At times, FreeHand has looked out of place in the Macromedia stable, with its Web features seemingly included as an afterthought to differentiate it from Adobe Illustrator. FreeHand 10 is now a fully Web-enabled application, presenting a strong interface for creating vector-based content for any medium. Other important improvements include stronger compatibility with other Macromedia products, and the ability to publish large documents quickly to both the Web and PDF (portable document format).
New features include contour gradients, custom paint and brush strokes, and editable symbols. Contour gradients allow you to draw paths along an object where colour gradients are to follow, allowing more natural fills and changes in colour.
Creating your own symbol is now a matter of saving your graphic as a symbol and using it as you would any other object in the library. Reflecting the focus on optimising productivity, libraries can be shared easily across a "network, helping to improve workflows significantly.
While already strong in handling multi-page documents, FreeHand 10's master page feature may remove the need for some designers to use a dedicated layout program such as QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign. Users can now update a component of a master page and have the changes automatically updated throughout the document.
If you find yourself increasingly creating graphics for the Web, FreeHand 10 could be the program for you.
3D animation on the Web has been possible for several years, although it has rarely been successfully implemented, as most animations are much larger than still graphics and most users had to contend with slow modem connections.
The 3D capabilities of the latest Director 8.5 Shockwave plug-in provide the capacity to put a 3D player on the "desktop of nearly every Web user, as well as the ability to provide an engaging 3D experience over a slow connection.
Central to Director 8.5's new 3D animation capability is Intel's Internet 3D graphics software, which offers adaptive geometry and rendering. This means that only the basic instructions for an animation are sent to your computer - the rest of the rendering is then dependent on the type of PC you have, not the speed of your connection.
For example, if you are sent an animation of a dinosaur, you only have to wait for the first frame. As you watch more of the animation, the resolution of the dinosaur improves while the animation continues to play. The crucial point is that only the instructions for the animation are sent down the line to your PC, not the physical animation. This alleviates a bandwidth bottleneck that has plagued designers and users since the introduction of the Web.
Macromedia FreeHand 10
Distributor: Firmware Design
Phone: 1300 369 951
Macromedia Director 8.5 Beta
Price: $2495 when released
Distributor: Scholastic Australia
Phone: 1800 665 774