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Please post links to screenshots and/or criticism of this vector drawing application.

About Macromedia Freehand

Freehand was one of the first desktop vector graphics editors, during the PostScript-fueled desktop publishing boom of the 1980s, initially developed by Jim von Ehr of Altsys, but licensed for distribution to Aldus. It reverted to Altsys when Adobe purchased Aldus.

Versions 1 to 3 were limited to 1 page documents. Versions since 4 were based on the NeXTstep program Altsys Virtuoso and allow multiple page over one drawing table (allowing us to see all pages just from zooming out) MacromediaMX (11) is the current version, reflecting a transition to .swf and web development over the program's lifetime.

Macromedia has been bought by Adobe in 2006.


A review specifically comparing Inkscape 0.42.2 and FreeHand MXA: [1]

The most effective site which covers Macromedia Freehand is The Freehand Source. (It is also a proof-by-example that Flash can be used on the Web). Whilst the author admits a little bias with such phrases as "ode to a fantastic program I've grown to love over the years", it really is a wart and all look at the program in its many versions. The (framed) pages on Tips, and Bugs are probably the most useful, but the whole site is worth looking at.

See Review: FreeHand 10, though this might contain too little information to be useful.

Note that Macromedia never really took the trouble to encourage invisible or unsanctioned copying of this product, and there are few plug-ins for it. An excellent book covering it was Olav Kvern's Real World FreeHand which was available for versions 3–8 (much of its content has been recycled into Real World InDesign).

Freehand is well-suited for doing precise work (such as charts, maps and diagrams), and its elegant, consistent interface allowed even people with limited artistic skills to use the program successfully.

Whilst there are many individual features of Freehand that are superior, and ought to be incorporated into Inkscape, I suggest that the history of this program and its current state, is a lesson in how not to run a business unit. Having said that, Freehand has missed most opportunities for bloat, and its feature set is no greater than its loyal customers actually use, it has an excellent reputation for the quality of its Postscript output - though I suspect that Illustrator has caught up (if it were ever behind), and its file format, though binary, has allowed Macromedia's developers to produce a program which handles a lot of metadata for each object.

  1. The Generic pointer tool is small and neat
  2. Selection markers are unobtrusive
  3. Envelopes are only shown on request


  • Inset Tool (see below)


Google Image Search:Freehand

Freehand Inset Tool taken from a Freehand tutorial (and another tutorial on using Inset)

Please add more...

User Interface

Macintosh Keyboard Shortcuts for FreeHand

Offical Links and General Information

Macromedia Freehand Official web site

Macromedia Freehand at Wikipedia

See Also

Macromedia Freehand is the product most directly relevant to Inkscape but we can also learn from Macromedia Fireworks and MacromediaFlash which all seem to be fundamentally vector-oriented software.