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Welcome to learning Macromedia FreeHand. If you are like most people who are just starting out with the program, you may find it a little overwhelming. This Visual QuickStart Guide has been written to help you sort out the many different features.

FreeHand is one of the most versatile graphics programs for the computer. At its simplest, FreeHand is a vector drawing program. It allows you to create varied artwork such as drawings, logos, and illustrations.

FreeHand also lets you add scanned artwork from programs such as Macro media Fireworks or Adobe Photo shop. This makes it an excellent layout program to create ads, book covers, posters, and so on. FreeHand has a multiple-page feature that allows you to create newsletters and flyers, as well as multi-page presentations with differently sized pages.

Finally, FreeHand uses the newest Flash technology to turn FreeHand artwork into animations. FreeHand also lets you save your files in formats that can be posted directly onto the World Wide Web.

Using This Book

The first few chapters provide overviews of the program. You may find that you do not create any artwork in those chapters. Do not skip them. They contain information that will help you later.

The middle chapters of the book contain the most artistic information. This is where you can see how easy it is to create sophisticated artwork using FreeHand.

The final chapters are about printing, preferences, and using your artwork with other applications and the Web. Some of this information refers to technical printing terms. If you are not familiar with these terms, speak to the print shop that will be printing your artwork.

Using the Exercises

If you have used any of the Visual QuickStart Guides, you will find this book very similar. Each of the chapters consists of numbered exercises that deal with a specific technique or feature of the program. As you work through each exercise, you gain an understanding of the technique or feature. The illustrations for each of the exercises help you judge if you are following the steps correctly.


Working with a book such as this, it is vital that you understand the terms I am using. This is especially important since some books use terms somewhat incorrectly. Therefore, here are the terms I use in the book and explanations of what they mean.

Click refers to pressing down and releasing the mouse button on the Macintosh, and the left mouse button on Windows. You must release the mouse button or it is not a click.

Press means to hold down the mouse button, or the keyboard key.

Press and drag means to hold the mouse button down and then move the mouse. In later chapters, I use the shorthand term drag; just remember that you have to press and hold as you drag the mouse.

Menu commands

FreeHand has menu commands that you follow to open dialog boxes, change artwork, and invoke certain commands. These menu commands are listed in bold type. The typical direction to choose a menu command might be written as Window > Panels > Style. This means that you should first choose the Window menu, then choose the Panels submenu, and then choose the Style command.

Keyboard shortcuts

Most of the menu commands for FreeHand 10 have keyboard shortcuts that help you work faster. For instance, instead of choosing New from the File menu, it is faster and easier to press the keys on the keyboard. On the Macintosh, the keys are Cmd-N. On Windows, the keys are Ctrl-N.

Keyboard shortcuts are sometimes listed in different orders by different software companies or authors. For example, I always list the Command or Ctrl keys first, then the Option or Alt key, and then the Shift key. Other people may list the Shift key first. The order that you press those modifier keys is not important. However, it is very important that you always add the last key (the letter or number key) after you are holding the other keys.

Learning keyboard shortcuts

While keyboard shortcuts help you work faster, you really do not have to start using them right away. In fact, you will most likely learn more about FreeHand by using the menus. As you look for one command, you may see others that you would like to explore.

Once you feel comfortable working with FreeHand, you can start adding keyboard shortcuts to your repertoire. My suggestion is to look at which menu commands you use a lot. Then each day choose one of those shortcuts.

For instance, if you do a lot of blends, you might decide to learn the shortcut for the Blend command. For the rest of that day use the Blend shortcut every time you need to make a blend. Even if you have to look at the menu to refresh your memory, still use the keyboard shortcut to actually apply the blend. By the end of the day you will have memorized the Blend shortcut. The next day you can learn a new one.

Onscreen element appearances

Some of the onscreen elements, such as the toolbars, may look different in this book from your settings. That’s because I changed those panels to make them easier to read. For more information on customizing the toolbars, see Chapter 32.

Cross-platform issues

One of the great strengths of FreeHand is that it is almost identical on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. In fact, at first glance it is hard to tell which platform you are working on. However, because there are some differences between the platforms, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Modifier keys

Modifier keys are always listed with the Macintosh key first and then the Windows key second. So a direction to hold the Command/Ctrl key as you drag means to hold the Command key on the Macintosh platform or the Ctrl key on the Windows platform. When the key is the same on both computers, such as the Shift key, only one key is listed.

Generally the Command key on the Macintosh (sometimes called the Apple key) corresponds to the Ctrl key on Windows. The Option key on the Macintosh corresponds to the Alt key on Windows. The Control key on the Macintosh platform does not have an equivalent on the Windows platform. Notice that the Control key for the Macintosh is always spelled out while the Ctrl key for Windows is not.

Platform-specific features

A few times in the book, I have written separate exercises for the Macintosh and Windows platforms. These exercises are indicated by (Mac) and (Win).

Most of the time this is because the procedures are so different that they need to be written separately. Sometimes features exist only on one platform. Those features are then labeled as to their platform.

Mac OS X

Macromedia FreeHand is one of the first applications to take advantage of the new Mac OS X (ten) operating system. If you are learning FreeHand on a computer that uses OS X, you will find much of the interface to look different. Don’t worry, though. The differences are cosmetic. There is nothing that FreeHand running in OS X can do that can’t be done in Mac OS 9 or Windows.

Learning FreeHand

With a program as extensive as FreeHand, there will be many features that you never use. For instance, if you are an illustrator, you may never need any of FreeHand’s text or layout features. Or you may never need to create charts or graphs. And if you are strictly a print person, you may never need to do any exporting as Web animations. Do not worry. It may be hard to believe but even the experts do not use all of FreeHand’s features.

Find the areas you want to master, then follow the exercises. If you are patient, you wil find yourself creating your own work in no time.

And don’t forget to have fun!

Sandee Cohen (SandeeC@vectorbabe.com)

July 2001

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