JULY 18, 2001
The biggest and best new feature is the Master Page feature than enables you to modify elements automatically across large multi-page projects. You can also now specify print areas, including elements in the work area, but not necessarily in the document. This can be handy for zooming in on a particular area for a highly detailed printout, or for showing alternative designs. For example, you might have two versions of a small logo within a complex graphic page; rather than redesign the page with the alternate, you could simply include it in the printout.
Editable symbol libraries, symbol-based brush and spray strokes, true contour gradients (which print more reliably than gradient fills), embedded font support for EPS graphics and the expected bevy of improved and polished features from prior releases round out the package.
The bottom line
This isn't a decisive victory. The battle promises to continue, with vector graphics simply one of the tools used as Macromedia and Adobe strive to lock you into working with their respective uber-interface no matter what you're creating.
Our final recommendations are as follows: If you use a previous version of FreeHand, this is an upgrade worthy of a strong buy recommendation. If you use no vector illustration program but need to purchase one, FreeHand 10 ties with Illustrator 9 overall, with an edge going to FreeHand 10 for Web design work. Frankly, an illustration program belongs on every designer's computer, and, in this respect, for compatibility and features, both Illustrator and FreeHand are "must buy" products. If you already use Illustrator 9, FreeHand 10 doesn't offer too many compelling reasons to switch, unless you need more (and easier) Web functionality.
Finally, if you're on Mac OS X, there's no competition. FreeHand 10 works natively, while Illustrator doesn't, and there's no word on when Illustrator will.
FreeHand 10 is available for $399 for the full version and $129 for the upgrade. A Studio version is also available that includes Flash 5 for $499, with an upgrade for $199. Student, volume and site license programs are also available. For more information, visit http://www.macromedia.com.
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J.V. Bolkan runs Bolkan-Nelson Media Services a multimedia creation, testing and evaluation firm nestled deep in the rain slicked depths of the Northwest. He admits responsibility for a large body of printed and Web-published work in the computer graphic field dating back to 1983, including a stint as columnist, lead reviewer, and editor for PC Graphics & Video and NT Studio magazines. When he isn't hip deep in blackberry vines and computer parts, he works as an editor at the International Society for Technology in Education. He can be contacted at [email protected].