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Product: Illustrator 10
Company: Adobe
Estimated Street Price:
Review By: Julien Jay


Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Interface & Web Features
3: Creativity Features

   As usual, the synergy between Adobe software is total: thus Adobe Illustrator 10 sports the standard Adobe interface so you’ll find your way around easily if you regularly use Adobe software. The interface of Illustrator 10 isn’t intrusive, thus helping you to concentrate yourself on the project you’re working on, rather than on the software itself. The toolbox bar has been slightly updated with aqua like icons giving the software a more user friendly look.

Adobe Illustrator 10 User Interface (click to enlarge)

Web Features

   Most of the new features present in Illustrator 10 are here to assist you in creating superb graphics. One of the most important new features is the one dubbed ‘Symbols’. Using this new feature you can duplicate elements in a graphic file and reduce the global size of the file. This feature is particularly handy when you create web graphics or animations. Every artwork you create in Illustrator can be saved as a symbol. Since each instance of a symbol references to the original symbol, if you redefine a symbol (changing the parent symbol shown in the palette) all child instances are automatically updated. Existing symbols are easy to manage since they’re all listed in the symbols palette with a small thumbnail. 

But the kicking feature is the creative ‘Symbolism’ tool that let you manipulate your symbols in an artistic way. The spray duplicates and replicates symbols where you want, and group them into a single object. If you click the ‘Spray’ icon of the toolbox a few seconds later new Symbolism tools appear letting you rotate, resize, slide and tint symbols. But it can also change the spacing between symbols, change the transparency and style symbols. Styling symbols is impressive: you select a style in the style palette and this style will be applied to your symbol making generally a cool effect! 

Adobe Illustrator 10: Use of the symbolism tool (click to enlarge)

For the web, the slicing process has been improved. Slicing a graphic is useful so webpages can load faster but it also helps developers creating more interactive page by letting them assign special behaviours to graphics like links, rollovers, etc. Slicing a graphic is the last thing authors have to do because once it’s done you can’t change it unless you recreate slices entirely. Illustrator 10 introduces object-based slices that update automatically as the design evolves. Now you can slice your graphic simply by selecting an object, a group or a layer: once you’ve selected the part to slice it gets outlined in red and you can resize it. When moving a sliced object, Illustrator 10 automatically redefines the other slices to accommodate the new position of the object.  

More traditional slicing tools are available so you can create customized slices. Manual slices let you slice a single object into multiple parts or create slices that aren’t tied to a specific object or group. Illustrator 10 also lets you create HTML tables by slicing drawing into sections. A very interesting feature offered by the advanced slicing tools of Illustrator is the ability to apply different format and compression options to each slice within an HTML table in order to dramatically optimize the size of your artwork. 

Adobe Illustrator 10: Slicing a graphic (click to enlarge)

Illustrator 10 includes an unexpected rocking new technology exclusively designed for web developers called ‘Data driven graphics’. This feature lets you create templates that link to databases through ODBC sources. That way the elements you have defined as being variables in your artwork are automatically updated according to the Visual Basic script you have written. This feature is amazing because it dynamically creates graphics based on data. The applications of ‘Data driven graphics’ are quite wide: you can generate ads, charts, weather maps, etc. But web designers can also take advantage of this new facility to automate the process of creating multilingual buttons for a website.

Despite the fact this feature might seems complex, Adobe has done a great job in making it easy to use: using the variable palette images, text, graphs and drawn objects can be defined as variables that can be linked to a database. Then developers simply have to write or modify an existing script to replace the variables with data issued from any ODBC compliant database. 

Still on the web side, Illustrator 10 comes with improved Macromedia Flash export support. SWF files are the industry standard to distribute animations over the World Wide Web. As a matter of fact, Illustrator 10 supports this standard since the previous release. Illustrator 10 is now able to automatically generate the HTML reference file required for each flash animation so the animation keeps the correct dimensions. It’s also possible to create looping animations. Thanks to the previously explained Symbol feature, if you export an animation that contains several instances of a symbol, the so called symbol is saved once in the Flash file for a much smaller file size. In addition symbols that appear more than once in a drawing appear in the Flash symbol library when you open the animation with Macromedia Flash. 

Finally, Illustrator 10 comes with a much better support of SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files. First of all you can now open SVG files created by any SVG editor. When doing so the code assigned to the file remains intact and you can modify the appearance of the graphic without affecting the code. Secondly when you save a SVG file, a fully editable Illustrator file can be included. This is handy so the SVG file can be sent to a developer so he can modify or add code, and when the developer passes the file back to the designer, this last one can make additional graphic refinements without any effort. The most important SVG innovation introduced by Illustrator 10 is the live SVG effects! Using SVG effects you can add mesmerizing drop shadows, Gaussian blurs, and other customizable effects to your artwork. When you apply SVG effects to a text, the text remains fully editable (without changing the appearance of effects) and searchable. Of course you can associate a SVG effect to a variable of a data driven graphics in order to create a sophisticated artwork automatically.

« Introduction Creativity Features »


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