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FreeHand Forum • View topic - Your expectations
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Your expectations

Your input for Quasado's FreeHand alternative Gravit (formerly known as Expressive or Stagestack)

Re: Your expectations

Postby captaindigital » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:52 pm

I'll apologize in advance if this is largely a duplication. I posted here earlier and it appears that the forum ate my post. Damnit. But I'll try to recreate what I wrote earlier - eleven suggestions for Expressive development.

I'll begin by saying that I approach this project from a couple of perspectives - I am a FreeHand user. I use Illustrator because I have to, not because I want to. I worked for Micrografx for six years, where I did user interface design for Designer, Windows Draw, Picture Publisher, et cetera. And lastly, I worked for Altsys as the Senior Product Manger for Virtuoso, the version of FH that was written for Windows NT, Sun Solaris and NeXTStep.

My first wish for Expressive would be that they start with the basics. The worst thing about Illustrator (and the best about FH) are the Bézier editing tools. Illustrator (specifically and generally) makes me jump through hoops to do ANYthing. FreeHand is easy, streamlined and intuitive. Get that part right FIRST. Build on that foundation. It's not enough to be able to draw/edit Béziers - you have to make it frictionless to do so.

Second: Prioritize. I could care less about 3D and the perspective grid. Prioritize which features are needed by the most users and get them right first. There's always time for upgrades later. But if you don't get the priorities straight it will cripple the program.

Third: Get user feedback early and often. Macromedia was big on this. I served on two "expert" panels - one for Fireworks and the other for Freehand, where they'd bring us in under NDA, open the kimono and show us cutting edge stuff to get our feedback. Adobe doesn't do that. It's a great idea. Letting users help you prioritize features is not a bad idea either - just remember that these results can be skewed by too many "hot" features, and give you a false sense of urgency, leading you to overlook the bread n' butter features.

Fourth: Don't fall into the trap where you start to believe that, because you understand development, you know more than users do. Users may not know - or care - how to code a feature, but they know far better than you how they'll use it.

Fifth: I'd LOVE to see you build Expressive as a modular platform, where EVERY tool and feature is, essentially, a plug-in. This would make the program lean and mean for those who don't need certain features, and rich/deep for those who do. It would allow users to customize the app for things like technical drawings, pre-press, and web design.

Sixth: Make sure it's a Rosetta Stone for file formats. I desperately need to be able to open FH11 and FH10 files. But I need to read and write AI, EPS and PDF formats, too. That's a BIG DEAL for me.

Seventh: Take advantage of today's APIs. My most frustrating FH experience is a lack of mouse scroll wheel support. Maddening.

Eighth: Don't romanticize FreeHand. It had flaws. Many of them. In particular regarding the U/I, think like a USER, not a PROGRAMMER. I don't care that applying a Postscript fill is programmatically an entirely different thing that flood filling a shape with a color. To a user, a fill is a fill is a fill. Group items in the U/I according to USER needs, not for the convenience of a software engineer.

Ninth: Get rid of the obsolete features. Does ANYBODY care about Flash support in this day and age? I wrote two books on Flash and I couldn't care less.

Tenth: Git 'er done! Let's not wait until you have every feature from FH11 done before you ship. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan next year.

Eleventh: THOU SHALT NOT PORT. I have some inside knowledge on the folly of porting software from one platform to another. Please don't write this for Windows and then take the easy way out and port the code to Mac with some translator. Each platform needs to be developed as a native application.

Those are some pretty broad brushstrokes, but that's it. Do these and I'll be first in line to buy.
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Re: Your expectations

Postby LaurentR2D2 » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:52 pm

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Re: Your expectations

Postby P45C4L » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:55 pm

Basically I really need a few core features that make Freehand's greatness:

1. the Group and object paradigm which is NOT layer-based
2. the alt+click "straight line to curve" fast Bézier drawing
3. the Join paradigm of object punching each other
4. the dead simple drag and drop eyedropper
5. the non-button-based and single view Align palette
6. the easy to use Paste-into masks
7. the Page tool

That allows me to draw fast, really fast
Love this Expressive idea, I just backed it up!
Wish you all the best!

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Re: Your expectations

Postby TurboLee » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:14 pm

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Re: Your expectations

Postby Bertrude » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:30 pm

I think for me, in addition to a feature set akin to Freehand's, Expressive will need to embrace a few things to really get me hooked.

It would definitely have to have support for dpi settings, CMYK, spot colours and Pantone libraries to be really suitable for basic print design along with support for various imported image formats and colour modes.

A feature I always wished for (if possible) in FH was the inclusion of transparent colours or a flash-like alpha setting for colours so gradients for example could have alpha settings applied to all or individuals colours used within them. This would be incredibly versatile for layering up and overlapping tones for complex illustrations where previously the lens fill proved intensive and crash inducing at times, and the transparency effect resulted in rasterisation.

Tablet support and pressure sensitivity options would be great too and I'd love the pen tool to behave in exactly the same way, and with the modifier keys to retain similar functions such as space to pan, modified to zoom in/out, shift to lock directional movement etc. Even better would be to at least let users customise keyboard shortcuts (like FH) so we can make this new app work how we would like to ensure minimal disruption to current practices.

The typographic tools would have to be detailed with the same depth of control for tweaking characters, leading, kerning and so on.

I look forward to seeing how this develops.
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Re: Your expectations

Postby FH4M » Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:33 pm

Love the idea of modules, adding or reducing the features (modules) for particular design needs (so long as they are clearly identifiable for the less computer literates!).

All ideas provided so far are great.

There is a big push for reader compatible documents (accessibility). The ability to publish the document being fully accessible, when hitting the print button to create the PDF, or for web, would be almost a must have.
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Re: Your expectations

Postby a beautiful design » Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:50 pm

How long is the wait?
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Re: Your expectations

Postby Jean » Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:38 am

Just take FreeHand and slap the new name on it, and I will be happy, so long as it is made able to function on today's computers.
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Re: Your expectations

Postby vaa » Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:50 am

Brad Kozak: wow. Allow me to suggest you may want to personally enroll and urge ex-MacroMedia colleagues to join the project if they are wellcome, of course. I do have a feeling some of the old FreeHand hands might have some time on their hands :-)
Laurent: as far as I know, Viva was the first layout software to work on OSX, and is alive and well afaIk. However, it is significant they still operate under most radars…
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Re: Your expectations

Postby Roy B » Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:11 am

The first most important option is that Expressive will be able to open Freehand documents of any version as they are, also keeping intact the multiple panels presentations at it was saved in Freehand. I don't know how
challenging this wish is for you programmers and software designers, but unless we can get our hands to our original Freehand documents as they were saved, there is no getting out of this. I believe that most Freehand loyal users would be ready to learn another program, even Illustrator if they have to, but the idea of having to give up all the past work, that for some, as for me, includes hundreds of Freehand files of which they still need access and use is literally a digital catastrophe. These things considered, I give you my blessings and encouragement to do it right and the best you can for all of us.
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