Macromedia is announcing FreeHand MX today.

FreeHand was the first major application to appear for Mac OS X. Macromedia has tightened the application's integration with Flash, and enhanced it with the new Macromedia Studio MX interface, which is found across the MX product family.

The Flash integration means .SWF files generated in Flash can be placed in FreeHand. If an object is edited in Flash MX, changes are automatically made to the FreeHand version. Flash MX can open FreeHand MX files directly. FreeHand can create animations, and the drag-&-dropping of complex ActionScript commands is supported.

Master page and backgrounds, symbol libraries of data types, navigation components and graphical search-&-replace functions are all included. FreeHand MX also offers built-in planning and organization tools, which can be employed to build schematic diagrams of Web-site layouts, for example.

The FreeHand URL Editor lets users set hyperlinks and hot spots to multiple pages within a document. This feature is reinforced by FreeHand MX's inclusion of a Connector Lines Tool, which lets users assign permanent relationships between objects.

The product will import Fireworks PNG files, leaving objects and text editable. Bitmap images placed in FreeHand MX can be edited and optimized in Fireworks with a single click in the Object panel. Fireworks MX can open FreeHand MX files.

The application's new Master Symbols features lets designers move graphics across as many as 660 pages per document. Also new in this release, the Page Tool can resize, move or duplicate multiple pages of any size without accessing the Document Inspector. Given sufficient system memory, the product can also open an unlimited number of documents, the company said.

The new Multiple Attributes feature lets designers apply and order an unlimited number of strokes, fills and effects on a single vector or text object.

FreeHand MX introduces new gradient-fill behaviours and new gradient types. Behaviours are attributes that determine how a gradient will fill an object. A single gradient type can have four behaviours: Normal, Repeat, Reflect and Auto Size.

Designers can also apply vector effects (such as Bend, Sketch and Transform) and raster effects (such as Bevel, Blur and Transparency) to an entire object or to selected attributes of the object. FreeHand MX includes the new Extrude tool, which gives objects a 3D appearance.

Additional features include the ability to apply both raster and vector effects on a path, the saving of multiple attributes as a style for re-use, and support for HTML, PNG, GIF and JPEG;

FreeHand MX requires Mac OS X 10.1 or higher, or OS 9.1.x. 128MB RAM is recommended, as is a 1,024-x-768-pixel 16-bit colour display. It costs £289, upgrading from FreeHand 10 costs £70, while an upgrade from FreeHand 9 costs £109. Pricing excludes VAT.

In related news, Macromedia is also updating its £639 Studio MX bundle for both Mac and Windows to include FreeHand MX.