Apparently, it’s official now: FreeHand is dead. (via Daring Fireball)

I knew it was dead back in 2003 when they laid off everyone (save a couple of people) on the core FreeHand team. They kept it alive for a while to do an updater with the few remaining people, then transitioned it off to India.

The somewhat odd thing was that the team knew FreeHand MX was going to be their last release. I remember a certain FreeHand engineer’s response to the question “why are you trying to cram so many features into this release?” as being “Because they’re not going to let us do another.” And to their credit, FreeHand MX was a return to their roots: vector based graphics program for print. At least from this observer’s perspective, it felt like FreeHand MX was the best FreeHand version in a while.

I’ve always had a soft spot for FreeHand, as I suspected most of my fellow Fireworks-ers did. After all, FreeHand and Fireworks were the only shipping products that were developed in the Texas office. Furthermore, Fireworks had been started by engineers from the FreeHand team.

Being so close in proximity, Fireworks and FreeHand often “borrowed” engineers from each other. When Fireworks was about to ship, we’d steal a couple of their engineers to help fix bugs. Conversely, FreeHand borrowed engineers from us, the Fireworks team, if they ever got behind. During the FreeHand MX cycle, I had the pleasure of spending about three months working on FreeHand, fixing bugs and bringing it up to par with the “MX” branding.

The most disappointing thing about FreeHand was Macromedia never let it live up to its full potential. After FreeHand fell behind Illustrator in market share, they pretty much ceded it. They had Dreamweaver and Flash, which were now their big money makers, and pretty much lost all interest in the print world. They kept trying to force FreeHand to be Flash, or to at least remake FreeHand for the web, instead of focusing on what FreeHand did best (print), and capturing that market.

Anyway, I digress. I’ve known for a few years that it was a dead product, but I’m still saddened to see that its official now.

P.S. Please note that FreeHand is the only product name with intercaps. i.e. Note that the F and H are capitalized in FreeHand, while in Dreamweaver and Fireworks, only the first letters are. This was a big pet peeve of the FreeHand team.

P.P.S As a technical aside, most versions of FreeHand (save the most recent ones) were written in a home grown language, that was humorously, and appropriately, called OOPS (Object Oriented Programming System). It was basically a preprocessor that generated C code that was then compiled to machine code.