For a good fifteen years, Freehand was the professional’s choice of graphic design program. During this time, it developed a loyal following and continues to occupy a prominent place in the affections of many a graphic designer. But, like all software, a failure to keep pace with a rapidly changing market has meant that Freehand is no longer the market leader.
In 2006, Adobe announced that development of Freehand had been discontinued, in order to concentrate all of their development efforts on enabling Illustrator and InDesign to reach the position of dominance they now enjoy. For translators, this has not been the disaster that many design professionals feared it might be.
When it comes to producing multilingual documentation, Freehand can create a number of problems. In terms of text handling, in fact, it can be a bit of a nightmare. Text cannot normally be extracted from Freehand in a useful way, because text is ‘traced’ in order to reduce the possibility of the text format being unstable. And indeed users frequently trace text in order to fix the text format and prevent it being changed accidentally by the software itself. This means that there is no straightforward interface which allows the source text to be processed and replaced. Achieving these goals manually takes about four times as long and inevitably results in a totally avoidable increase in costs.
Programs such as InDesign or QuarkXPress, by contrast, are optimised for text extraction and reinsertion; they have standard interfaces with other applications, including translation assistance programs. For this and other reasons, at QuickSilver Translate we prefer to work with other programs than Freehand, as these enable us to pass on a significant cost saving to our clients.
From the point of view of producing and maintaining multi-lingual documentation, choosing InDesign is, as they say, a no-brainer.