 8, 2009. The new version has some long awaited improvements:

New Object Gallery – The addition of a new Object Gallery provides better object level control. The Object Gallery functions much the same as the Layers palette in Adobe Illustrator, or the Object Manager in CorelDRAW. Users can find, select, lock or hide individual objects rather than having to fish around for them in the document window with the Selector tool. This is a big improvement and one that was very much needed.

Spell Check – There is a new “Spell Check as You Type” functionality with English, German, Italian, Dutch French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian supported languages.

Improved Text Handling – This is another important feature upgrade that was badly needed. While other competitive graphics applications had much better text handling, Xara has been working to provide some improvement in this area.

Improved Web Page / Website Export – One of the nice features of Xara Xtreme is its built-in support for web page creation and export. Xara also has a dedicated website creation tool – Xara Web Designer – but it has included some of the more basic functions inside Xara Xtreme. This can be handy for web designers.

Misc Improvements – It has some new functions in it’s built in Photo Tool – one of them is “Content Aware Scaling”. This feature allows you to scale an image automatically without upsetting the foreground objects that it detects automatically. Xara has also integrated a new red-eye removal tool, easier crop adjustment, photo “temerature” control, etc.

Xara is offering special upgrade pricing until July 31, 2009.  Owners of Xara Xtreme 4 can upgrade to Xara Xtreme 5 for $39 or to Xara Xtreme Pro 5 for $159. Owners of Xara Xtreme Pro 4 can upgrade to Xara Xtreme Pro 5 for $69. All prices are USD. Details can be found on their website:

Xara Xtreme is an all-in-one graphics application that is also a great value for only $89 USD. You can get it at the website ( This graphics application has full vector drawing capability plus image editing all rolled into one. It has a large customer base and the gallery at the Xara website features several professional artists with some very impressive work ( The Xara company is based in England. When you order the software, they will ship it to you on a CD-ROM.

Recently, after the demise of FreeHand, Xara began marketing Xtreme to FreeHand users as its replacement. Xara began to offer the Xtreme Pro version with PANTONE support and color separation support. The Xtreme Pro version goes for $249 USD.

Xara Xtreme has some really cool built-in features like 3D Extrude and named colors. Many users are already familiar with Xara 3D – a user-friendly application for making cool 3D headlines and graphics. Xara has incorporated some of the main functionality from Xara 3D into Xara Extreme. The named colors functionality is also very handy because you can define a few basic colors and change the whole look of a button or even a web page design by shifting the HSB values of the main color (the HSB / HSL color model is referred to as HSV in Xara).

This is just a short post on some of the high points of the software. I hope to explore this application in greater detail and provide more info on it in future posts.