Interview with the Creator of FreeHand...Mr. James Von Ehr! 
The following is an interview with the man who helped build the program we all use and love, FreeHand. James Von Ehr founded Altsys Corporation based in Texas. The company was best known for FreeHand, which was originally licensed to Aldus Corp. and for Fontographer, a leading tool in developing fonts. Altsys was eventually acquired by Macromedia.

Thank you to Mr. Von Ehr for taking the time to answer all the questions. Enjoy the interview!

1. What inspired you to first work on Fontographer and FreeHand?

Fontographer came about when the LaserWriter came out & our FONTastic customers asked if we could make fonts for it. My answer to the first couple of inquiries was "yes, but you won't like the quality". After several such inquiries, we decided the market was asking for something that we should provide, so Fontographer was born. My wife Gayla named it - at first, Kevin (Altsys co-founder) & I didn't care for the name, but it quickly grew on us, and proved to be the perfect name.

FreeHand, similarly, was born when I noticed our early Fontographer customers were taking it way beyond letterforms, and doing drawing. It was a "DOH!" moment, when we realized we could go after a much bigger market than fonts.


2. What do you think of the new version of Fontographer?

I'm pleased to see that it lives on, altho I confess I've been so busy with my nanotech ventures that I have lost touch with the world of graphic arts.

3. How long were you involved in the development of FreeHand?

Starting with the original concept, I was actively programming and designing until Altsys hired programmers so good that I semi-retired, around version 4.

4. Was FreeHand modeled after Fontographer?

Some of the drawing tools extended technology that we first developed in Fontographer, but FreeHand itself was able to go far beyond the bounds of Fontographer (which due to the nature of typefaces, couldn't do a lot of the complex things we could imagine doing with FreeHand).

5. Are there things you would have done differently had you worked on
every version of FreeHand?


Yes. In fact, there are things I wish we had done differently starting in version 3. We spent a lot of time moving to object-oriented development methodologies long before the programming tools really supported those approaches. Today, a language like Python makes that approach absolutely right, but back in the 90's, putting in those trendy concepts cost us a lot of momentum, and needlessly complicated FreeHand. Other companies fared far worse - some, in fact, lost so much momentum trying to be "object-oriented trendy" that they lost market share to competitors and ended up ruining their company. Not naming names here...

6. What was your favorite version?

I think version 3 was my favorite, but I always looked forward to the next version beyond whatever we were working on, since it would have even more cool things.

7. Do you use FreeHand and Fontographer today?

I still usually use FreeHand when I need a drawing or composite of something. I'm not that graphically talented, so my stuff usually reflects "programmer esthetics", but FreeHand is the tool I use. When I started in nanotechnology, in 1997, I switched our company to the PC, since most of the tools we needed only ran on the PC, so now I am running the last PC version that Macromedia released (MX). I dread the day when Adobe decides to cancel the authorization codes allowing installation on a new machine, but am pleased that it still runs on Windows 7.

8. If FreeHand was back on the market, could you see it developed for the
new OS's the way Fontographer was?


If it was open-sourced, it would probably first be ported to the current releases of Mac & Windows, but it could well move to other platforms. With today's high power computers, a lot of it could be rewritten to take better advantage of the computer power available.

9. In the earlier years, do you wish things were handled differently with
FreeHand? For example, do you wish that FreeHand wasn't sold to
Macromedia?


I have no regrets about the Macromedia sale - that was the best chance we could see of moving FreeHand forward. It was clear that if Aldus had handed it to Adobe, that Adobe would kill it. And we needed an international presence to continue moving FreeHand forward. At the time of the sale to Macromedia, I think Altsys was under 60 people, with several excellent international distributors, but no dedicated sales force. We discussed a merger with a couple of other companies, but those talks didn't go anywhere. Adobe would have crushed us in 1994, if we hadn't gone with Macromedia.

10. Were you a user of Illustrator before or while working on FreeHand?

Illustrator came out after FreeHand was well underway, and I never even looked at Illustrator, except at trade show demos. We were really busy with our own vision, and didn't need to examine a hard-to-use and limited competitor.

11. What is FreeHand's strength in comparison to Illustrator?

I'd say it has always been easier to draw in FreeHand. Simple stuff is simple. Click & drag - no need to remember which specialized tool does the operation you need. And you get to see it in preview mode. That was pretty hard on the limited power computers we had back then, but I felt it was the right thing to do, so I personally developed the PostScript engine and spent a lot of time tweaking the code to be fast enough.

12. A lot of Illustrator users probably wonder what's the big deal, just
use Illustrator. What would you say to those people?


Well, of course - if you like the tool, and have gotten to the point where its quirks feel natural, you should stick with it. Particularly since Adobe DID finally get their hands on FreeHand, and killed it, just as we knew they would. But if you've had a glass of fine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, it is hard to enjoy a low-end screw-top wine, even if a lot of guys standing around outside the liquor store drinking out of sacks say it's pretty good stuff. Of course, there's not much alternative now, is there?

13. What is your opinion of Adobe and it's products?

They are very good at marketing, and make decent products. I'm not a fan of the "buy your competitor and kill their products" business strategy, but I understand it. Their development of the PDF format has been a very good thing for the graphic arts - we sure wouldn't have gotten that level of presentation quality from Microsoft.

14. Are you surprised by the amount of support FreeHand has been given in
regards to saving the program?


Yes, it is extraordinarily gratifying to see the support for keeping FreeHand alive. I worry about how I'll draw the few things I need once Windows has changed to the point where FreeHand won't run. I can imagine the concerns of someone who has incredible skill in FreeHand, and earns money using it.

15. If FreeHand were to be given another chance, what improvements would
you like to see in the program?


I'd actually spend some time trying to simplify, unify, and clarify. Over the several releases that have happened since I was involved in the U/I, much of the simplicity has been lost, or hidden. It would have to be directed at other output formats than just print, obviously. And I'd spend time picking a few key users, and asking their opinion of where to go, just like I did to develop version 1.0 (thanks Herb & Simon).

16. What do you think will be FreeHand's future in a world of mobile
phones and hand held devices? Do you think it can have a role in digital
publishing?


Yes, but the users would have to provide that input - I'm an old gray-haired guy now, and wouldn't try to say what is important, beyond a smooth user experience, and the best quality output we can cost-effectively provide. Meeting a need at an affordable cost is the crux of engineering (where cost is a multidimensional value, including design time, display time, transfer time, and more).

17. What makes you proudest in regards to FreeHand?

It has held up pretty well, for a 25 year old tool. I'm pleased we were able to drive a lot of innovation in the days when competition was still a factor...

18. What are some things that you wish made it into FreeHand but you never
had the chance?


Not much, really, I usually had a wishlist, but those items made it into the next version, even if they didn't get into the current one we were working on. I would have liked to have done a better job of supporting PDF, but Adobe had several undocumented secrets they would never tell us, so some of our big customers who correctly saw PDF as the future high quality graphic format (supplanting PostScript), had to go back to Illustrator. It was really aggravating that Adobe was proclaiming an open standard, when they in fact kept secrets from their competitors.

19. What are your current projects now?

I'm deeply involved in nanotechnology, with my companies Zyvex Labs (working on the technology for atomically precise manufacturing), Zyvex Performance Materials (developing and selling high-performance nanocomposite materials), and my latest, Zycraft (developing a 54 foot remote control, robotic boat built from the advanced materials of ZPM, and weighing less than 1/2 of what a conventional boat would weigh).

20. Do you have a message you would like to share with the FreeHand
community?


Thank you for your incredible support over the years. It has been great to meet a lot of you, and I'm in awe of your talent. I hope the FreeFreeHand folks make great progress in their quest to give us back the program that showed us that a computer could be a creative tool, not just a fancy typewriter or adding machine.

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Reminder: Participate in the Class Action Suit to Save FreeHand! 
FreeFreeHand.org is taking the fight to save FreeHand to court! FreeHand can be back in
competition, and run on the latest hardware and operating systems, and that has
all its features working smoothly with new ideas to come. Show your support for FreeHand ad prove to Adobe that we matter too!

Please take a few minutes to fill out the online form at
http://www.freefreehand.org/court/form.php

This is an important step to prove to the Court that we're disenfranchised consumers with legitimate claims.

If you're concerned about your privacy, please read this:
http://tinyurl.com/7g86h8m

If you want to see a new version of FreeHnd, please sign the form. Again, this is an important step to save our favorite program!

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This says it All About Illustrator! 
Mark of FreeFreeHand.org made me aware of an article recently that was sent through the FreeHand Discussion List. It really says it all, explaining the frustrations we FreeHand users have using Illustrator. I asked the author, Charles Syrett, permission to use it here.

Here's the article:

You're in the market for a new car. You show up at Adobe's car showroom,
driving your trusty old FreeHand. The salesman says, "have a look at our
new Illustrator model -- take it for a spin!"

The Illustrator looks really "cool" and up-to-date. You get in. Nice
sound system! State of the art GPS! All the bells and whistles!

But wait. What's this? Two steering wheels? You look at the guy
inquisitively.

"Well, sir, you want to use this one to turn left, and this other one to
turn right." He says it patiently, as if talking to a child. You then
ask, "where's the brake pedal?"

Again, smug condescension. "Nobody uses pedals any more, sir. First,
pull that lever over there, and then press that button. No, not that
one, sir, the one underneath the dash."

You're bewildered. "This thing isn't practical! Can't you just sell me a
FreeHand? A car that actually runs? I don't *need* the fancy stuff or
all the hidden tools!!"

"Sir, I know you'll love this car, once you get used to it. Everybody is
driving Illustrators these days. We don't service the FreeHand any more."

Wow...that says it all.Illustrator makes you go through so many loops just to get something done. FreeHand can get the job done ten times faster in my opinion.

Good luck to FreeFreeHand.org in their lawsuit with Adobe. I'm hoping Adobe will listen to FreeHand users as they have been virtually ignored by them. They certainly wouldn't lose any money updating FreeHand.

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Congratulations to FreeFreeHand.org 
I just wanted to take the time to thank those involved in FreeFreeHand.org. They have been doing a terrific job in their effort to save FreeHand.

I remember when I started the message board for FreeHand users to keep their favorite program running. It was a lot of work and I felt so discouraged after Adobe made their formal announcement that FreeHand wouldn't be updated. But FreeHand users taught me how strong they really are and unwilling to give up.

Adobe should listen to it's FreeHand fans. These group of users really care and are dedicated to saving the one tool that makes their jobs easier, better and efficient. I don't think I have ever seen a more passionate group than FreeHand users! Of course, there has never been a program as big that has been killed off the way FreeHand has.

Please keep up the great work you do...I think a lot of good will come out of it. Adobe has been trying hard to ignore the FreeHand users but eventually they will listen, especially after the letter campaign from last month.

I'm sure no one anticipated that much rejection from FreeHand users. The amount of voices speaking up for FreeHand shows how Adobe was wrong in thinking it could just kill this program. I think they will eventually change their minds. I'm sure Adobe now realizes that many of FreeHand's users are willing to pay for an upgrade. I know I am willing...as I want FreeHand to keep working!

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FreeFreeHand.org is a website that wants to save FreeHand. Check out the interview below with the person responsible for the website! 
When Adobe announced that they were going to discontinue development with FreeHand, a lot of us FreeHand users felt frustration. Adobe waited too long to let us know their intentions and we felt they ignored our pleas. I had a petition for FreeHand before that but decided there was no use to continue it as Adobe wasn't going to budge.

But here's how important FreeHand is... A group of users got together and formed freefreehand.org, a website devoted to FreeHand users that examines ways to possibly rescue FreeHand. Some people at Adobe are probably thinking "Here we go again" or "can't FreeHand users just give up and try Illustrator"? The following interview explains why some FreeHand fans do not want to give up the fight and why Illustrator just won't work for them.

Thank you to Bez for taking the time to answer my questions and good luck with the website. Now onto the interview...

1. What is it about FreeHand that users stick with their favorite program?

As anyone who's become proficient with FreeHand, before Illustrator, will tell you, it's by far the more enjoyable of the two to work with. Fast, intuitive, and logically organized. The tools, key commands, and functions you use most feel like they are a microsecond away. After you've used it for awhile, and you're all warmed up and into a project, you almost get the sensation of flying! Key features like paste inside and the ability to select, align, and distribute objects or points without the program "getting in the way" make using FreeHand just about the most un-frustrating experience imaginable. Little things you get used to, like the ability to grab a vector line and bend it from anywhere between two points, make it painful to leave behind when the same things are missing in Illustrator. I could go on and on but the basic point is that FreeHand just does things right. There are advanced features in Illustrator that FreeHand lacks, but who cares when you can't get the basics right first? Oh, and I also love FreeHand's contextual Properties>Object palette. Just amazing—90% of what you need in the same spot! A big time saver.

2. Tell me more about your website freefreehand.org.

It wasn't until Macromedia was bought by Adobe that I took any interest at all in what was going on behind the scenes. Before that, it was enough that all this great software was out there and Adobe had real competition. I never liked Illustrator, even before I discovered FreeHand, so I was pretty concerned when I saw the writing on the wall. When that writing on the wall became fact, I got furious. “How could they do that?” I thought. So I went into the Adobe forums and started poking around. That's when I found a long thread, started by Jack PNG, asking if FreeHand users would pay for an upgrade if Adobe would keep supporting it. I jumped in, preaching to the choir while simultaneously being ignored, like everyone else, by Adobe. After awhile I realized the futility.

I couldn't figure out why Adobe wasn't pulling everyone's comments off their forum: some of them were pretty aggressive and ranting. One time I even called them "a pack of Nazis" and the comment wasn't pulled down. That's when I realized, they'd let us rant to our heart's content just as long as we stayed in this closed box. I began thinking about starting an organization that could take the passion and turn it into action using money raised by donation. About that same time, I noticed a comment by Thü Hürlimann of Switzerland suggesting exactly this idea, so I wrote him an email and offered to team up. All for the better I think as we've accomplished far more as a team than we ever would have by ourselves. A couple months after we launched the site, in September 2009, we added Mark Gelotte of Arizona, USA to the team. He's been extremely helpful in keeping the ball rolling.

Long story short, the three of us have been pleased and encouraged by membership growth, contributions to some of our ongoing activist projects, and lots and lots of conversation in the Q&A forum. The members are what make it all worthwhile. We'll ask for money later, but honestly if we could pull this off without needing to do that, we would.


3. Have you tried using Illustrator CS4 and how do you think it compares to FreeHand?

Yes, I have.

During the initial Forced Migration (what I refer to as Adobe's way of handling the FreeHand users it inherited), I tried CS3 just like they told me to. I had the same reaction I had the first time I tried using Illustrator back in 1995: blech, this is no fun at all. If anything it had gotten worse, as all but the fastest machine suffers horribly from the bloat. Saving a file actually brings up a progress bar on my dual 2.5Ghz G5 tower! That's just not right; add it to the pain category. Sure, CS4 added multi-paging and better gradient controls, among a few other odd details, but it misses the point. It's the overall speed and elegance of FreeHand, not a preponderance of features, that make FreeHand what it is. It's just what you need and not too much more.

Last Fall, I decided to take a quarter of school, with one of my classes being Illustrator CS4. In fact, I completed all the projects and got an “A”. Now I use Illustrator every day at a new job, so it's a good thing I learned how to use it well. I will say the whole experience does get better as you get used to the quirks, but it still elicits a "stupid Illustrator!" from me at least once an hour. Compared to FreeHand, it just seems backwards. The dizzying array of palettes do nothing to make my work go faster or make it easier to find what I'm looking for. Quite the contrary. I still get annoyed with text a lot: not nearly as elegant as FreeHand. Everything takes longer, more clicks and tools, even once you're fully accustomed to the way it all works. It's just exasperating whenever I stop to think "oh yeah, this is progress all right!"

Also, I tried using the CS4 "Like FreeHand" workspace but I'm unimpressed. Among other things, the color palettes in Illustrator bug me, so I have to customize them to work more like FreeHand.


4. What are some of the options that are available for saving FreeHand?

Good question. That's exactly what we've been working on from the beginning. No one is making this easy for us, so we do research in our spare time, consult with lawyers willing to talk to us, and brainstorm different strategies. Right now we are in the planning stages of several campaigns we feel might prove very effective. For example, a PR campaign targeting business journals and other media channels in that category. According to the firm we plan to hire, our story is real and compelling. If we can force Adobe's hand to step forward and publicly explain why they think it's okay to fly in the face of thousands of professionals who rely on FreeHand to make a living, then we'll have true progress. Bad publicity is one of the most effective weapons in our arsenal.

Another upcoming action is the coordinated activism of our 4500+ membership. They are ready to act and plenty angry. They want an outlet to voice their frustrations to Adobe and we will give them that.

A final option is to take legal action. Based on the FTC action forcing Adobe to give FreeHand back to Altsys back in 1994, we believe there's precedent to work in our favor. According to our legal discussions, that's a long and difficult road so we see it as a last resort. However, depending on how things go, it could also be played into part of the PR strategy. We'll see.<br><br>Before any of this though, we need to send our warning shot across Adobe's bow. We're working on that right now, and while I don't think they will suddenly say "Oh, is that what you wanted? Why didn't you just say so? Of course we'll update and support FreeHand!" we have to give them the chance to respond before launching into the next phase. If they go for the carrot before the stick, well that's just fine with us. This is all set to happen very soon, by the way.

All of this overlooks the question: what are we asking for? And maybe that's what you really mean by the question. We see three options:
1. Update FreeHand for the latest hardware and OS along with bug fixes. Adobe pledges ongoing support.
2. Assuming any patent issues can be worked through, Adobe offers to sell FreeHand to another software company
3. Release FreeHand to open source.

This last option may actually be the best solution, if they can be made to see the silver lining of what this offers. We do think there's a silver lining for Adobe, but initially it could be hard to convince them. In our research, we’ve outlined the advantages of an Adobe sponsored Open Source FreeHand and they are quite compelling. Also, it's possible they could be compensated by substantial funds we raise—Free FreeHand could ultimately prove to have deep pockets. Who knows?


5. What features of FreeHand do you think need to be addressed first if it is updated?

Our Q&A forum has a great collection of ideas, although I don't claim they're as well organized as they could be. We have one post titled "If Freehand development started again what new features would you like to see?" that makes a number of good points. The main ones are already on our home page though. Things like better PDF support and fixes for exported PDF-related bugs and limitations; and perhaps most important of all, the ability to run natively on Intel Macs using Snow Leopard. (It still works, but only using Rosetta and an Adobe registration file fix. It's stable but there have been a number of reported bugs.) Also, a lot of people mention wanting better color control, but I've never had any trouble getting what I want out of FreeHand.

6. Do you think Adobe could make FreeHand users happy by adding more features into Illustrator that they miss?

No. Illustrator doesn't work right. It isn't about cramming more convoluted features into an already bloated mess. If anything I'd rather see FreeHand lose a couple features, take on a couple new ones from Illustrator that are actually useful, but mostly keep it the lean, fast, workhorse we love it for. Unfortunately this doesn't play well into the idea of selling upgrades or full suites: new features is what constitutes the marketing and selling of each new version. How would Adobe make money if they one day decided, for any given application, "Okay, this one is completely finished. It does everything it needs to and will never need updates or new features." That's not the business they're in. Too bad for us who just want good tools to make a living.

7. What is the thing that bugs you most about Illustrator in comparison to FreeHand?

Well, I've mentioned a couple already. I'm not going to sound original here because my complaints mostly resemble those of others, but here they are:
1. Masking. It stinks. Paste Inside is a way better method and it's highly irritating to have to mask things, which are then useless in terms of aligning to other objects (Illustrator uses the masked object rather than the masking shape).
2. Text. I'm still getting used to Illustrator's two different kinds, plus a number of things it doesn't do that FreeHand does. If you use FreeHand you know what I'm talking about.
3. Lots and LOTS of little things. As one member said, "please don't make me explain, it hurts..." It's the cumulative effect of countless annoying little road blocks that add up to one giant, frustrating experience.
Our members have put a lot of great points out there, some of the best perhaps on these two pages (along with some heated debate as a result of some Illustrator defenders):
http://tinyurl.com/y9f4tvc
http://tinyurl.com/y99dfou

By the way, it's been put forward by several people that InDesign is the better option for FreeHand users. I've used this too, to some extent, and while the PDF creation is fantastic, the rest leaves me unimpressed. It's okay mind you, in the way PageMaker was okay (yes, I know ID is better than PageMaker), but it still leaves me asking: how is this an improvement over FreeHand? Only for book design maybe.


8. How many people have signed up for your website and how many more are needed?

Just over 4,700 right now. We've sent out just 3 newsletters to the membership list and we need to do more. It seems like continued activity and communications keeps the growth rate steady, whereas growth seems to slow when we're less active about keeping the spirit alive. I think however that this is a pretty good number we're looking at, although I wouldn't mind doubling or tripling that.

There's no way to know how many we'll need, it depends on how long the fight lasts, and how much we need financially to do it. As it is, the current number represents more than enough for our next planned PR campaign, even if we only see $2 apiece donated as an average.

There are a lot of unknowns with our endeavor. We just keep forging ahead, evolving as we go.


9. Do you think Adobe has done enough in the transition from FreeHand to Illustrator?

Well, that's a pretty subjective thing. I guess I'd have to say “yes” if Illustrator represented a desirable direction for a FreeHand user to move in. But it's also a really big step backwards as many have found out. For the last 4 years, the vast majority of us have earnestly attempted transitioning to Illustrator but the experience has not worked out. So in that sense there's no way Adobe can ever do enough—no amount of migration guides or special upgrade offers can compensate.

10. What features in Illustrator do you think that FreeHand users like the best?

There are some good type tools that FreeHand doesn't have, but in most ways type is more difficult. The 3D Extrude and Bevel effect can prove useful, since FreeHand's equivalent is a bit lacking. Mesh gradients are cool, on those rare occasions you might need it. Some of the layer effects are also nice, in that you can make a semi-transparent gradient screen or multiply. With FreeHand, I've always resorted to doing certain things in Photoshop and dropping them in, but it's nice to have these kinds of options right in the program. Illustrator also has a lot of nice brushes you won't find in FreeHand, but I rarely need them in the work I do. Then there's all that Live Trace and Live Paint stuff. I like it, but no amount of fiddling with the controls produces anything other than a recognizable effect, at least when working with photos. It can be very useful for creating original illustrations though. I plan to spend more time working with these features. I’m probably safe in saying that Illustrator and FreeHand can work well side-by-side for those features that the other lacks.

11. Has Adobe responded to any of the complaints that FreeHand is not being updated? Are they aware of your website?

They have not in any way acknowledged us. But we think they're quite aware of our existence and intentions. They'd have to be living under rocks not to know about us. It’s likely they're staying quiet and waiting to see what happens. We have to prove to them how serious we are, and what kind of resolve we can put into this.

One insight into the mind of Adobe that we gleaned was a result of FreeHand's initial incompatibility with Snow Leopard. Apple released Snow Leopard on August 28th, 2009 (according to Wikipedia). As Intel Mac-owners upgraded to the new platform, and new computer purchases added to the number of Snow Leopard users, the FreeHand "failure to launch" issue became more widespread. FreeHand users pressed Adobe for answers and found none. Irritation with their slow acknowledgement of the issue, and lack of action to rectify it, grew into intensifying anger as is evidenced in a number of Adobe forum posts. Adobe did eventually release an official fix, but not until September 25th—almost a whole month after the Snow Leopard release! Remember also they had plenty of time before a Snow Leopard release to work through these issues, as they undoubtably did it with their other programs—it's not like Apple foists a new OS on the world without giving software companies a chance to test it. We think this might have been Adobe's way of testing the FreeHand market to see what would happen by ignoring its users in this dire situation. It’s that or they're truly negligent. Either way our community sees this treatment as unforgivable.

It was the collective voice of the FreeHand community that affected Adobe management enough to warrant the Snow Leopard fix. That is tremendously encouraging of the power of our numbers and Adobe should be watching our movement carefully. They simply represent what is happening all over the world these days with big business and corporate institutions who are threatened by competition and feel they must squash or buy out any threat to their monopoly. Ironically, we’ve even noticed members in our Q&A forums and those in Adobe’s own forums feeling that they are becoming the “New Microsoft.”


12. What features in FreeHand do you think Adobe overlooked the most?

Like I said before, it's more about a large quantity of little things plus a handful of key things we depend on; this even includes something as seemingly simple as the selection tool. Any one thing may not seem like a big deal, but the user experience between the two applications is entirely different. One is very pleasant. One often raises the blood pressure. I'll let you figure out which is which!

One small example I can give is from just the other day. I wanted to make a graphic suggesting rays of the sun, not pointy like a star but rather fanning out bigger from the center. So I made the first shape, aggravated at the outset by Illustrator's inability to distribute the anchor points, and started repeating it. Only I couldn't seem to duplicate and rotate from the same spot at the axis, easily and consistently working my way around. Every time I duplicated the shape (pasting in front instead of cloning), I lost the point of rotation I'd set. I eventually pulled it off, but not without some hair pulling and grumbling (I was at my new job where I don't have FreeHand installed—yet). Maybe there's a "right way" to do this in Illustrator, but why should I have to go digging into a Help topic, or take a time-consuming tutorial??? It should be simple. Later I tried the same exact task in FreeHand—never having taken a tutorial or used Help, mind you—and executed this as you'd expect in literally less than a minute. Beautiful! It makes the creation of digital artworks a blissful activity.


13. How does FreeHand work on the latest Mac platform? Have you tried it using the latest Mac OS?

Yes and it’s not bad at all. I just got a new iMac, it has the Intel i7 chip and runs Snow Leopard. I migrated from my old G4 laptop so FreeHand came right over. I tried opening FreeHand just to see, and as expected it bounced a couple times and quit. So I performed the official Adobe fix, which took about two minutes, and now it works fine. Rosetta installed almost automatically, and although it's not a desirable thing it doesn't seem to be affecting me...yet.

I would like to add that FreeHand on an Intel Mac running in Rosetta does not play nice with my favorite haxies (Unsanity's great OS customization utilities). I'm having some challenges resolving some apparent conflicts, but I guess that's to be expected when you're a beta user. Regardless, whether you're talking about Apple or Adobe it all boils down to the same thing: give the people what they want!


14. What role do you think FreeHand could have in the marketplace if it is updated?

There's so much to love about FreeHand, I can't imagine it not enjoying continued popularity if it was upgraded and rereleased, whatever form that might take. A lot of people, myself included, think of FreeHand as the ideal creative tool for digital exploration and design. It's fast. It's easy. It does what you want without a lot of fuss. You can quickly execute a variety of ideas just to see them, then edit and refine from there. And it's fun to use! You can take your creations to a fully complete stage, ready for transfer to the printer or to bring into other environments, like Flash, Photoshop and, yes, even Illustrator. Call it what you will, this doesn't describe Illustrator or InDesign. They entirely miss what makes designing stuff a fluid process for a lot of people.

15. How many users do you estimate are still actively using FreeHand?

I've wondered about this a lot. We've talked about it in the Q&A space a fair amount and I don't know the answer; I'm not sure anyone does. But I do think our current membership is only a fraction of that number. As we gain visibility and prove our effectiveness, I hope they'll continue discovering us and join the cause. It's probably literally thousands who are out there thinking they are the only ones faithfully holding onto their favorite program, FreeHand, as they struggle with Adobe's “forced migration” to Illustrator.

In an email I received from James Von Ehr (one of the original creators of FreeHand when it was developed at Altsys) he referred to "hundreds of thousands of satisfied FreeHand customers". Certainly it’s now way down from it's peak usage, but if anybody really knows it would be the higher ups at Adobe. And they're not about to tell us.


Best of luck to FreeHand fans who are interested in saving their favorite program. Please register at freefreehand.org if you support this movement.

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