Powerful, usable design: FreeHand MX

FreeHand has been given the MX interface treatment to bring it in line with Macromedia’s other design programs.

The updated onscreen layout is accompanied by an Object panel, making FreeHand much more intuitive. This new panel presents all the attributes — outline, colours, effects and so on — of a selected object in one place for editing. It’s a simple, yet powerful and highly usable, approach.

Web designers will like the new Action tool, which lets you drag and drop dynamic Web actions onto your artwork. Those with less Web expertise will appreciate the refreshed Flash SWF export option, which simplifies the whole process of creating animations.

The upgrade also sees plenty of additional art features, including a calli­graphic pen, a connector tool for flow diagrams, and the ability to save multiple object attributes as reusable styles. There’s also a fast extrusion tool for turning ordinary shapes into 3D objects, an eraser which rubs through vector paths beautifully, and a much improved approach to gradient fills (see here for a screenshot).

We doubt the improved interface and tools will woo existing users of Illustrator, CorelDRAW or Deneba Canvas over to the FreeHand MX camp, but there’s a great deal here to make them jealous.

In brief: Macromedia FreeHand MX
There’s something for everyone in Macromedia’s latest release of its illustration package, from new art tools to advanced Web animation. The focus remains firmly on the professional designer, though.
Price: $810
Vendor: Macromedia
Phone: 1800 001 014
URL: www.macromedia.com/ap

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Alistair Dabbs

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