Last year we published a tip about Adobe dropping development and support for Macromedia FreeHand (Goodbye FreeHand. But is Illustrator Enough?). In that tip, we argued that most die-hard FreeHand users are happier and more productive switching to Adobe InDesign rather than Illustrator.

Since then, we’ve been looking for a method to help designers migrate their old FreeHand documents over to Adobe InDesign. Here is our best approach right now. Export your FreeHand files as PDFs, and use a new tool that converts those PDF files into fully editable InDesign documents:

Recosoft’s PDF2ID Converter

The conversion is far from perfect. But if you are a designer who has spent years using Macromedia Freehand as a page layout tool, this is one way we’ve tested to help move those old files from FreeHand over to Adobe InDesign.

Download and Install the Trial Version of PDF2ID.

Recosoft’s PDF2ID converter sells for $249, and is not going to be the right fit for everyone. So we recommend downloading the free demo and experimenting with a few of your files before investing in the full version. The demo allows you to convert a maximum of 10 files.

Recosoft’s PDF2ID Trial Software Page


Below is a simple tutorial that walks you through the basics of converting your FreeHand files to InDesign using this tool.

Step 1: Export your FreeHand file as a PDF.

PDF2ID-FreehandExport.pngOpen your original FreeHand document in FreeHand. Activate all the needed fonts, and confirm you have all the needed linked files. Then export the file document as a PDF.

In FreeHand, choose File > Export, and pick PDF as the format.

To prevent compression of the embedded images in your PDF, click on Setup in your export dialog box and set Image Compression to “None.” This does not matter if you plan to relink to your original images after converting to InDesign.

Step 2: Open the PDF into InDesign using PDF2ID.


With the PDF2ID plug-in installed, a new “Open PDF File” option is added to the InDesign File menu.

Step 3: Adjust the PDF2ID Conversion Options.


There are a number of options you can control when converting PDFs into InDesign. We don’t cover all those options here. Play with these settings a bit and get a sense of what works for your particular documents.

Step 4: Clean-up the resulting InDesign file.

The PDF2ID conversion is far from perfect. Plan to spend some time cleaning up the resulting InDesign files. You’ll probably have to combine disjointed text frames, relink graphics to your original images, and adjust positioning of certain graphic elements.

The demo version of the PDF2ID utility allows you to convert up to 10 documents during the free evaluation. Make use of those free conversions to test this utility and see how much time it might save you when making the move from FreeHand to InDesign.

You’ll have to make the judgement for yourself whether this converter is worth the $249 price tag. For some designers, I’m sure it is.

Source: This tip inspired by Jason Hoppe’s fantastic workshop last week on migrating from FreeHand to InDesign CS3. This has been my favorite workshop so far this year. If you are a designer in the Seattle area, don’t miss next week’s follow-up workshop on migrating from FreeHand to Illustrator CS3. Our example FreeHand-to-InDesign converted file was generously provided by Seattle designer Katie Dolejsi.