Freehand + Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard

UPDATE: Adobe has released a non-activation registration file to address Warning 1 below. Read more »

[Editor’s note: Cartographers still migrating to Illustrator from Freehand MX should be wary of upgrading to the new Mac OS as it breaks your Freehand install due to the licensing restrictions the app uses on startup. There is a workaround, but only if you have a volume (company) license code. Thanks Curt!]

Republished from Adobe User-to-User Forum.

I had been unable to replicate the success of others which was quite frustrating but I finally got everything working and wanted to post my solution.  I think it either comes down to lack of complete details in the posted instructions, here is how I was able to get it working properly:
  • Step 1: Delete your local installation of Freehand.  This *includes* the /Library/Application Support/Macromedia directory (well, place it on the desktop)
  • Step 3: Recreate the Macromedia directory
  • Step 4: Place your “FreeHand MXa Registration” file back into the newly created Macromedia directory
  • Step 5: Run Freehand

For whatever reason, this was the only way I was capable of repairing my licensed copy of Freehand. Simply updating the “FreeHand MXa Registration” file or installing a new copy ofFreehand *without* first removing the Macromedia directory did nothing to help my situation.

A couple of things you should be aware of:

  • Warning 1: You may need a serial number which starts with WPD700…
    [Editor: WPD700 serial numbers are volume (corporate) licenses, your personal license will likely not work.]

UPDATE: Adobe has released a non-activation registration file to address this. Read more »

  • Warning 2: If you had other registration information for Flash, Fireworks etc, you can safely move those back into the Macromedia directory.
Continue the discussion at the Adobe Forums . . .

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50 Responses to “Freehand + Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard”

  1. Bez says:

    thanks for making that all crystal clear, and cutting through the noise. I’ll post a link to your blog on the Q&A portion of our site.

  2. […] and made it easy to use Freehand under Snow Leapard Mac OS 10.6. Follow earlier procedure in this post but with new registration file from Adobe. Thanks […]

  3. betsy power says:

    Thank-you for posting this, but unfortunately it is still not working for me. I don’t have any problem launching Freehand. But whenever I want to access one of my freehand files, Freehand crashes and gives me a very long illegible problem report. I was using Freehand 10, and upgraded to MX hoping that this would fix the problem. Then used your fix above. Nothing seems to work.

    any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  4. FQ says:

    Thanks for all the information that was made available for fixing this problem. Unfortunately, I still can’t get my FHand MX to open, could there be any other reason for this procedure not to be working?

    Thank U!

  5. Dawn Domine says:

    I tried all of these directions several times and could net get it to work either. THEN, I found on another website that said if you installed Snow Leopard from a disk, that the Rosetta was not installed. Rosetta needs to be installed. So put the Snow Leopard disk in and then do a custom installation. When I clicked to do a custom installation, sure enough the Rosetta box is not checked and was not installed on the first installation. I checked the Rosetta box, reinstalled Snow Leopard, Uninstalled Freehand MX from the Freehand cd, then reinstalled Freehand, then placed the the Adobe fix file in the Macromedia file as listed above, Restarted the computer and FINALLY it worked. A Great relief, but what a bunch of crap. When will Adobe get it through their heads that many of us want to us Freehand.

  6. Nathaniel says:

    Good clarification, Dawn!

  7. Claudia says:

    THANK you, thank you, thank you!
    I made step by step and Im using freehand now in my Snow Leopard!!!!!

  8. Smithtonian says:

    Like Betsy Power, I can open Freehand MX docs on Snow Leopard; however, some of my files (especially older files I’ve archived and pulled off CDs), will open but once I make a change (add text, scroll, ANYTHING), the file crashes and I get the same long winded error message. I’ve only had the computer for about 6 months and I see this issue more and more. I’ve tried renaming the files, opening the links and renaming those, but it doesn’t always work.

    I’ve been on Macs since they first appeared in the 80’s. I HATE Illustrator and want to keep using Freehand as long as possible. Mac gurus have told I can reload Leopard, but would prefer to fix this problem before moving that direction. Other designers I know also have some issues with Leopard and Freehand, primarily with fonts.

    DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY IDEAS ABOUT THIS ISSUE? Thank you so much for your help!

  9. Marcia says:

    Dear Dawn,

    Just as I was getting desperate I read your instructions and followed them strictly and …. now there is a new dawn for my Freehand (and a scaring amount of decades of work). Thank you so much!

    Smithonian, please do try Dawn’s method (exactly as she described) – it might also work in your case.

    And finally, it is true what we Dutch say: power corrupts. Shame on you, Adobe.

  10. Mick says:

    Hi, I tried Dawn’s method and was really excited when it worked. This was on thursday, I had 2 days working as normal in Freehand but this morning, following the weekend break (and obviously a shut down and re-start) Freehand now won’t open and if I try to open from a freehand file Fireworks is the default application. I have nearly 2 decades of backed up freehand files and would like to keep freehand alive if only to be able to access those files. Has anyone got any other clues as to why it will work for a few days then fails?

  11. Lola Durbrow says:

    Dear Betsy,
    Perhaps you may need to tell the old file what application to open with – select the Freehand file (do not open), get information (apple – i or command – i). Fourth down the list is ‘Open with’ a drop down menu give you the ability to reconnect the file to the application. I had read this on the Freehand forum and it helped.


  12. Jennifer says:

    Argh… I’ve been battling with this for months – bought the new iMac but had to have my older, slower G5 next to it running just Freehand and the new one running everything else. I just thought I’d try one more time and well, Freehand opened without crashing on my new machine! I’m holding my breath, keeping my fingers AND toes crossed. What a pain, but praying to the Mac gods that this stays. Like everyone else – I have 15+ years of files, all my daily work, forms, etc. all created in Freehand. I just wish Adobe would release FH to someone who wants to continue developing it. I’d pay almost anything for upgrades. Illustrator is just not the same.

  13. Ric says:

    All I can say is: FEH on Adobe. What a nest of losers for refusing to keep FreeHand going; Adobe is just like Micro$$$oft — all about the money and controlling people. Adobe products since the CS series came out SUCK. Total bloatware. Total. Photoshop 7.x ran just fine; now it SUCKS. Sorry for venting spleen here.

  14. THANK YOU! for this comprehensive guide to re-installing Freehand after Snow Leopard upgrade. Other suggestions posted on the internet did not worked for me. I, too, wish FH would be released to another company. Adobe seems to be delusional about offering Illustrator as a superior alternative to Freehand. In my opinion, Illustrator simply is not as user-friendly and incapable of being customized as is Freehand.

    I printed out your guide and notated specific revisions to keep for future reference in a folder with my installation disk and a screen shot of the contents of the Application Support/Macromedia folder. The following edits to your guide allowed me to successfully re-install FH MX on a Mac Pro (tower) 2.66 GHz dual-core:

    Step 1. Locate and drag to the desktop the Library/Application Support/Macromedia folder (folder has the name “Macromedia” only) with the Freehand MXa registration file inside.

    Step 2. Delete local installation of Freehand, using FH install disk.

    Step 3. Reinstall Freehand from the disk. Your note – “VERY IMPORTANT – DO NOT RUN FREEHAND AFTER INSTALL or LAUNCH WILL FAIL!”

    Step 4. Locate and delete the newly created Library/Application Support/Macromedia folder.

    Step 5. Drag the old Macromedia folder from your desktop back into Library/Application Support folder Exactly “as is” with Freehand MXa registration file inside.

    Step 6. Locate and drag FH Application icon to dock. Click icon to start FH.

    By some odd quirk, I did not have to enter my name and serial number during launch of the program. My license remained intact.

  15. valaa says:

    Would be niche if you could help.

    FH on SL, MBPro 2.4m late 2009.

    Worked fine until recently. Lately, for no cause I can see, strated to FH ”unexpectedly quit“ on start, but does go on starting and works great as always w. no other major problems. I reinstalled it several times, repaired permissions, deleted caches, restarted etc. Any idea?



  16. Sally says:

    I suddenly am having problems getting Freehand 11.2 to open in Leopard 10.5.8. The icon in the dock just bounces. I have repaired both the hard drive and the permissions. Please please help me!!! Thankyou

  17. Nathaniel says:

    Apple just announced that Rosetta (the backwards compatible runtime for older apps like Freehand) will be officially discontinued in 10.7. You’ll want to keep a 10.6 install around to run Freehand.

  18. valaa says:

    But will Rosetta still be compatible with later system versions? We’d just need to install it from a SL DVD.

  19. Nathaniel says:

    10.7 is available as dev preview from the App Store now. If someone gives the 10.6 install of Rosetta onto 10.7, please let us know how it goes!

  20. Freehand MX (11.0.2) seemed to develop some problems after installing on my Intel iMac G4 with OS 10.5.8 (and I do wish Apple would go back to calling their operating systems by the version, not the animal because I can’t ever remember which animal is which)….. But I digress…. Problems I experience in Freehand MX, for example – the number “one” will not appear anywhere in my text unless I hold down the “option” key. It will appear, if I use the numbered keyboard on the side. So I ended installing Freehand 10 and it works without any problems. I have both Freehand 10 and MX on my computer….. because files saved in MX will not open in Freehand 10.

  21. FFHMark says:

    I have not yet seen an official announcement on Rosetta being discontinued anywhere on Apple’s site. So far it is only being discussed in forums that it wasn’t included in the beta and development versions of Lion 10.7. While it’s clearly missing from early reports, it clearly isn’t OFFICIAL yet, either. As soon as someone has an Apple link to this being official, please post it!

    Would also appreciate a post at as this has huge ramifications for us.

  22. jon stephens says:

    I hate to say it, but it i only a matter of time until Freehand wont work on operating systems. Instead of trying to hold on to the past people should migrate to newer software sooner rather than later. At least that way the learning curve wont be as steep. The last Freehand MX updater was over 7 years ago and the graphics world has moved a long way in that time. I had to make the move from Freehand over 5 years ago but still keep it for the occaisional old file but find Illustrator (especially CS5 version to be far superior once you find your way round. Freehad just has too many issues with modern rips, especially with spot colours and duotones.
    Make the move while you can still salvage something, its a pain having to recreate artwork but it is easier to do it while you can still open your freehand files than when your mac is bust and the new one wont run it!

  23. Nichole says:

    Ugh, I installed the FreeHand MXa Registration file.. It worked for a day and now Freehand won’t open again.

  24. Wanda Lichtenberg says:

    Nichole (6-28-11)….. Did you go back and read re-published guide at top of this page? Follow this carefully, step-by-step.

    Did you install any operating system updates after FH worked for a day?

  25. vlad says:


    first, this topic is not about switching, afaIs. Second, the problem is not only whether FH is better than next years’ software or the next best freeware, but also: people are used to it. They can work fast. They have 80% of their work in it. FH is also still inherently faster (because its interface is very neat. Still! We find it (xxxx) of Adobe to ice it. Imho, this discussion is not worth having: we’ve had it many times in all detail. I want FreeHand back. Enriched with new functions, with all limitations and old errors corrected.

    Be well.

  26. Yellowpaws says:

    It is with great sadness that I have signed up of an Illustrator class. I have no doubt with the next OS update that we are gonna lose what is already being held together with “chewing gum and paper clips.” I just can’t take the chance that all of my work – probably closer to 90% Vlad – is going to be lost. Ugh… I’m sick about 20 years of knowledge going down the tubes. Adobe sucks. Grrrrrr.

  27. vlad says:

    Yes… I fully agree with you, thanks. I believe I held the last FreeHand workshop in Germany some years ago… My work is not vector-heavy, but I tried to demonstrate a quick logo to a student (a rhytmical, symmetrical but angled construction). He knows AI so we fumbled together in it for about half an hour. Then I started FreeHand and I was ready in less than 5 minutes, with more precision than required. Only trouble is (to come back on topic!), FreeHand started crashing on start – it shows an error, but then starts and works OK under SL .4

  28. Pam Storen says:

    I have done ALL of this and it still won’t open.I uninstalled Freehand MX, took the support file with ONLY the new MXa registration in it, and put it on the desktop. Then reinstalled Freehand MX. Then put the macromedia file back in the Library/support and I still get a big fat nothing. I have snow leopard 10.6.3. HELP!

  29. Pam Storen says:

    Just redid everything for the third time and STILL NOT WORKING. Even restarted my computer….now what?

  30. valaa says:

    Hi, Pam, wait for what others will say, but I’m affraid you need to do a very clean reinstall of the system. FH WILL work under SL, eventually. Don’t forget to install Rosetta (on the original SL DVD). See at top of this thread for complete instructions. And when you have a complete, functioning configuration download CarbonCopyCloner (free) and do a complete – bootable – backup on an external HD – you can restore from it and even, yes, boot from it should you decide to upgrade to Lion and need yor old config.

  31. Pam Storen says:

    So I need to reinstall the Snow Leopard first? I did install the rosetta off the snow leopard CD. Should I uninstall freehand before I do that? I just can’t afford to lose 20 years of logos. I did go ahead and order illustrator. Reminds me when Pagemaker got killed off. I was the last user of that, too. Hoping Illustrator isn’t tough to learn. But if I can at least get freehand working, I will save the logos as ai files to reopen in Illustrator, assuming that works.

  32. Pam Storen says:

    I got an e-mail from the Mac Experience store where I have gotten all my Macs and they are skeptical about Lion so far. Said it will absolutely not have the rosetta and will kill off Office 2008 and Quicken. I doubt I will venture there. I only did Snow Leopard because some of the updates weren’t going to work with my 10.4 system that I was perfectly happy with.

  33. valaa says:

    FH most certainly won’t work in Lion. Rosetta won’t be part of the system, which will be a downloadable from the Company Appstore. That’s it. As for your work in FH, it is not lost. AI does a pretty good job of opening FH doucumentsand there are a few good tutorilas on this (search for Illustrator to Freehand transition) – after all, their purpose in icing FreeHand was not to destroy your work, but to force you to buy their software. Btw, you may want to try other vector software (Inkscape which is free, Corel which only works on Windows) and look if you can use them. AI is difficult to learn because it has a completely different GUI-logic – cluttered, parsed in windows and windows, in uneexpexted ways etc. Ill was always a complicated but good tool. FH was always simple and as good – that kind of efficiency you’ll lose. Unless the guys don’t move something, this quality is lost. But again: yes, do a backup of your actual system, erase your disk, install SL and Rosetta, then install FreeHand as recommended above, make sure it works then add whatever you need (but be reasonable with system additions). When you have a config on which FH works, back it up on an external HD and keep it like the Holy grail. It is a pain in the a… but unless someone comes with a better solution this is it, I hope it helps.

  34. Pam Storen says:

    Reinstalled Snow Leopard without Freehand being on there. Then did Freehand, then the fix and still nothing. Very frustrating. Going to call adobe tech support first thing Monday and pray they can get it up and working. I would’ve just left the whole thing alone if I had known this was going to happen. Or as least not upgraded the system on my laptop and converted the files to Illustrator.

  35. FFHMark says:

    Pam, as I read your posts, are you using the FreeHand Registration File offered by Adobe (not your personal registration file) ? I haven’t heard of anyone not getting FreeHand MX to work on Snow Leopard if they use Adobe’s “hot fix” registration file here:
    Granted this is a volume license but it works fine and it is sanctioned by Adobe.

  36. valaa says:

    Did you completely erase the disk? After saving a complete backup, of course. Did you also reinstall Rosetta?
    Did you completely delete the FreeHand folder here and remake it? Is its name correct?
    (press Apple-G in Finder, copy and paste this to go there:)
    Macintosh HD\Library\Application Support\Macromedia

    Never heard of anyone either. Must work, be it w. glitches…

  37. Pam Storen says:

    I did all of those things. But was wondering because there is nothing in the support file now but just that new registration file..think that’s the problem? Rosetta is there – it actually updated it after I did the system because then I went to apple software updates and went through all that.

  38. Pam Storen says:

    Funny that it’s not working on the MacBook Pro or the iMac….

  39. FFHMark says:

    Pam, what version of FreeHandMX are you using> 11.0, 11.0.1, or 11.0.2?
    You will want 11.0.2.

  40. Pam Storen says:

    I have 11.0.2. Not sure why I am the only one that seems to have this problem..ha! But sure appreciate everyone’s help in trying to get this back up and working. I even downloaded the free version and put that on thinking I was missing something. That didn’t help. Got to be some stupid little thing. Hoping that adobe can help me in the morning. Last resort is to put freehand 11 on my husband’s laptop, save all the files as ai files and then open them in Illustrator. Saw a YouTube ‘tutorial’ on Illustrator. Didn’t look too bad. This reminds me of Pagemaker. Had to force myself to go to InDesign when OSX killed that off.

  41. Pam Storen says:

    SUCCESS! I am embarrassed to tell you all that I figured out there were 2 ‘library’ under my name and one on the hard drive. Both had application support..not sure what that was about – but when I finally figured that out, and put the new file in the CORRECT folder, it worked! Can’t thank you all for your help. I will still force myself to learn Illustrator – we will all probably have to sooner or later – but at least all my files aren’t lost. Especially good since I was in the middle of a logo design and 2 invitations that I had just started working on. Whew.

  42. valaa says:

    Just remember you need not resave anything. AI opens FH documents in any format, including eps and of course pdf.

  43. FFHMark says:

    Good to hear of your success finding your Home directory vs. the OSX directory. Sometimes it is the simplest things but it had me baffled.

    As one of the Free FreeHand founders, I can say we are totally dedicated to its future so it will play nice on both platforms. Valaa brought us up earlier and we know the urgency with OSX Lion missing Rosetta. The class action against Adobe takes time but it is happening.

  44. Pam Storen says:

    I started out on Illustrator a LONG time ago…like 1988 and did not like it and then found Freehand and have used it ever since. I was bummed when the updates stopped. I think it’s so much easier than Illustrator but resorted to buying it just in case. I am guessing I will need to learn it but won’t until absolutely necessary. And I will not be upgrading to Lion. It will kill off my Microsoft office and Freehand without the Rosetta. I will stick with Snow Leopard now that I have that figured out.

    I can’t thank everyone for their help on this. I am so relieved that I am back in business!

  45. SFanartist says:

    Hi all- hate to admit it, but once I got FH running with SL I forgot how to…. and now that I have a new (used) macbook cannot figure out how to install it- since the disks I have go waaayy back and even before Adobe cut us off, the dserial number never worked (I started when it was Aldus….). So- I figured i would go ahead and put FH on the Macbook and put Lion on hold–to wait and see. But for the life of me cannot remember how to do it– I tried putting the files that SEEMED right from the imac onto a thumb drive and then plunking them down in the Macbook- and got the Loibary thing— and (oh yeah, updated it to 10.6.8)– but still no go– yesterday I got the message that Rosetta had to be installed- so went back to the SL disk and installed it–hmm maybe I have the sequence wrong? Any suggestions- been too long… and now adobe really ignores us!

  46. Pstoren says:

    I went ahead and bought Illustrator. Figured I would have to do it sooner or later and when I installed it on my computer and opened Freehand and tried to create a pdf in Freehand, the files were created but nothing was in them. Anyone have any idea what that is? Wondered what Illustrator did to my Freehand to kill off the pdf possibilities.

  47. Pstoren says:

    SFanartist –been through that myself. You have to get the patch and if you search Freehand with Snow Leopard you will see the download. Install freehand and don’t open it. Then put that ‘patch’ in the CORRECT library file. I originally put it in the wrong Library file. Once I did that, it opened up. There are some problems with it still – but basically it works.

  48. vlad says:

    Pstoren: notthing to do w. AI. Adobe is bad and let’s hope they lose the suit and free the suite, but FreeHand always had some problems with the pdf. You can:
    – downgrade to 10.6.4 or earlier, reinstall FH carefully and see if that helps;
    – instead of exporting, print to pdf (this uses the Apple’s pdf engine);
    – rxport a ps-file and distill it (drop it on Distiller or on Preview to use the original Adobe or the Apple pdf engine respectively);
    – if you have complicated postscript in you document simplify it (paths in paths, vectors w. too many points, gradients, transparencies, complex composite paths) and check that the font you use is ok (convert it to paths and see if that alone is what solves it).
    – get (expensive) or and print directly to pdf (but preflight the result).

  49. vlad says:

    PS: cups-pdf is a free printer-driver. It might need some tweaking to use easily but is a very practical thing: you can print anything (including websites and any documents) to pdf. It is a practcal way of avoiding the half dozen clicks needed to print to pdf under the Apple engine.

  50. Pstoren says:

    It’s really weird. It makes the pdf but it’s blank. Didn’t happen until I put Illustrator on my iMac. I’ll check into the cups-pdf driver and see if that works.