What is it: creative graphics software suite
Applications: provides high-quality graphics files for use in almost any application, including Web publishing
There was a time when, if you wanted to create illustrations without a pencil, you did it on an Apple Mac using either Freehand or Illustrator.
Now there's a host of vector illustration packages on the market, mostly running on Windows platforms.
Freehand Graphics Studio 7 ships simultaneously for Mac and Windows.
It combines Freehand 7, Xres, Shockwave, Extreme 3D, and a font-creation and editing package, Fontographer. So, in one super-suite, Studio 7 provides designers with all they need for producing posters, packaging, brochures or business cards, paper, CD-ROM or Web-based design and illustration.
Macromedia has also thrown in a 10,000-piece clip-art library and 500 fonts.
Freehand itself has changed significantly, not just in terms of its new Web-friendly features, but in its radically redesigned interface.
With its new toolbars, buttons and snap-together palettes, it resembles the many PC copies it spawned.
The main toolbar has common feature buttons for functions that previously were selected from a menu. These include filing and edit operations, group and ungroup, join and split, lock, align and so on.
A new addition is the Find Graphic button which facilitates word-processor style search-and-replace operations based on graphic attributes, such as stroke colour and width and fill-type path shape.
The Freehand toolbox has been revamped and includes new tools, as well as enhancements to existing ones. There's a polygon tool that allows you to specify the number of sides to a shape, a bezigon that draws paths using automatic curvature and a trace tool that works on colour bitmaps, converting them to bezier paths.
But new users and customers who want to upgrade will be attracted by Freehand 7's support for Web graphics. Web designers can now work in RGB colour mode to make the most of Shockwave. For Freehand users, the main advantage of this is that vector images can be used on Web pages with all the resolution-independent and file-size benefits it entails. Such pages can be viewed at magnifications up to 25,600 per cent with no loss of image quality.
Shockwave also allows users to create hot links or add URLs to graphics.
The Shockwave after-burner compression feature further reduces graphics file sizes for faster downloading and Web-page viewing. Shockwave can also embed anti-aliased fonts in Web graphics.
All in all, Freehand Graphics Studio 7 should make the design and production of graphics, particularly those for the Web, much easier and the results more exciting.
Verdict: Shockwave converts will consider this a must-have: otherwise, Freehand 5.5 for Mac and 5 for Windows is a better deal at only #99.
Contact: Computers Unlimited on 0181 358 5857 or at www.macromedia.com
Price: Freehand 7: #450; Freehand Graphics
Studio 7: #550; upgrade from any product in FGS7: #159; crossgrade from Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Canvas and Micrographx Designer: #159
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