Freeing FreeHand: Aug, 17 Comments When a software vendor abandons one of its assets, many users move on. But what do others do? In a group of passionate FreeHand users filed a lawsuite against Adobe and demanded the release of FreeHand's source code.
The controversy is over now. When dinosaurs ruled the world… The story of Adobe's strange affection for FreeHand goes way back, when Altsys was still around.
In , Altsys created Virtuoso, a vector graphics editor which they licensed to Aldus, who released it under the name of FreeHand.
Adobe attempted to gain control over FreeHand in while acquiring Aldus. The Federal Trade Commission then put a 10 years long moratorium on the acquisition, and all the rights went back to Altsys. But not for long.
Later same year Altsys was acquired by Macromedia. And this is how Adobe finally gained all FreeHand assets. By the time Illustrator was already taking the market's leading position. Unlike Autodesk whose board of directors have so much fun acquiring competing 3D modeling and animation packages, Adobe clearly had no incentive to maintain both rival products.
Even though the company started with an announcement that it would maintain FreeHand and develop it based on customers' needs, a year later they ceased maintenance.
FreeHand v11 runs on Windows 8 Preview Release, but not on recent OSX versions It probably wasn't a huge surprise to informed users given that the company killed off one of its own products, PageMill, shortly before announcing the acquirement of Macromedia along with Dreamweaver.
But it did cause an outrage nevertheless. When things turn pear-shaped for a group of free software users, typically you get a lot of hysteria on forum boards. But in the world of commercial software crazier things happen. The organization attempted to talk to Adobe about the future of FreeHand. At the same time they did their best to attract media attention. In some cases this turned badly for the organization: The allegations boil down to these two: Adobe willingly monopolized the market of vector graphics editors on Mac and significantly reduced the competition on Windows.
Adobe ceased maintenance and development of FreeHand while channeling the customers to Illustrator and charging supracompetitive prices for it. The case was judged by none other than Lucy H. Unlike many boring lawsuits regarding patents and suchlike, the documents of the court proceedings in this case proved to be quite an enjoyable reading. Saying that the Free FreeHand Organization spoke eloquently would be like saying that Victoria Falls is a bunch of water pouring down from a rock.
To give you an idea, here's one of the plaintiffs allegations: Before the acquisition, FreeHand was an actively developed and supported piece of software and a living, breathing product. After the acquisition, Adobe has effectively crippled and killed FreeHand while scavenging its bones for features to incorporate into Illustrator. There were other interesting claims made with regards to FreeHand, e. There are currently no close substitutes for professional graphic illustration software, and no other product significantly constrains the price of this software.
This nicely matches some points made by other users in Adobe forums and elsewhere, such as: Freehand is my medium as an artist, I will work around the restricting platforms until I retire which will be never in my lifetime.
For more details we encourage you to read documents from the hearings. Lucy H. It contains both the full list of plaintiffs' allegations and court decisions on each of the claims. In May both parties entered the final mediation. While the exact results cannot be publicly stated yet, it is known that members of the Free FreeHand Organization over people now can request a discount for unspecified Adobe products.
Adobe also made it clear that they intend to work with the community to find out if it's possible to adjust Adobe Illustrator to meet some users requests. As the result, FreeFreeHand and Adobe resolved the litigation, and the case was dismissed.
No source code of Adobe FreeHand was released. Following that decision, the Free Freehand website was renamed to FreeHand Forum, and the focus turned to one of the alternative solutions. Present days In late , before the battle was lost, leaders of Free FreeHand Organization started considering other possibilities and talking to developers of other vector graphics editors to see, how much could be done to make existing tools more FreeHand-like. Apparently, when the parties entered the last mediation, it was clear that working with an existing software vendor was going to be the only option.
The move was announced on July. The FreeHand community didn't like the new name, so they were surveyed for other options. Despite of OpenHand clearly winning, another rename wasn't announced. The development of Stagestack is now at least partially funded by the community via pledges, much like on Kickstarter.
The company, however, intends to sell licenses and make the software run on both Windows, Linux and Mac. Stagestack is still in its infancy, with very little GUI and only some core features working. Both Windows and Mac versions have been publicly demonstrated. Meanwhile Quasado is currently thinking about doing a conference in Europe for the community later this year.
The net outcome, however, is that the community stepped out of dealing with one proprietary product to start dealing with another. What does it all mean to free software users? There doesn't seem to be a lot of activity from former FreeHand users in Inkscape channels.
There are very few relevant requests in the bug tracker, and the Freehand-like shortcuts scheme anno doesn't seem to be actively used, if you take in account its mentioning on the Web. So the whole FreeHand story isn't affecting the course of development much.
Speaking of Stagestack, it's difficult to predict how in fullness of time the availability of a commercial vector graphics editor is going to affect existing free software projects, especially the ones that primarily target Linux. After all, not many actively developed applications support CMYK and spot colors natively which is an acknowledged deal breaker. As of today, Inkscape's board is strongly against paid development, while Stagestack's development is financially backed.
And while PrintDesign's formerly sK1 developer has nothing against paid development, the project is a one-man band, which makes it a less sustainable enterprise. Another major point here is the support for FreeHand files. Quasado pushed this task to the final milestone, and they aren't done with Milestone 1 yet. Maybe this is where free software could gain part of the former FreeHand community? LGW asked Valek Filippov of the fellow re-lab team about that.
The initial parser of FH files was written by Valek in It was capable of reading v10 and v11 files, with some work still to do on v9 files. Some basics were also figured out about v5-v8.
The main issue with parsing FH files is the way these files are designed. Those IDs do not provide any information about the formats of the entries in the blob. The entries may vary and even be equal to zero. It typically depends on multiple conditions. This makes reading FH files a living hell. The existing basic converter of FH files to SVG barely works, which is why it was never publicly released in the first place. According to Valek, there are several ways to solve this: Of course, there's also a chance that Free FreeHand could get Adobe to publicly release FH file formats specifications.
We'd be interested to hear from Free FreeHand Organization team about that. Unfortunately, they haven't yet responded the request.
While FreeHand itself rests in peace, FreeHand files can still be liberated. Whether this is going to happen, with or without Quasado, remains to be seen. Was it useful? There's more:
Macromedia Freehand MX has numerous new and enhanced features: Standards and interactivity: Object panel--An object panel that lets you view and change properties for selected objects and text. Answers panel--Provides quick access to Macromedia web site content. Power illustration: Extrude tool--The new extrude tool lets you apply 3D extrusion effects to an object.
Multiple strokes and fills--You can now apply more than one stroke or fill to an object. Live raster effects and transparency--Apply live raster effects and transparency. Live vector effects--Apply live vector effects. Blend tool--Use blend tool to drag a line between two blend shapes to create a blend. Calligraphic stroke--New feature that lets you create calligraphic strokes. Eraser tool--New tool lets you erase parts of vector objects.
Image alpha channels--Full support and display for alpha channels of common bitmap image files. Gradient fills--New gradient fills have been added.
Brush enhancements--Apply rounded corners. Connector tool--Draw connector lines that dynamically link objects together. Action tool--Assign Flash actions to an object. Output area--You can now print or export an area of the Document window by using the Output area tool. Simplified movie--Easier to control the settings of a Flash movie inside FreeHand. Ease of use: Tools panel changes: The tools panel has been redesigned to make finding and using your tools easier.
Gradient fill handles--The handles increase your control in manipulating gradient fills. Add page button--You can add a new page to your document by clicking the add page button. Style behavior changes--Control what types of object attributes a style will apply to. Streamline Workflow with New Interface The Macromedia Studio MX interface streamlines productivity and design with a customizable, integrated workspace.
Dockable panels can be grouped together, collapsed, or expanded as needed. Other consistent user-interface elements make your job easier when working within Freehand MX—as well as other Macromedia MX applications. See the image to the left for an example of the new interface with dockable panels.
Increase Productivity with the Object Panel With the FreeHand MX Object panel, you can now quickly inspect and change object properties—such as stroke, fill, and effect—in one centralized location.
Additionally, the Object panel allows for the ordering of multiple attributes. Users can drag-and-drop attribute lists from the Object panel into the Styles panel to create or redefine styles. See the image to the left for an example of the object panel with the object properties. Rapidly Create Complex Designs with Multiple Attributes With multiple attributes, you can build visually rich objects by applying and ordering an unlimited number of strokes, fills, and effects on a single vector or text object.
This eliminates the need to keep up with and edit multiple copies of an object for the same visual appearance. See the image to the left for an example of multiple strokes, fills, and effects applied to a single graphic.
Enhance Graphics with Live Vector and Raster Effects Vector effects such as bend, sketch, and transform and raster effects like bevel, blur, and transparency are now available and can be applied just like any other attributes—either to an entire object or to other selected attributes of the object.
The image to the left was made by using a variety of effects and attributes which include fills, strokes, drop shadow, and ragged effect. It is a fun and easy way create an interesting graphic. Connector Lines provide the ability to quickly map information architecture, data flows, and site maps. It is very easy to change designs if you use connector lines because as you move an image around, the connector line attached will follow. The image to the left is an example of the use of connector lines connecting shapes made with the extrude tool.
Rapidly Create Rich Designs with Live-edit Graphic Primitives This new feature allows you to quickly reshape graphic primitives while maintaining edit ability. Rectangle corners can be rounded, ovals turned into arcs,and polygons can be formed into stars.
All of this can be changed in the workspace. The image to the left is an example of using rectangles with rounded corners to create the shapes of filing folders. As you can tell this feature is very versatile and can be used to create many different types of images for both print and the web. Other SWF publishing enhancements include: Assign Navigation with an Action Tool The FreeHand MX Action tool allows for assignment of ActionScript navigation commands between a source object and a target page by dragging and dropping a link between the source object and the page.
The image to the left is an example of using the blend tool to create blends between two shapes. I drew two circles and used the blend tool to create a graphic which demonstrates the blending process.
Macromedia MX is an excellent upgrade. Changes to the interface have made it easier to use. The stability issues in freehand 10 have been resolved. The new and enhanced tools provide you with moore creative choices. The smoother integration with other Macromedia products helps in developing graphics for print or the web.