May 16, 2007 11:55 AM PDT

Adobe writes FreeHand obituary

It should come as no surprise, but Adobe Systems has officially declared an end to development of FreeHand illustration software and is trying to coax users to its rival Illustrator package.

"After a long and storied career, Adobe (nee Altsys, Aldus and Macromedia) FreeHand has reached the end of its development road," John Nack, senior product manager of Adobe's Photoshop software, said on his blog on Wednesday. "Adobe does not plan to develop and deliver any new feature-based releases of FreeHand, or to deliver patches or updates for new operating systems or hardware."

That means, among other things, that there will be no version for Windows Vista or for Intel-based Apple computers, according to an Adobe frequently asked questions document (PDF) on the move.

Macromedia released the last version of the software, FreeHand MX, in 2003. The writing was on the wall for the product after Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005, given Adobe's preference for its own Illustrator product and Illustrator's integration with other software in Adobe's Creative Suite.

Adobe is trying to encourage upgrades to the CS3 version of Illustrator; registered users can pay $199, about a third of its regular $599 price tag.

Freehand has a long history, at least in personal computing terms. The first version was released in 1988, according to Ian Kelleigh's FreeHand Source Web site. It was a 429KB application that required 750KB of memory to run. The 11th version, MX, was a 10.3MB application that needed 131MB of memory.

Adobe is working to make the switch easier for FreeHand users. According to the FAQ, "Illustrator CS3 includes the new ability to import FreeHand 10 and MX files directly and with higher fidelity than in previous releases."

Adobe hasn't been racing to support Vista even for its latest products. However, the company on Monday announced work on a new driver to use PostScript printers with Microsoft's latest operating system. Adobe expects to ship the driver in July to printer manufacturers that can offer the software to customers.

Windows Vista includes a PostScript driver, but Adobe's "delivers higher quality print output for Office files with transparency and gradients than printing the same files using the standard PostScript driver bundled with Windows," Adobe said.

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Adobe Systems Inc., PostScript, Macromedia Inc., Microsoft Windows Vista, Intel


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Your article incorrectly states that Freehand's first version was
released in 1998. In fact it was 1988.
Posted by boychuk (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
thanks--we fixed it
Thanks for the note. In future, readers should feel free to respond directly to the author, too: the byline is a mailto link.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
the 5 stages of Grief
1. Denial - The initial stage:
"It can't be happening, CNET is hardly a reliable source."

2. Anger :
"How dare you do this to me Adobe?! I'll never use your stupid products again, I'll tell every one to do the same, I'll kill everyone who did this to Freehand" (perceived, rightly or wrongly, as "responsible")

3. Bargaining :
"Just make it on OSX 10.5 or Vista call it Hand CS3, or import it's functionality into illustrator, or make it open source, I'LL PAY YOU twice as much as CS3"

4. Depression :
"I'm so sad, why bother designing anything?"

5. Acceptance :
"Well it's not like I have to use Microsoft Expression Studio. Adobe canned Atmosphere I guess they can encase Freehand as well; Adobe were still cool right, I didn't mean that whole killing thing... OK... Adobe... ?..."
Posted by ColdMast (186 comments )
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Freehand sucked anyway...
Fireworks and Freehand were bad knock-offs of Photoshop and Illustrator anyway. Getting rid of those 2 products were the biggest plus of the Adobe/Macromedia sale...
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
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Freehand was around long before Illustrator . . .
so I don't see how it can be a "knock off"? It anybody copied it was Adobe.

Plus Freehand is billion fold "less" labor intensive that Illustrator will ever be. Here go my hourly rates.
Posted by SandFarmer (29 comments )
Link Flag
TRY ALIGNING POINTS IN ILLUSTRATOR, HAVE FUN! Better get out some guides to help you.

I actually do want that easy freehand control combined with illustrator's eye candy and compatibility.

Freehand offers way more user control, Illustrator is like try to draw by holding the eraser of a pencil.

Anyways, everyone and their dog knew it was coming, I just hope Adobe wont though away the functionality instead of just combining the assets they own.
Posted by ColdMast (186 comments )
Link Flag
Combined tools
I just hope that Adobe will be smart enough to combine the unique aspects of FreeHand with Illustrator so that we don't completely lose the tools we've used for so long. I will miss the speed shoot-outs between the two packages showing Illustrator users just how efficient FreeHand is for 99% of the work designers do. It would also be nice if Adobe would package a 'light' version of Illustrator (or FH) for faculty and non-pro users who can't afford the high price tag but need to make the occasional poster or flyer W/O having to use a MicroSoft product...
Posted by fritzen2 (1 comment )
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well, I've been up and down the first four stages countless times now. But number 5? Never! Adobe has pissed off a lot of people with this clever little move. It's corporate greed over individual free choice. FreeHand was, at the time of it's purported demise, a fully functional application with ongoing marketability. They killed it out of pettiness and as a calculated move to boost their bottom line. We, the people who actually make our livings using FH, don't appreciate it one bit.
Posted by elvis_alien (1 comment )
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