If you remember using Freehand on pre-PowerPC Macs, then you’re old. If you don’t know what FreeHand is, you’re not missing much. It’s a piece of vector yesteryear, a vestige of the merger of Adobe and Aldus. Who wants to free FreeHand?
FreeHand was the first really good vector drawing application for the Mac. Once Adobe swallowed the competition, FreeHand was relegated to the Yesteryear Pile of software we loved but didn’t buy enough of.
Today there’s a movement to set free FreeHand.
FreeHand is quite possibly the best vector drawing application ever made. For those of us who still use it in our every day work as designers, this statement is indisputably true.
FreeHand was good, yes, perhaps even better than Adobe’s Illustrator at the time, though Illustrator had and has a huge user base, many adherents, and plenty of champions, despite the high price tag, and even higher learning curve.
Giving Up Ghosts
Just like HyperCard stacks, some people can’t give up the ghost of vector tools of the past. Guess what? FreeHand still works on Mac OS X Snow Leopard, but not easily, and not without some problems.
We were relieved to find that it does work well in Mac OS X Snow Leopard (after first installing Rosetta, the binary translation software that makes PowerPC-based applications run on Intel Macs). But the experience reminds us that we hang on the edge — maybe next time it won’t work.
Someone over there needs to ask if FreeHand actually does more than Illustrator. Is it more capable? Is it more feature complete? Are there less expensive alternatives that do 90-percent of the job for a nominal price tag.
Delighted as we are that FreeHand remains one of the most powerful and versatile tools in our arsenal of design applications, there are some bugs when running FreeHand 11.0.2 in OS X 10.5 and 10.6 that require complicated workarounds.
I’m delighted to see old utilities and applications that haven’t been updated in years will still work on my Mac. But if they haven’t been updated in years there is probably a reason, and it does not bode well for the future. HyperCard users, I’m lookin’ at you.
What are the guys behind FreeFreeHand.org trying to accomplish, besides delaying the inevitable?
We want FreeHand to have a future. Not only because we love to work with it, but also because we have thousands of files from the past we may need access to on any given occasion (well, they open in AI, but are converted into chaos).
I feel your pain. Still, can you name an application besides HyperCard that’s older than FreeHand? What can be done to save this venerable vector vixen, the relegated relic of the past?
For those who still use FreeHand today (and don’t want to use Illustrator, possible reasons for which are myriad) the application must be brought up to date and maintained, i.e. known bugs fixed and made to work natively on current operating systems. We don’t believe this is asking too much.
A number of alternatives have been pushed forward by the FreeFreeHand.org group. That includes raising funds for continued development, going open source and letting a community of die hard users bring the code up to date, and so on. Oh, did I mention that one of the options is to raise funds for a class action antitrust lawsuit?
Sufficient funds are raised such that legal recourse becomes an available option and the owner is pressured into making a choice: release the code and all rights, or updates must be provided. Call it a class action antitrust lawsuit. Our lawyers have advised us that such a course would be futile and doomed to failure.
The road less traveled is often less traveled for a very good reason. I like a mission of righteousness as much as anyone, but I gave up my HyperCard stacks many years ago. Freeing FreeHand won’t make Adobe any less arrogant, and is unlikely to produce a better product for the masses.