n 1984, James R. Von Ehr founded the Altsys Corporation to develop graphics applications for personal computers. Based in Plano, Texas, the company initially produced font editing and conversion software; Fontastic Plus, Metamorphosis, and the Art Importer. Their premier PostScript font-design package, Fontographer, was released in 1986 and was the first such program on the market. With the PostScript background established with Fontographer, Altsys also developed FreeHand (originally called Masterpiece) as a Macintosh Postscript-based illustration program that used Bezier curves for drawing and was similar to Adobe Illustrator. FreeHand was announced as "...a Macintosh graphics program described as having all the features of Adobe’s Illustrator plus drawing tools such as those in Mac Paint and Mac Draft and special effects similar to those in Cricket Draw." Seattle’s Aldus Corporation acquired a licensing agreement with Altsys to release FreeHand along with their flagship product, Pagemaker, and Aldus FreeHand 1.0 was released in 1988. FreeHand’s product name used intercaps; the F and H were capitalized.
The partnership between the two companies continued with Altsys developing FreeHand and with Aldus controlling marketing and sales. After 1988, a competitive exchange between Aldus FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator ensued on the Macintosh platform with each software advancing new tools, achieving better speed, and matching significant features. Windows PC development also allowed Illustrator 2 (aka, Illustrator 88 on the Mac) and FreeHand 3 to release Windows versions to the graphics market.
FreeHand 3.0 sold for $595 in 1991. New features included resizable color, style, and layer panels including an Attributes menu. Also tighter precision of both the existing tools and aligning of objects. FH3 created compound Paths. Text could be converted to paths, applied to an ellipse, or made vertical. Carried over from version 1.0, FreeHand 3 suffered by having text entered into a dialog box instead of directly to the page. In October 1991, a 3.1 upgrade made FreeHand work with Mac OS 7 but additionally, it supported pressure sensitive drawing which offered varying line widths with a users stroke. It improved element manipulation and added more import/export options. This version was also ported to the NeXT system under the name Virtuoso. Virtuoso continued its development at Altsys influencing FreeHand 4.