Category Archives: Fun

Interesting Flash and FreeHand Stories

Adobe SystemsAdobe Systems—the well-known software company, creator of Acrobat, Photoshop, Postscript—do not create all their software by themselves. It is true that they create their own flagship products such as Acrobat, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Postscript. But they—like Microsoft—also acquired products from their competitors. Some notable acquisitions include when Adobe took over Aldus Corporation in 1994 to acquire PageMaker—the popular Windows desktop publishing (DTP) software—along with the TIFF file format, and when in 1995 they bought FrameMaker—also a DTP software—from Frame Technologies. The latest and biggest acquisition is in 2005 when Adobe acquired their main rival Macromedia in a stock swap valued at about USD 3.4 billion.

I notice there are at least two interesting stories related to Adobe’s acquisitions.

Adobe FlashThe Flash Story

Flash is a light weight multimedia application suitable for Web and mobile devices. Flash consists of two parts: the authoring tool (Adobe Flash Professional) and the player (Adobe Flash Player).

In case you do not aware, Macromedia was not the first creator of Flash. In fact, Macromedia had Shockwave as their multimedia application for the Web. The problem is Shockwave movies were often slow-to-download with the Internet connections back then. At the mean time, FutureWave—a small software company—had a drawing application product called SmartSketch. As many became aware of the Internet, in 1995 FutureWave decided to add frame-by-frame animation features to SmartSketch and re-released it as FutureSplash Animator for PC and Macintosh, which successfully challenged Shockwave.

FutureSplash Animator was originally offered to Adobe, but Macromedia got it in an acquisition in December 1996. Later, Macromedia released it as Macromedia Flash 1.0. Macromedia continued to develop Flash and their last release was Macromedia Flash 8 in 2005.

As Adobe bought Macromedia, Flash finally fell in Adobe’s hands. Starting from version 9, Flash was rebranded as Adobe Flash and the authoring tool was integrated into Adobe Creative Suite 3 as Adobe Flash CS3.

Adobe FreeHandThe FreeHand Story

FreeHand is a vector graphics drawing program.

Unlike Flash, FreeHand’s story was rather sad. In the beginning, FreeHand was created by Altsys but licensed to Aldus which released versions 1 to 4 under the name Aldus FreeHand. Aldus later was merged with Adobe along with all Aldus’ product lines—including FreeHand. Unfortunately, by that time, Adobe already had their own product serving the same purpose called Adobe Illustrator. Because of the overlapping market, Adobe returned FreeHand to Altsys.

Later, Altsys were bought by Macromedia. Macromedia released versions 5 to 11 of FreeHand with the Macromedia FreeHand brand. Macromedia used the brand Macromedia FreeHand MX to signify version 11. Since 2004, FreeHand didn’t get significant update since Macromedia favored Macromedia Fireworks and chose to leave FreeHand out of their bundled suite called Macromedia Studio 8. Though the intention of the two products were different—i.e. Fireworks for Web, FreeHand not for Web—most of FreeHand features were already incorporated into Fireworks, there were no needs to own both programs.

After Adobe’s acquisition over Macromedia, FreeHand once again returned to Adobe. But FreeHand’s future didn’t seem to brighten up. Adobe Creative Suite only included Illustrator and Fireworks while FreeHand’s users were allowed to upgrade to Adobe Illustrator CS3.

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Morale of the story:

We have an idiom in Indonesian language saying: “Kalau Jodoh Tak Kemana”. I don’t have any idea how to say this in English, but it means that if something or someone is destined to be with you, it will return to you at last anyway.

Change Your Fonts, Change Your Mood

You must already know Arial and Times New Roman pretty well. If you are a programmer, you must also know Courier inside-out. They are the main line of Microsoft‘s fonts pack. Microsoft Word defaults to Times New Roman. Excel’s default font is Arial. Notepad has Courier New (or Lucida Console in later Windows versions). Have you been tired of them after seeing them for 1, 3, or 10+ years? I do. If you are like me, then please continue reading.

Change Your Printing Fonts

You have a wide choices for printing fonts. If you have a fine quality printer, chances are all fonts will look crisp and great on papers, even the good old Times New Roman. But sometimes you will need variation to fresh up your eyes.

Basically, you can use either serif or sans-serif fonts as your printing fonts. If you don’t understand the difference, serif fonts have structural details on the end of strokes that make up letters and symbols (definition quoted from Wikipedia). If you still don’t get it, observe the picture below (also captured from Wikipedia).

Serif and Sans-Serif

There are some pretty good alternatives to Times New Roman. I personaly like Palatino Linotype and sometimes Georgia. Bitstream Vera Serif looks pretty good too.

Change Your Screen Fonts

Screen fonts are used to render the text you see on your computer monitor. It can be anything from GUI elements such as menus or labels, to the text displayed on your Web browser. Windows XP mainly combines Tahoma and Trebuchet MS to render GUI elements which are pretty much okay for me. Internet Explorer uses Arial and Times New Roman as its default fonts (that is the fonts which are used when the Website you visit doesn’t specify a certain font), and this looks rather ugly for me.

Unlike printing fonts, you usually have fewer choices for screen fonts. Not all fonts will look good on screen since monitors have much lower resolution than average printers. Usually, serif fonts won’t look good on screen since the serifs parts may be rendered poorly. So you better stay with sans-serif fonts here.

Microsoft has several fonts which are designed specifically for screen fonts: Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana. They are made so they look crisp on monitors and easy on the eyes. Generally, we won’t get tired quickly when reading text on-screen using the mentioned fonts.

I used to like Verdana so much, but now I use Bitstream Vera Sans as my default font in my Firefox browser. The Bitstream Vera Sans font is also optimized so the rendering quality is great on low-resolution devices such as monitors. The following are the pictures of my Website rendered with Bitstream Vera Sans (upper) and Arial (lower).

Bitstream Vera Sans and Arial

Do you like it too? I will show you later how to install and use the Bitstream Vera fonts.

Change Your Code Fonts

Are you a programmer? Do you mainly develop on Windows platform? If the answers to the both questions are “yes”, then you must be very familiar with the Courier or Courier New fonts. The Courier family font has been used widely in Windows development environment. There are some popular alternatives for this code fonts, mainly the Lucida Console font.

You cannot pick any fonts as code fonts since programmers will need monospace (aka fixed-space) capability to ease indenting in coding. If you are bored with Windows’ standard fonts, you can try Bitstream Vera Sans Mono. It is designed for programmer to optimize the clearness of codes. Take a look at the following picture comparing Bitstream Vera Sans Mono (upper) and Courier New (lower).

Bitstream Vera Sans Mono and Courier New

About the Bitstream Vera Fonts

You read them several times. I use the Bitstream Vera fonts. They look good, but you can’t find them in your font selector dialog box. Why? Because they don’t come with Windows. Bitstream Vera fonts are released under an open source license and published by the GNOME Foundation. Since they are open source, everyone can use and modify them freely (as in free speech). There is a TTF (True Type Font) version for use with Microsoft Windows which can be downloaded here.

Installing and Using the Bitstream Vera Fonts in Windows XP

Here is a guide for those who are unfamiliar with basic fonts operation. This guide is for Windows XP, but should work under different Windows version with some adjustments as well.

  1. Download the TTF package. They are packed in several formats: zip, tar.gz, and tar.bz2. Choose the zip package if you are unsure.
  2. Double click to open the zip (or whatever) package. You will see some files beginning with “Vera”, copy them to any folder you want.
  3. Open Control Panel, switch to Classic View, then double click on Fonts.
  4. Choose menu File > Install New Font…
  5. Navigate to the folder where you copied the Vera fonts earlier in step 2.
  6. Select them all in the “List of fonts” box and click the OK button.
  7. They are installed and ready to use.

Here is another guide to change your default browser font. I use Mozilla Firefox 2.0, but you can do this also in Internet Explorer.

  1. Launch Firefox.
  2. Choose menu Tools > Options…
  3. Click on the Content tab.
  4. Under the Fonts & Colors group, click on the Advanced button.
  5. Set Bitstream Vera Serif, Bitstream Vera Sans, and Bistream Vera Sans Mono to the Serif, Sans-serif, and Monospace combo boxes respectively.
  6. Click OK several times to close the Options dialog box.

Many applications allow you to change the fonts, just explore, change some fonts to brighten up your mood. Have fun.