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Tue 03 Aug 2004

Comparing Freehand and Illustrator, OS 9 and OS X

Category : Technology/FreehandAndIllustrator.txt

I used to be a Freehand user. I knew the program well enough (since the time it was called Aldus Freehand) to teach it, in turn, to artists and designers. But Freehand (since it was acquired by Macromedia) seems to have gone to the dogs.

It's still an easy enough application to teach a beginner about vector-based graphics, as opposed to pixel-based tools like Photoshop, but its interface has turned clownish, as if to fit in better with the Windows crowd.

Adobe Illustrator, on the other hand, is a bit harder to grasp. I constantly had trouble re-sizing the graphics until I figured I had to throw away what I had learned from Freehand and learn some new things on Illustrator's terms. That accounted for the couple of trips to the on-line manual. But after that, though I still occasionally got frustrated moving an object rather than re-sizing it, I found Illustrator to be much slicker and better designed than Freehand.

A lot of designers have refused to move away from OS 9. If you look at the state of Freehand on OS X, you would harken back to the good old days of the slick, efficient, clean, Mac-like tool that Freehand was.

But, if you open your eyes and keep an open mind, you may discover a whole new world of productivity, especially when you use the whole Adobe suite - InDesign, Photoshop, GoLive, Illustrator, Image Ready, and Acrobat - in concert.

There are of course, still, a few Windows-centric elements in these programs that mar a Mac user's experience, e.g., icons for the sake of having icons, and an increased use of modes. Mac-like applications try to avoid having a user turn on or off modes to effect an operation because that's the easiest way to intrude into the user's awareness and break the flow of his thoughts. (That was what gave me the most trouble learning Illustrator - I had to switch to an edit mode to change a shape, and it's pretty "iffy" whether you've effected the switch or not. Freehand is a lot more fluid in this sense.)

But when you're doing a web site, you need to have the tools integrated the way Adobe did with GoLive, Image Ready, Photoshop and Illustrator. You're always able to work with the original artwork and GoLive takes care of creating web-ready graphics and updating all the right places on your site folders.

OS 9 hold-outs ought to take a look at what they're missing. There's a whole new way of working. But there's a lot of fear that printers will all break on OS X. I'm not too sure if that is myth or fact. I feel just the opposite - that it'll be easier to find printers that will work with OS X and that they will often cost less because Postscript is not that much of a requirement on OS X anymore. I have a Postscript colour laser printer that works with OS X but I often neglect to use the Postscript option because OS X's built-in Quartz-based rasteriser does a good enough job of emulating a Postscript printer, with maybe up to 95% of its quality.

I don't have time to research this area much. It only comes up when I try to make good quality prints and I get the standard comments from printing companies that they don't like OS X much (as if they've ever really tried to use it). It's irritating but that, I feel, is something for those working for Apple to solve. For now, I think, the migration to OS X has been well worth it. At least for me. I'm tempted to say, OS 9 is for the Luddites. But that may be too rude.

How did the Holy Trinity of Aldus Freehand, Aldus PageMaker and Aldus Persuasion become Macromedia Freehand, Adobe PageMaker and abandoned, respectively? I must have fallen asleep along the way.

Posted at 10:19AM UTC | permalink

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