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Macromedia embraces Mac OS X

The software maker will begin shipping FreeHand 10 for Mac OS X next month, the company's first product tailored for Apple's new operating system.

Macromedia will begin shipping FreeHand 10 for Mac OS X next month, the company's first product tailored for Apple Computer's new operating system.

The announcement comes just over a week after OS X hit store shelves. The release will put Macromedia squarely ahead of other industry leaders, such as Microsoft and Adobe Systems.

The two software makers have yet to issue versions of their most popular software--Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop--tailored for Mac OS X. A number of software makers have said they will release upgrades created for OS X this summer or fall.

Graphic designers in print and Web publishing use FreeHand as a layout tool.

"Enabling FreeHand 10 to support OS X was, in my opinion, very important to Macromedia," FreeHand product manager Keith Hutchinson said via e-mail. "Loyal Mac users for years have looked to Macromedia to step up to bat before anyone else in the market."

According to Hutchinson, 40 percent to 45 percent of FreeHand customers in the United States use Macs; the rest use Windows-based computers. When the company releases FreeHand 10 for Macs next month, it will also ship a version for Windows.

Macromedia plans to release a version of Flash compatible with OS X later this year or early next year, the company said.

For Apple, showing that software makers back Mac OS X is essential to bolstering more developer interest in the product, analysts say. The prompt response of Macromedia, one of the larger graphic design software companies, helps Apple toward this goal.

Although most existing software for Macs, including Office and Photoshop, actually can run on OS X, they can do so only in the so-called Classic environment. This means they cannot take advantage of OS X's new graphical interface or most of its new features such as protected memory. And Mac enthusiasts who buy OS X must run many software applications under OS 9.1, which is included in boxes of OS X.

Some Mac owners aren't interested in switching to the new operating system until compatible software is widely available.

"My company plans on upgrading to the new system soon, but not too soon, since all our software is still OS 9. We are a bit concerned about running our stuff in emulation mode," Swarm Interactive co-owner Scott Horner said via e-mail. Swarm is an interactive Web development company.

"The sooner all my apps get to the OS X standard," he added, "the sooner I feel comfortable with making the system upgrade."

FreeHand 10 offers several features not available on FreeHand 9, including the Macromedia user interface and the ability to publish on both paper and the Web with few additional steps.

FreeHand 10 offers better compatibility with Flash and the use of the symbol library from Flash. Other new features include "master page" functionality, which allows graphic designers to edit hundreds of pages at once that share common design elements.

FreeHand 10 is expected to ship in May for $399. Upgrades from previous versions of FreeHand cost $129. Flash 5/FreeHand 10 Studio costs $599. For a limited time, it will be sold for $499. Upgrades to Studio from previous versions of Flash for FreeHand are $199.