There has been much activity since last year and while recent news has been posted to Twitter and our Forum, we have this opportunity to report news in more detail. In this edition is an interview with Quasado's Alexander Adam on the latest with Gravit and its evolution from the old Stagestack project. For Mac users, we look at the latest developments with FreeHand running on new OSX systems through virtualization. Finally, for those who use Illustrator, a new FreeHand conversion plugin will import your files to CS6 and CC.
Quasado's Alexander Adam:
Gravit moves to the future
Q: What is the reason the former Stagestack project was abandoned, or better said, changed to Gravit?
Alexander Adam: We’ve been working on Stagestack since roughly about four years. It was a pretty major C/C++ code base consisting off about 450k lines of code. However, there was a point of time were we’ve seen that we are not progressing as fast as we could probably do. We’ve especially lacked most of UI-Functionality while still fighting with existing bugs in the core. Due to the large codebase it took quite a while to implement and debug new features as we’ve had to wait for the app to compile, then run it, then debug it, change something and do the whole thing again. Each of such a run costed roughly about 5-7 minutes. Stagestack and all it’s code has been made obsolete and resides within our old Hard disks.
Furthermore, due the old codebase of Stagestack, we’ve had a tough time in integrating new Features while trying to fix existing issues as well. As know-how is of much more value than existing lines of code, we’ve decided to take all of our know-how, choose a better base technology and start from scratch avoiding all issues we’ve learned about. While Stagestack’s development took roughly about four years without predictable results, Gravit was started in November 2013 and is now close to Beta in June 2013.
Imagine designing and viewing your documents everywhere, looking exactly the same. No matter whether you keep them in your Google Drive or DropBox account, design them locally on your Computer or view them from your Mobile. Gravit is built for the future while Stagestack was build for the past like most existing design tool solutions are.
The codebase, the UI, the UX, Gravit is less strict on “cloning“ Freehand but rather works towards transporting the Spirit of Freehand in combination with up-to-date design tools.
Q: What has been reached with Gravit and what is planned for the near and far future?
Alexander Adam: Gravit is pretty close to Beta which should be due in July. All basic stuff for creating full working designs like paths, text, styles, pages etc. are implemented. The next version which should follow close enough will fulfill the missing parts which are mainly symbols and master pages. Gravit will be a free product as we want everyone to be able to use it and enjoy a better world of designing. We want to steadily improve it, making it the most versatile design tool available on the market.
After releasing Gravit version 2 this year, we’re planning on working on Gravit365, a SAAS-Solution for managing design-related Projects. This is ought to be our “cash-cow“ that will fund the development of Gravit. Our goal has always been to improve and innovate in the design-related field and that’s what we’re trying to do with Gravit as well as with Gravit365.
Tensai FreeHand Interface Plugin:
FreeHand files now open in Illustrator CC
One of the great frustrations for FreeHand users was Adobe’s removal of file translation in Illustrator CS6 and CC. After discontinuing FreeHand, this left designers and artists with no way to update and save their files to the latest AI-format going into the future.
Several third-party developers attempted to create a conversion plugin over the past years but only one, UK’s Tensai Plugins, has succeeded with the FreeHand Interface Plugin. It will convert your FreeHand files into AI-CC via a panel that specifies how and what you want the conversion to contain. The result matches the quality of Adobe’s own plugin from CS3-4-5.5.
The FreeHand Interface Plugin requires an installation of an older Illustrator to access its properties for the 64-bit AI-CC or AI-CS6. The cost of the plugin is $50 but we have a special 10% discount code that is valid for one month. Code: fhforum10
If you use Illustrator CC, this is a huge timesaver from having to open and export your FreeHand files to an old AI format. We've tried it and it works great.
Order here: Tensai AI Plugins
See the video: Open FreeHand files in Illustrator CS6 and CC - YouTube
Run FreeHand in the latest OSX for Mac:
A Virtualized FreeHand
Longtime Mac users have been deeply concerned that support for FreeHand10 and MX on the latest Mac operating systems ended with Snow Leopard 10.6. The translator for PowerPC applications in 10.6 (called Rosetta) was dropped after IBM acquired the makers of Rosetta. However, companies like Parallels and Fusion—that normally create virtual environments to run Windows on the Mac—now have Snow Leopard running alongside the latest Mac OSX. And each upgrade has made the process smoother and offered more functions.
With Apple’s help, the normally priced $500 Snow Leopard Server, can be purchased for $20 by calling Apple Store (£14.00 inc VAT in the UK.) The Server version of Snow Leopard will legally allow the user to run it in Parallels, Fusion, and the open-source VirtualBox, thus having FreeHand available well into the future. From reports we have heard, there is no major difference having FreeHand running in one of these applications under Mavericks or in OSX 7 and 8. This video shows how well FreeHand (in Parallels) works with 10.8 Mountain Lion: FreeHand MX running under OS X 10.8 (Parallels Desktop 8 / OS X 10.6 Server) / Part 1 - YouTube
There are more YouTube videos made for FreeHand users showing the process of setting up the software for running Snow Leopard. You can easily search for these various videos to familiarize yourself with the process. We also refer you to this excellent page at MacStrategy: Virtualising Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (Server)
On our forum, there will be more examples of FreeHand in Virtual Box, Parallels, and Fusion where our members have success stories as well as helpful advice. Begin here: FreeHand is back, at least on my MacBook Pro with Mavericks
Lastly, for a Mac user to run the Windows version of FreeHand there is Crossover. Crossover does not install Windows itself, rather only the Windows version of FreeHand. All the functions work as expected with some display issues and your favorite TrueType fonts need to be installed. WINE is the opensource version of Crossover offered as a free alternative. There are a variety of choices to keep FreeHand running on one computer.
Run FreeHand on new hardware
Another option, instead of a new Mac with OS X 10.8 and FreeHand running inside a virtual 10.6, is the Hackintosh. You use recent hardware and build your own Mac which runs native 10.6.8 with FreeHand MX. Speed comparisons show such a Hackintosh not far behind Apples new black MacPro. Read all about the process of building a Hackintosh here.
Latest news on Twitter:
Join us on Twitter to get the latest news, updates, tips, and community input. Even if you a not a Social Media person, our Twitter page will keep you informed. https://twitter.com/FreeFreeHand
The "place to meet, discuss, and get help" is in our FreeHand forum. Here is the link: http://www.freehandforum.org/forum/
It's been quiet some time since we last sent out a FFH newsletter, specially since we did so to all the original 6500 members of FFH. As still many of you did not join us in our new FreeHandForum (by becoming a forum member) we found it time to remember all of you and give you some news. Usually we send newsletters only to the forum members.
With the ending of our mission to save FreeHand through legal action, there has not been much to say. Ultimately we did not prevail in saving it; and the disappointment of this final outcome has taken time for us to process—as many of us consider FreeHand the best vector program ever made.
At the time of this newsletter, several new avenues for users have opened up to carry FreeHand’s legacy into the future. Most of you are already familiar with the German company Quasado, developer of a modern drawing application based on the FreeHand interface and features. We will give you the latest update on their progress and plans for the future.
Also, for those users who have moved to Illustrator and are using it along with FreeHand, we have our report on recent conferences with Adobe to enhance Illustrator with FreeHand-like features and functions. This has been a concerted effort from FreeHand members that have led to some interesting prospects. Our community came together over the past many years and it has endured both the highs and lows of keeping FreeHand alive. We recognize that the community is still important as shown by the continued activity on our forums. FFH has kept FreeHand and its legacy in the highest regard and as long as there is future news to report, we plan to do so.
Whats going on regarding Stagestack?
A FreeHand "clone"
As many of you may have heard, Quasado, the company behind Stagestack, had difficulty getting the necessary funds together. Despite so many designers/artists out there desperately looking to replace FreeHand with something better than the unintuitive and difficult-to-handle Adobe Illustrator, many FFH members have not yet given a donation to the project so development has been proceeding slowly.
Nevertheless, Quasado is not ready to give up. They have decided to build a pure web-based (JS/HTML5) edition of the product first, which will help to better fit into present investor strategies (web and mobile apps) as well to allow it to run on mobile, web and for getting a prototype out much sooner. Furthermore, thanks to the donations received—and Quasado's own financial fund—this first prototype can be developed completely on its own. Quasado is planning on publishing a limited-function prototype for people to play around on the web by early to mid-April 2013.
In our forum we often hear comments about the naming of the project. As you remember, we did a survey for another name to replace "Stagestack", but the results of the survey were not all legally usable. For now, “Stagestack” will be the project codename and Quasado is confident of changing the name to something more "hearable" but won't publish it before a first prototype is out.
We asked about details on their programming process and Quasado tells us they will be using the same web-code for building up a desktop edition by replacing performance-critical parts with native code. They believe this is quite an interesting experiment and will still allow users to work with exactly the same feature-set on the web as well as the native application. They are also building an infrastructure / SAAS Solution around the web edition that will allow designers to better manage and handle their designs as well as interact with their customers. It will support interactive components; meaning users can do UI-Drafts, for example, and other such functions.
Members meet with Adobe:
Over the course of several months, a series of meetings with Adobe project management—specifically those leading development of Illustrator—took place in both their San Francisco office (the former Macromedia building!) and Seattle’s InDesign office. The larger agenda was to show the disparities and unintuitive functionalities in Illustrator for designers and artists accustomed to using FreeHand.
FFH's presentations to Adobe included a slide show of comparative features compiled from long-standing requests by the FreeHand membership, FreeHand/Illustrator experts, and the FreeHand Forum. Adobe was also treated to live demonstrations of various FreeHand tools. On a subsequent occasion, several local FreeHand users were invited to attend and give Adobe their honest, constructive opinions. A 55-page PDF has been made of our presentation and you can downloaded it here: AI_FH_UI_and_Features.pdf We invite you to visit our FreeHand forum thread to give your feedback and additions to the presentation in these forum topic.
We would like to thank our Seattle FreeHand users who attended the conference with Adobe to give their opinions. We also want to acknowledge Adobe’s Illustrator and InDesign team for their avid attention and in-depth questioning of each aspect of FreeHand’s virtues made during our presentations. Although Illustrator may never become FreeHand, we would like to see improvements to it in ways that FreeHand users would benefit the most.
On December 15, Adobe disabled the activation server for its CS2 products and several Macromedia products. If you installed FreeHand MX recently, you may have noticed that the activation fails and gives the error, “Unable to connect to the Internet”.
To correct this error on the Registration screen, select the "Activate over telephone" option to toggle your screen temporarily. On the next screen, click "You can also activate over the Internet" link at the bottom to return to the Enter Your Serial Number screen. When prompted, enter one of these new serial numbers:
After you've entered the serial number, click Continue.
For more, including screenshots to follow, go here:
Activation error | Macromedia branded products
For the Creative Suite 2 Activation, go here:
Error: Activation Server Unavailable | CS2 or older products
Quasados FreeHand "clone" – The big Interview
In 2011 we gave our first input to the project of a new vector graphics application which ultimately should be familiar and well received by todays FreeHand users. We also got the opportunity to try out the application during a very early development status. It only included some tools like a bezier pen, rectangle and circular shape, magnifier and a simple page layout, but drawing and editing paths felt already very good. Since then, a color chooser for RGB and CMYK colors has been added among other things, so in short, it is looking promising. At this point in July 2012, after we changed our organisations name from FreeFreeHand to FreeHandForum, we informed you, our members, about Quasados FreeHand "clone" and asked for donations. Now in this interview we got to ask Alexander Adam from Quasado some questions about his project "Stagestack".
Alex, we are all very excited about the project you are working on and I am sure our FreeHand community is just as curious as I am, to know about your motivations and ideas behind the "Stagestack" project. So, let me go directly to the questions:
What was the thought that triggered in you the wish to create your own vector graphics drawing application? Was it your idea alone?
Yes, I've had such an idea already back in 1999 when I wrote my first, own vector editor. Though not as mature as this project it was a very exciting experience for me. It is great to have something in your hands that does visual stuff and allows the end user to extend his own imagination by providing all tools necessary. It is a lot of fun, though quite often stressing to take on that challenge and create a piece of software as complex yet as versatile as this.
There was the confusing name change from "Expressive" to "Stagestack".
What was the reason for this?
Well, first and foremost we wanted to register the trademark for "Expressive". However, the trademark was refused due being a simple English word. The other reason was that "Expressive" has not been a very unique name, especially since the upcoming Microsoft Expression toolset. So we finally decided to rename to something more unique and something we could more easily get an international trademark on.
On FreeHandForum many were not so happy with the new name, so we made a survey for other possible names. What will happen with the results from this?
There's an internal challenge going on right now between a new name we have created in the back (not announcing before we're not finally sure) and the name of the vote results. It seems that, even after having had a quick look on trademarks, "OpenHand" might be hard to trademark. Furthermore, we're trying to get more and more away of simply being a Freehand clone, concerning this issue please see also the next question. After all, it will not be a thung-breaker like "Stagestack" anymore, it will be something with more spirit, something we think will perfectly reflect the vision of this app. On a side note – Thanks for all the votes and names people provided and of course, the winner of the survey will become the promised free license as well as his named being mentioned in the credit, we keep our word!
We often call Stagestack a "Clone", so as to explain in a simple way on what you are working. But we know, it will not just be a copy in appearance and functions of FreeHand. So what is your vision about this? What will be different?
Well, we're starting more and more to refer the app as being more something like a new, fresh and innovative design tool with the *spirit* and feature set of FreeHand. I think that's the point that perfectly describes what we're doing. We think that nowadays design tools are facing much more challenges (web, mobile, print, user interface etc.) then tools did back in the 80' and 90'. We want to focus on four concrete things:
1.) Get the basic feature set completed, considered to be a "professional" app
2.) Take the Spirit, enjoyment and effectiveness from FreeHand and bring it back into a "modern robe"
3.) Try to load and be compatible with FreeHand files and their features
4.) Introduce modern features neither Adobe Illustrator nor FreeHand had have until today and build them in the same spirit like FreeHand.
Do you foresee any patent issues coming up, even if you are creating a new application from scratch?
Yes, I'd even bet for it. We've had have such a case years and years back with C**** where they did see our app, cloned parts of it and a year later said that we did an infringement of their patents. However, we're pretty optimistic: Adobe won't sue us without being popular enough as simple as that. And if this app (which we all hope for) gets such a popularity that they'll try to sue us, we'll have enough money to go against that and get our own patents.
Is there any code in FreeHand that you might potentially appropriate? If you could, and there were no legal implications, would it be advantageous to the effort?
Honestly, we've been in contact with James von Ehr, one of the founders of FreeHand and what I've hard so far is the code of FreeHand wasn't pretty good at the end to maintain and handle so I'd actually doubt we could use anything from it. The only thing of course would be the "perfect code" to read FreeHand's weird file format, that'd save us 1000's of hours of work.
Are there any features in FreeHand that you think will definitely be passed over?
Yes, all the XTra's stuff won't make it, same for the Envelope toolbar though we're planing on having an alternative for that. Other things might be little details that are not exactly passed over but improved or will be reintroduced in a new way.
We talked to Richard Stallman about your project, because it is planned to include a GNU/Linux version. He said: "thank you for working on this" and he asked: "have you considered joining FSF or FSFE?"
Well, the problem is that we're not working on an OpenSource project so that might be troublesome. We're, however, open for any possibility but way too busy right now in developing.
What are the biggest obstacles to getting the work done, and achieving a beta release?
Well, right now we're in a huge refactoring phase. We've already had quite a lot making it working and behaving like FreeHand until we've discovered that there're so many more features we'd like to implement on top of it that the current structure is simply not scalable enough. But that's a good thing, it also helps finding and fixing small glitches. The biggest concerns right now are:
1) The object styling and all logic as well as layers
2) Loading and saving
3) The user interface
For part 1) we're pretty far though 2) and 3) require more funding to be able to hire one or two more guys working on it.
How long is it liable to take? Are there funding strategies you intend to pursue?
Well, we think that having an alpha by March 2013 is quite realistic concerning the current manpower and ongoing funding. The first funding strategy of people backing the project didn't work out as well as we've hoped for (we're at ca 45% of required 100%) so we're pursuing getting an investor on board. Sure enough it is hard to convince an investor to fund this project without having reached our own pledge goals yet but we're on it. We're also actively looking for some partners that might be able to spend some more money at once for this project.
How is the status of the project right now?
It's growing and it looks quite bright though it is a big construction area right now due refactoring. We're having a big "hacking week" this and next week, sitting all together and hacking code for 24/7 to get things going faster.
How are you choosing which features to tackle first?
By choosing the features that are a) most required for a functional design experience and b) that are the least ones to expect any bigger bugs or work on it.
What development skills do you still need to bring into the project?
Well, hardcore C++ developers are urgently required if funding is secured. We've got a bunch of very smart people being very good at algorithms and performance.
How did your team come together and where do you all work?
We've spread over the whole world though right now we're all located on Nuremberg working on the product the next two weeks. We've known each other for a pretty long time and when I've started this project I simply convinced the others to join :-) I knew their way of thinking and developing very well which is key for a small team and such a huge undertaking! We're having regular meetings using Skype due sometimes it's troublesome with all the different timezones.
So, as a final question, how do you see the future of this project right now? Any wishes you have directed to the FHF community?
I can see a very bright future though funding the ongoing development is the biggest issue right now. Once this gets resolved, I can see a great product coming out, making things different and innovative and still being a Freehand inspired design tool it is a huge pleasure to work with. At least, this is what we're hoping for our forthcoming users!
The biggest wish right now is we need much much more publicity however that looks like. Maybe share information with your friends, publish a blog, contact magazines, whatever you could do to spread the word. The sooner we get funding the faster we can develop at the end, it is as easy as that. At the same time, I'd like to say a BIG THANK YOU to all backers so far, you did the right thing and help a small and innovative team/product to build something that could easily stand against the big players!
Quasado Stagestack Features – New forum thread
We opened a new thread in our forum, which is moderated by Quasado itself. They will ask you about specific features and hope for your constructive input. This forum has fixed threads, you can only answer them, not open new ones.
Please remember: to prevent the confusions many FreeFreeHand members got who had to sign up two times seperately for becoming member and for the forum, since we changed our name to FreeHandForum we do only count those "our members" who did sign up on our forum.
As of now there are 800 of you registered. Most news and event notes only go out to those 800. Initially we wanted to even send out the newsletter only to forum members, but as so many of you still did not register, we continue to send the newsletter to all 6500 former members from time to time, to make sure everyone has heard about that change. Thank you.