FreeHand Graphics Studio gets upgrade for the Web

This isn't low-end software. It takes up more system resources than garden-variety
desktop applications, and I applaud Macromedia for resisting the trend toward less
documentation and technical support. Each program in the suite has its comprehensive user
guide. Online help is extensive and context-sensitive.

FreeHand 7, this suite's vector drawing component, has full-color autotrace to convert
bit map drawings into full-color, editable vector line art. The search-and-replace
function can find each occurrence of a graphical characteristic or type attribute and
replace it with any modification.

FreeHand's new Align panel makes it easier to line up objects and points. Multicolor
gradients are easier now with the Inspector palette, and you can adjust the screen display
to show colors as they will appear when printed.

FreeHand now sports combinable, tabbed palettes similar to those in Adobe Photoshop.
Interface refinements simplify navigating through the many options.

The suite's image editor, xRes 3.0, uses an object rather than layer metaphor. Its
palette layout reminds me of Photoshop. XRes shines as a World Wide Web tool for editing
transparent .gif and progressive .jpg graphics.

Embedding uniform resource locators inside a Web graphic is as easy as making an object
and assigning the URLs in the Object Properties box. You get brushes, textures, Adobe Xtra
plug-in support, floating text objects, a gradient designer and color-based masking.

Also included with xRes is a limited edition of Kai's Power Tools from MetaTools Inc.
of Carpenteria, Calif. But the filters are so disabled they frustrate rather than excite.

Unlike FreeHand, xRes does not have tool tips. To find out what an icon does, you have
to look in the status bar at the bottom of the screen.

These tools include Macromedia's Extreme 3D Metaform, which lets you build complex
organic forms from any two-dimensional profile. The Particle tool dynamically animates
your 3-D work. There's hardware acceleration support for Microsoft Corp.'s Direct3D and
Apple Computer Inc.'s QuickDraw 3D rendering interfaces.

You can drag and drop profiles from FreeHand to Extreme 3D and then export the
high-resolution rendered images to xRes 3.0. Extreme 3D accepts most Internet file
formats, including Virtual Reality Modeling Language 1.0 and 2.0, progressive Joint
Photographics Experts Group, Portable Network Graphics (PNG) and the QuickDraw 3DMF
format. It's compatible with Macromedia's Shockwave, too.

The suite's Fontographer 4.1 lets you make your own font library for printing,
multimedia or the Internet. It generates and edits PostScript Type 1 and 3 fonts, TrueType
fonts and multiple master fonts for page-layout programs. The Blend function lets you
blend two existing fonts into an entirely new one.

With so many free fonts available, I don't recommend buying Fontographer as a
standalone program, but it's a nice add-on for the suite.

You can embed anti-aliased fonts in your graphics with Shockwave. And it simplifies
adding hot links or URLs to any graphic.

FreeHand Graphics Studio has the integrated tools to produce cutting-edge graphics.
Except for FreeHand itself, none of the individual apps is cutting-edge, but the suite as
a whole constitutes a solid offering.

William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Ocean Shores, Wash.

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