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thornysarus's picture
930 pencils

Mourning the loss of a friend: Freehand

Maybe old news to some, and maybe the writing has been on the wall for quite some time, but I remember a time when Freehand was the only illustration app available for the Mac. That is if you don't count MacDraw, which no one ever does, even way back in the day. When Freehand hit the streets, it was the most amazing thing any of us had ever seen.

I started using Freehand at version one and still use it to this day. So, to say when I got the notice from Macworld in my RSS reader this morning, it sort of choked me up a bit.

Sure... I know Illustrator well enough to switch, and fairly painlessly, but I find myself wanting to reflect a bit and properly mourn the loss of my friend, Freehand.

I ordered Freehand along with a Mac IIFX and my first color monitor. Up until that time, I'd been working on a Mac Plus with it's tiny, built-in black and white screen. I remember seeing that beautiful, purple Aldus Freehand splash screen give way to a blank page and numerous toolbars and floating color palettes. It was just sitting there on my screen, beckoning to me. "Come on... Create something wonderful!"

And I did. :)

That was a long time ago. Since then, Freehand and I have created many wonderful things together. I remember the addition of layering which changed everything. Freehand had it before anyone else. Multiple pages in the same document and the ability to make each page a different size, vector transparencies, and the list goes on. As if it were a child, I watched Freehand be born, grow, mature and now die.

Ok... it may be silly waxing nostalgic over a piece of software, but that's how I feel this morning after reading the news.

Goodbye dear friend. It's been a blast, as I tearfully drag your beautiful, turquoise icon from my dock... and "poof."

More info on switching from Freehand to Illustrator available here:

Terrell Thornhill

e-zign Design Group

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

minxlj's picture
11 pencils

I'm not surprised by the news, and I hate Adobe for it. Freehand operates much better than Illustrator. Anything to do with type or layers, FH does it much quicker and easier. Too many windows and things to select in Illustrator for my liking and sometimes it's just a giant pain in the ass (especially the way it works with layers!!). Sure, it has some benefits and I do use it for some things, but 90% of my vector work is done in FH. As soon as Adobe took over Macromedia I knew this was going to happen :-(

HOPEFULLY they will take the good parts from FH and integrate them into Illustrator to make it a less clunky application...we can but hope.

chucke's picture
4 pencils

I am saddened by this news as well. We all knew it was coming, but we didn't want to believe it. I have been using Illustrator more and more to make sure I don't feel behind if I need to switch over.

There are so many things that are easier to do in FreeHand. My major gripe is accuracy. I like things to be right where I want them. With mathematical precision. Try doing that with Illustrator.

I look forward to Adobe putting an Illustrator wrapper around FreeHand in the future, too bad we have to wait 18 months for CS4 :-(

voodoo6000's picture
6 pencils

i too mourn the death of freehand.

i made the switch a while ago, but still miss freehand's workflow.

while illustrator does do many things better, i still think basic vector creation and editing is more intuitive, faster and more accurate in freehand. illustrator's selection methods are nasty, and give me paste inside over clipping mask anyday! i could go on.. :-)


joecab's picture
97 pencils

"Paste Inside" totally rocked. I HATE the way Illustrator handles masks -- waaaay too messy.

And if Illustrator were going to absorb any of Freehand's functions, it would have done so already, so no use hoping for that one. I'll miss ya, FH! At least now my boss will HAVE to learn Illustrator!

Fraijanes's picture
273 pencils

For me Freehand is a good old friend that has being with me scince my first days at this art, illustrator is not even the shodow of this buddy that will leave a big hole in our minds and hearts, and we are going to dwell over it so much... It´s official for methat I have done about two or three marvels with Freehandy, and this one of the things we are not going to let past in history.
Our mounging period is going to be bast and long, this a fellow that gave us so many happy moments in our professional life as well as some upsetting moments he was not perfect, but was perfect to us, was and is THE PROGRAMO.... he will live in us and we will tell generations to come how beautifull was to work with this Unvaluble friend and work companion.
Live for ever Freehand! You will never die for us.....


We´ll always have Paris! Humphrey Bogart

We´ll always have Paris! Humphrey Bogart

Ivan's picture

I liked many features too. :/

Feel free to share the grief:

ReidDesigns's picture
1283 pencils

. . . was my weapon of choice. . .lol I started using Illustrator 88 and hated it. Had more fun with Canvas. I cut my teeth on Superpaint, and then someone lent me a copy of Freehand when I was in Highschool and BAM it was pure fun!. When I went for my first job I had to learn Illustrator by force that first day. Since then I've never looked back. Early Freehand was the best but the bloat ware it became turned me off.

But Pagemaker I used right up until I left University! and then some after. Never really liked Quark, but its just as easy to pick up. Now I am an InDesign fanatic, so everything evolves, and we move on.

"Try not, Do! or do not, there is no try."

Martin Koch's picture
82 pencils

Don't mourn, Freehand is not dead it just stopped to grow. I bet it can live on your Mac for another decade or even more. See it as a chance it can't be messed up by Adobe. It's perfect like it is and it will stay like it is.

I never had the chance to meet Freehand, I come from Windows and I cried when CorelDraw 4 stopped running on Windows XP. All the following versions got more and more bloated. I use Illustrator now (also bloated) but hey after more than 10 years I could still install Windows 98 using Parallels and run my beloved CorelDraw 4.

Do the same with Freehand. Don't sell it keep it alive on your Mac!

Flub-Dub's picture

out of respect, Adobe should have, at least, fix a small hand of bugs Freehand MX has. Macromedia, should have imposed the future Freehand development as an important condition of the acquisition. There's just too much value and too much fidelity in that app to kill it.

I miss the multiple freestyle pages, I miss the graphic hose,
I miss the speed, I miss the paste-inside, I miss the gradient workflow and most of all I miss the color palette.

Illustrator is damn slow and choppy.
Adobe is paranoid. If they cant do better, they always buy the competition.

always outnumbered, never outgunned

Fraijanes's picture
273 pencils

Freehand makes us look smart as for the other joke is not so funny, is slow and has no point being over...
Making mistakes is human but killing freehand.... they are going to bring it back



We´ll always have Paris! Humphrey Bogart

We´ll always have Paris! Humphrey Bogart

egyfreaker's picture
1 pencil

ummm, i dont know what i can say i used freehand for 10 years now since my first finger press ......
it was amazing he never let me down never and for illustrator can anyone tell me how the hill i can build a multipage brocheur in a fucxxxx i page workspace.
it is not applicable for me never never never.
and i'll still using freehand tell i can see somthing worth at any other application

jbriare's picture
12 pencils

With the ppc G5 being as fast as it is, I can hang onto it for another few years and still be happy using Freehand. I see a future where many designers will retain older machines so they don't have to give up their favorites. Invest in the latest and greatest to remain current but extend the life of these still remarkable powerhouses. Right now I flip flop between Illustrator and Freehand, using the best of both. Just because there will be no more development doesn't mean it won't continue to be a valuable tool. As long as I can export to .ai, psd and .eps, I will be happy and still get to use Freehand. And we can continue to recite our prayers that Illustrator will accept the wonderful things about Freehand and implement them into it's workflow.

chucke's picture
4 pencils

I am using FreeHand MX on an Intel iMac right now and it works flawlessly. It runs dramatically faster than any of the CS1 suite. Go 'dead' Macromedia code :-)

I assume it will work for quite some time on the Intel Macs. At least until Rosetta is no longer around. Although looking at a screaming G5 tower sounds like a decent investment.

Davidcoldrey's picture
1 pencil


Great news! You appear to have answered a question I've been asking since the new Intel iMacs appeared on the illustrated horizon. What version of OS X are you running?

irez's picture
24 pencils

i HAVE to use it daily at work (pre production) and i cant stand it. maybe it's out of ignorance, maybe it's because i'm not too fond of the only customer that supplies us with freehand files, but whatever the reason is i've always been an illy kinda guy.

i'm saddened not by freehands extinction, but more by the fact that adobe seems to have no competition since the takeover and i'm afraid they're gonna sit on their fat asses and do nothing (a la intel transition that took about a year and a half after jobs announced the change) and we're gonna take it.


Anonymous's picture

Freehand and Photoshop were some of the first two programs I ever used for real work. Even two years on from Freehand's death I'm finding Freehand MX still outdo's the current version of Illustrator. Basic, simple features like the duplication of an object in it's same location or files with multiple page layouts are rudimentary features for a vector program yet Adobe still haven't implemented these in Illustrator. Freehand's production speed is very fast especially when one needs to produce many variations of a design. I could go on and on. I hope one day someone has the initiative and time to write a bootleg version of Freehand.

3dogmama's picture
1990 pencils

If Mae West had been alive at the time, they could have used her in marketing:

"Give a man a free hand and he'll try to put it all over you."

"Art -- the one achievement of Man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised." - James Thurber

Footedfriend's picture
1 pencil

I have been using Freehand since 1.0 and Illustrator since 10.0. When Adobe purchased Freehand they should have made a major overhaul of Illustrator and made it similar to Freehand. Using layers in Illustrator is a joke. You have to constantly lock layers when you are creating – well- illustrations.

I mask objects all the time in Freehand (except things like hair) and bring them into Photoshop. I use Illustrator as a final format for printing, but if I have to do tight detail work I use Freehand and import into illustrator. At this time I will not upgrade to Snow Leopard if it means I have to give up an important tool as Freehand. I will wait for Illustrator to catch up.

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