Design in Motion packs FreeHand 8.0 for Web page creation

Macromedia Inc. once again
has released a new suite with its upgraded FreeHand drawing program. This time, the suite
is Web-oriented.


FreeHand 7.0 [GCN, May 26, 1997, Page 34] came bundled in the FreeHand Graphics
Studio, which included xRes, Extreme 3D and Fontographer. The new Design in Motion suite,
of which FreeHand 8.0 is part, has other new components: Flash 2.0 and Insta.HTML 2.0.
Each program comes on its own CD-ROM and has a separate setup program.


Not counting extra fonts and clip art, FreeHand 8.0 takes up about 32M of storage.
Flash 2.0 takes another 16M. Insta.HTML 2.0 is a FreeHand Xtra, similar to an Adobe
Photoshop plug-in, and it occupies less than 1M.


The suite runs under Microsoft Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 or Apple System 7.1 or higher
versions. Like any high-end graphics program, it needs at least 24M of RAM to run
effectively.


When Macromedia released FreeHand Graphics Studio, it competed against Corel Corp.'s
popular CorelDraw suite. But times have changed. Design in Motion goes after the growing
market for Web page design.


FreeHand 8.0 is an excellent vector graphics program for illustration and multipage
document creation. Flash adds animation, interactive components, sounds and size
optimization. And Insta.HTML exports the FreeHand pages in Hypertext Markup Language.


Although FreeHand 7.0 was certainly full-featured, Version 8 has even more goodies. One
is dynamic transparency for objects that are in editable vector format.


FreeHand's Fill Inspector lets you set transparency attributes such as shape, location,
opacity and color. Another useful effect is the Magnify lens, which applies a variable
zoom view to any area. The Magnify lens can reflect all changes made in the original
drawing, or you can select the snapshot option and lock the view in place.


Another new item in the FreeHand toolbox is a Freeform tool, which pulls or pushes
areas along a path. New users will find it more intuitive than the usual Bezier controls.


The smart cursor changes to a pointer with a squiggly line to indicate a pull operation
or a pointer with a small circle to indicate a push operation. You vary the area affected
by pressing and holding the left or right arrow keys.


FreeHand's interface is easy to customize by adding, removing or rearranging the
buttons and fields on the main tool bar, the info bar and the text bar. Tool bars can be
docked to the sides or top of the screen or can stay as free-floating panels.


You can customize the keyboard shortcuts or remap all of FreeHand's shortcuts to mimic
those in other programs such as CorelDraw 7, Adobe Illustrator 7.0, or QuarkXpress 3.3 or
4.0.


Another interface improvement shows up in the interactive transforms. Each object has
transform handles for direct manipulation. You can rotate an object or scale it
horizontally, vertically or proportionally.


New effects are always fun. My favorite is the Graphic Hose, which paints a series of
objects much as the Nozzle does in Fractal Design Painter from MetaCreations Corp. of
Carpinteria, Calif. The Garden Hose brushes are not terribly exciting, but you can easily
invent new ones.


Other new Xtras are the Emboss and Shadow effects. Emboss has preset options for
standard, chisel, ridge and quilt embossing styles. There are controls to customize these,
too. If you need a quick drop shadow, select the Shadow effect from the Xtra tool bar and
double-click the Shadow tool icon to open a dialog box of shadowing options.


With the Mirror Xtra tool, it's a one-click operation to mirror objects on a horizontal
or vertical axis. When you open the Mirror dialog box, there are options to mirror an
object any number of times around a center point.


This version of FreeHand has enough improvements to justify an upgrade or new purchase.
It is an excellent choice for offices that need cross-platform compatibility between
Windows and Macintosh operating systems; Version 8 came out simultaneously for both OSes.


But stunning graphics alone will not make your Web pages stand out. Animate them using
Flash 2.0's anti-aliased vector graphics files, which shrink to as little as one-tenth the
size of their .gif counterparts.


Small Web animations such as logos or interactive menu items are especially compact and
easy to create. You can import bitmap images and .wav sound files into a Flash animation,
but remember, they can balloon the final size to unacceptable levels.


Flash's drawing tools, similar to those in FreeHand and other drawing programs, are
intuitive enough for the novice Web designer yet sophisticated enough to satisfy advanced
users. Pros will find full support for pressure-sensitive drawing tablets, pens and
erasers.


Flash organizes animations along a timeline via a frame-number ruler near the top of
the screen. Each element in the animation can exist on its own layer within the timeline,
which makes it easy to apply different animation effects to each element.


To create a new animation with Flash, place an object at its starting point and
designate this frame as a key frame. Then choose a frame 10 or 15 frames down the
timeline, designate this as another key frame, and move the object to this end point.


Now select Tweening from the pop-up menu. Flash will draw all the frames between the
two key frames as an animation sequence.


My biggest problem with Flash was selecting objects with the pointer. Most graphics
programs let you select an object by left-clicking on it. To select multiple objects, you
hold down the Shift key and click on multiple items.


In Flash, every time you left-click on a new object, it will be added to a multiple
selection. To select a new object individually, you must click on a blank portion of the
page, then click on the object--just the opposite of what I'm used to doing.


I also dislike having to download yet another plug-in to view my animations with a Web
browser. Other than these minor complaints, Flash is one of the fastest ways I've seen to
add animation and limited interactivity to a Web site. And Flash 2.0 is much easier to
learn and use than MacroMedia's Director.


Insta.HTML 2.0 installs easily and takes up little room. Unfortunately, its only
documentation is an online HTML file. Insta.HTML takes a FreeHand document and makes a
what-you-see-is-what-you-get Web page, so FreeHand designers can transfer pages to the Web
without worrying about HTML coding.


Insta.HTML 2.0 supports absolute positioning and cascading style sheets under Dynamic
HTML. You can designate a portion of a text block as a uniform resource locator link and
put multiple links in a single block of text. Insta.HTML supports Portable Network
Graphics, still Flash graphics and new FreeHand 8.0 functions, such as lens fills.


It's annoying that the default .gif export is nontransparent. You must set FreeHand's
export choices to transparent .gifs before you create any Web pages with Insta.HTML.
Otherwise, Insta.HTML does an creditable job of making Web pages out of FreeHand creations
with minimum intervention.


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


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