An Interview With FreeHand’s Creator

Longtime readers of Design Tools Monthly or know that I’m a huge fan of FreeHand, the onetime competitor to Adobe Illustrator.

On Feb 10, the FreeHand Blog posted an enlightening interview with James Von Ehr, who co-founded Altsys and co-created FreeHand.

In it, he explains the company’s loss of momentum when they focused too much on HOW they coded the program, rather than improving what it did. And then along came Adobe…

When asked about Adobe, he replied: “They are very good at marketing, and make decent products. I’m not a fan of the ‘buy your competitor and kill their products’ business strategy, but I understand it.”

When asked about the difficulty FreeHand had in fully supporting PDF early on, he replied: “I would have liked to have done a better job of supporting PDF, but Adobe had several undocumented secrets they would never tell us, so some of our big customers… had to go back to Illustrator. It was really aggravating that Adobe was proclaiming an open standard, when they in fact kept secrets from their competitors.”

You can read the entire interview here.

Jay Nelson is the editorial director of, and the editor and publisher of Design Tools Monthly. He’s also the author of the QuarkXPress 8 and QuarkXPress 7 training titles at, as well as the training videos Quark includes in the box with QuarkXPress 7 . In addition, Jay writes regularly for Macworld and Photoshop User magazines and speaks at industry events.

4 thoughts on “An Interview With FreeHand’s Creator

  1. Beth Pauley

    I, too, have always been a big fan of FreeHand, and continue to use it. In fact, I’ll hold off upgrading my OSX as long as I can just to keep using it!

  2. Beth: In my opinion, FreeHand was *always* easier to use than Illustrator. (And I used it daily for production tasks such as packaging.) Fewer steps, cleaner tools… ah…

  3. Mark

    Count me in on being a regular user as well. It was a real boost to hear Von Ehr’s feelings on the state of affairs and with the tremendous loyalty among FreeHand users. I was heartened by his appreciation of what we are doing on the legal front to get FreeHand back into the marketplace.

    Fwiw, the Federal Court released its response to Adobe’s motion to dismiss. There is a pretty good synopsis here:
    (Why Courthouse News refers to Web Designers is strange tho.)

  4. FreeHand MX is awesome, still standing after 10 YEARS! I’ve used FH since 1991 and will continue until I can’t. We need somehow to get Apple on board as they also seem to be against the cause. What they at Apple don’t realise is, that it was FreeHand that made working on the MAC a great experience!! I see on the FREE site that software is being developed. Would it not be a good idea to get Apple involved. Plenty of money available and all the resources. PLUS if we could buy our next generation of Macs (with touch screen technology) with “Apple FreeHand” we would all be smiling! I would also like to see competition against Photoshop as that program in my point of view hasn’t really gone much further than version 7! Just think of the developments and capabilities of the animation software out there!

    How can one email the top brass at Apple?

Leave a Reply