Die-hard FreeHand fans, take note: The latest edition of Macromedia's premier vector illustration program, FreeHand 9.0, sports several new tools to help you draw more precisely and create animated Web graphics. Though FreeHand's plug-ins are scattered about in a jumble of menus and palettes, and the app lacks CorelDraw's configurable interface, it still generates the best-looking print media and Web graphics output we've seen. For an easier-to-master application, however, try CorelDraw.
Plug It In
FreeHand habitués will be glad to see that the program still packs the basic drawing tools, including geometric shape, line, curve, and spiral tools. In addition, though, FreeHand 9.0 throws in some oddballs: the Freeform tool, for example, pushes and pulls objects into any shape you desire, and a nimble Envelope function lets you warp and distort objects. Version 9.0 also offers some new goodies that let you add unusual touches to your illustrations. The graphics hose, for instance, lets you spray objects onto the page, and the Fractalizer makes the outline of your objects jagged.
We love the plug-ins, or Xtras (as they're called in the program). However, sometimes they're a pain in the neck to find because many of them are hidden within a bewildering array of toolbars and palettes. For instance, you'll find some Xtras in the Operations palette, some in the Xtras palette, and still others in the Xtras menu. Whew! Even more confusing, the spiral and eyedropper Xtras appear in both the standard toolbox and the Xtras palette. We'd like it better if the Xtras had a single, consistent home.