Free FreeHand. Make a Portable FreeHand.

Macromedia FreeHand got some press in May 2011 because of an anti-trust lawsuit. A group called FreeFreeHand ( is arguing that Adobe bought Macromedia and then killed FreeHand in favor of its own illustration program called Illustrator. Any serious user of FreeHand realizes that Macromedia already killed FreeHand when it laid off most of its development team and failed to release a new version of FreeHand in Macromedia Studio 8. While it is cute to see graphics nerds demonstrating passion about a piece of old software, most everyone realizes that FreeHand is dead and will never be free.

FreeFreeHand argues that Adobe should either update the program to work with current operating systems... or release the code to another competitor to continue development.

Both of these ideas are a bit nuts.

Firstly, computers have changed a lot in the decade since FreeHand was last released. Mac users have moved from PPC to Intel processors and the 10.7 version of Mac OS X (no longer bundled with Rosetta PPC emulation software) will eliminate any possibility of running this old PPC application. A migration from PPC to Intel code is a major task. Developers will not want to invest their time in any code that has been collecting dust for a decade.

Secondly, the primary task of any technology company is to acquire intellectual property. They do not give it away. Adobe possesses patents in FreeHand that are likely shared in other actively maintained products. If Adobe was legally compelled to give FreeHand away to a competitor, it would have to strip out features that are protected under patent.

Regardless of how this legal nonsense plays out, you can free FreeHand today.

Microsoft Windows users can transform their legally installed license of FreeHand into a portable app for their USB keychain. FreeHand for Windows runs on any modern version of Windows.

The following was inspired by the Dreamweaver 8 portable packager at

To make a portable FreeHand, you will need:

  • NSIS (Nullsoft Scriptable Install System) - Here or as a portable app .
  • Your legally installed FreeHand MX - Check the EULA to confirm that your creation of a portable version is permitted.
  • A ready-made script here.


Here are the steps to success:

  1. Unzip the portable app packager. The archive will contain 3 folders: "App", "Data", and "Other".
  3. From your computer's program files folder, copy Macromedia's "Extension Manager" and "FreeHand MXa" folders into the portable "App" folder.
  5. Now navigate to the portable "Other\launcher-src" folder to find a NSI file.
  7. Start NSIS. Under the "Compiler" section, choose "Compile NSI scripts". Drag the NSI file into the NSIS compiler window.
  9. A new executable will be found in the "Other\launcher-src" folder. Move that EXE to appear in the same folder as the "App", "Data", and "Other" folders.
  11. When you run the new EXE, it sets up the temporary system parameters and then triggers the actual FreeHand executable in the Apps folder.


Freeing FreeHand is really not that difficult.

Package icon FreeHand_MXa.zip21.44 KB