By Douglas Kelly
Illustrator has always been THE print media vector graphics program. I started using Illustrator on the PC back in 1995. I moved over to the Mac version the next year, and found it much easier to use. By the time Illustrator 9 came out, both versions were almost mirrored for tools and quick keys. Anyway, if you wanted anyone to take you seriously you had to have Illustrator, even if you worked on a PC. The other programs out there, like Corel Draw and Macromedia’s Freehand had market share on both the PC and Mac, but Illustrator had the biggest share. It was powerful. It was the Benchmark.
Illustrator has come a long way since those days. Freehand increased market share as it comes bundled with web software. But Illustrator still is in just about every Marketing and Advertising firm in the nation.
After loading it up for the first time I was struck by the interface. Clean, with cool new colorful tools. Things that I liked from Illustrator 9 were still there - but easier to find. Way back when I first started using Illustrator, one had to load Illustrator, PhotoShop and other design applications, in a certain order and close it out in the same order. It seemed to use more system resources than you wanted. Running Illustrator 10 on OS 10 is like... they were made for each other. I am using the same machine, same ram, but with OS 10.x and Illustrator 10, I don’t crash if I mistakenly load another app at the "wrong" time. The Illustrator file sizes are are even smaller.
The next thing I noticed was the number of new drawing tools available including Line Segment and Arc tools that let you add straight lines and curves by dragging rather than clicking. There are two Grid tools that let you add rectangular tables and target-style polar grids. Most interesting was the new Flare tool that created photo-realistic but still vector-based flare effects. The handling of compound shapes has also been helped with the component objects that remain live and editable which provides both more control and better integration with Photoshop 6 & 7's shape layers.
New Features and Tools:
- Produce superb raster or vector Web graphics.
- Symbols to manage repeating elements.
- Introduces the use of symbols created by the Illustrator user.
- Manual slicing options.
- Object-based slicing.
- Many new distortion effects: warping, envelopes and liquefy tools.
- New drawing tools: line, arc, Flare, grid, and polar grid.
- New compound shape enhancements.
- Selective Anti-aliasing.
- Support for CSS layers.
- Dynamic data-driven graphics, asset management, Metadata support and other productivity enhancement tools.
- New support for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and Shockwave Flash (SWF) files.
- Improved integration with all other Adobe products.
In previous versions, if you wanted to create web objects in Illustrator, you had to perform a little dance, and hold your tongue the right way. You had to copy your drawing out of Illustrator and paste it into PhotoShop, or drag and drop. Sometimes you had to put a border around the graphic so there wouldn't be extemporaneous cropping. And then crop that border out once you get it in to PhotoShop. Gone are those days, my friend. Illustrator 10 allows one to save for the web, directly! Similar to how PhotoShop saves for the web through Image Ready, Illustrator 10 exports directly to web formats. For me, this is a big time saver. The only issue is, if you still want to move a graphic over to PhotoShop, the rendering is slightly lacking. For those of you that don't know what rendering is: It’s how a program displays the data that looks like an image to your eye. It just doesn’t look quite right from this designer’s eye. The End-around I found is to "save for web" and then pull the file into PhotoShop.
If you are already are slicing images in Photoshop or ImageReady, the procedure in Illustrator 10 will be a snap. For those of you that don't know, slicing is what some web developers use to break up their art for the web. Since Illustrator 10 has now been optimized to produce Web-friendly objects, it takes automatic slicing one step farther than other current Adobe products. In Illustrator 10 automatic slicing is object-based. Scaling the objects after you slice them, allows you to rearrange the objects after they have been sliced and all these actions can be performed on individual objects as well as groups of objects.
"Bending, shaping, anyway you want to..." Could be a song lyric, but for those well honed Illustrator aficionados, this new version has incorporated faster and better ways to manipulate text and graphics that are - well, awesome. The new warp effect includes not only 15 ways from Sunday to manipulate your design, but within each warp effect you can switch from horizontal to vertical styles and bend percentages from -100 to +100 with both horizontal and vertical distortion. It automagically adds the nodes to your objects for later fine tuning your manipulations.
The new transparency feature addition is also exceedingly welcome. It drastically improves designing with shadowing objects and creating a liquid or glass. Of course you'll be able to find other uses, but this was one feature that I've been longing for.
Illustrator 10's selection capabilities have also been drastically improved. The new Magic Wand tool lets you select all objects with the same color, tolerance level, stroke color and weight as well as on transparency and blending mode. Pretty big improvement in this designer's opinion. Once you've selected your objects or nodes, you can now save and retrieve the selection with commands available from the new dedicated Select menu.
Ok now for you web and/or coding geeks: Dynamic Data-Driven Graphics! Yes, you can define objects in your artwork as variables and then write scripts linking these variables to a database. Think of the possibilities there. If you have a client that needs billboards updated and show something slightly different in several cities, Illustrator 10 will do it for you. If are a web designer you won't necessarily need to use PhotoShop to create your web designs. You can create your basic grid in Illustrator, and based on client needs, color schemes, products or services, the program will almost create the site for you.
I seriously would have liked some of the great tools from PhotoShop 7 to be there, like the Preference Pallet at the top. PhotoShop gives you quick reference to change text or other tool preferences. I'm sure Adobe will continue to make these two products tools closer in nature for ease of use. So we may see this in the next iteration.
Pro's & Con's
The only real con that I saw was the rendering out of Illustrator to PhotoShop. Everything else was a big pro: New slicing, warping, transparency and Magic Wand all are great improvements over past versions. With all the new capabilities, you'll be inspired, you'll be moved, you'll be looking for places to use them all.
Overall I love the new edition. There are lots of new tools, everything is easier to use and find with a new interface. Somehow they kept the overall feel of previous versions, just made it better. It's worth the purchase, in my opinion just for the web export, but you'll find many more things you'll like.
Posted: Thursday, September 1st, 2005