New FreeHand simpler and more efficient

FreeHand users will get a chance to see version 7 of the illustration package at a demonstration in Auckland next week.

Macromedia's Freehand Graphics Studio has made an impression around the world--but more so in some places than others. Its marketing includes a figure constructed in Freehand 7.0 which is holding its hands in front of its face. In some countries this is considered an offensive gesture, says Macromedia New Zealand distributor Renaissance Creative's Suzanne Baillie.

Despite some misunderstanding of the messenger, the message to Freehand users is one of simplifying the application and adding a lot of time-saving features.

Auckland users will be able to make up their own minds next week when Freehand Graphics Studio 7 is launched at the Ellerslie Convention Centre.

FreeHand Graphics Studio 7 is a major upgrade of the 2D and 3D illustration and image editing applications for both Windows and Macintosh. The application will run on the Macintosh platform but only on Windows 95 and Windows NT.

With xRes 3, Extreme 3D 2, Fontographer 4.1, and FreeHand 7 -- which is a major upgrade to the Windows version -- Macromedia has optimised its suite for the Internet and now supports the newest graphics file formats such as transparent GIF, progressive JPEG, VRML 2.0, URL embedding, as well as their own Shockwave compression technology. For those users working on FreeHand 4.0 or 5.0 who are wondering what happened to version 6, fear not -- you haven't missed anything -- Macromedia has.

Baillie says because it's been two years since Macromedia updated FreeHand and that was to version 5.5 for the Mac, the company has decided to skip to version 7.0 for its latest release.

With Shockwave support for all three applications in FreeHand Graphics Studio 7, designers can stream 3D animations and high-resolution images from Web servers out to users, who can pan and zoom using new tools added to the Shockwave player. Macromedia has added drag-and-drop support for files between applications, and now users can import Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator files or QuarkxPress files for editing within FreeHand or rasterising in xRes.

While xRes has been used mostly as a complementary tool for Adobe's Photoshop in the past, new additions may tempt users to spend more time with the application. It can now be used to do touch ups or create masks, and while no one can see Photoshop fading from view, there is no doubt xRes is moving into Adobe's space.

The main improvement to xRes is in the Raster Image Processor (RIP), which converts vector graphic data for output to printers or screens, and now supports level-two postscript and anti-aliasing for better font representation. Another feature allows URLs to be embedded directly into graphical objects, so that links are maintained when objects are edited or moved around a page.

Additions to FreeHand include a feature that lets users search documents by image type or attribute -- colours, stroke widths, fonts -- and automatically update the file with changes to the image. The blending tool has been upgraded to blend spot and process colours between multiple objects and the print settings have been consolidated into a single print dialogue box.

The FreeHand Graphics Studio for Windows 95, Windows NT, and Macintosh will be available in the first week of November for $1800, FreeHand 7.0 by itself costs $955 with upgrades at $370 for FreeHand 7.0 alone and $470 for the Graphics Studio. For users of competing programs, the prices are $450 for Freehand 7.0 and $550 for the Graphics Studio.

Macromedia is distributed in New Zealand by Renaissance Creative, phone toll-free 0508 525 070.

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