Adobe Illustrator 10
Once you get over the shock of Illustrator 10's new interface style, there are yet more surprises in store. Now that it has 'come of age', it is starting to care about its looks and the new toolbar of subtly coloured icons - some old and familiar and some brand, spanking new - certainly give the program a long awaited facelift.
Underneath the makeup, there are lots of new functionalities, especially for Web designers. Although Illustrator started life as a PostScript drawing program, it hasn't strayed too far from that basic remit. Its main competitor, Macromedia Freehand, strays over into DTP areas, but then Macromedia don't have a page layout program – Adobe has at least three.
Keeping up with the trend of print designers moving over to the Web, Illustrator is now a viable solution for creating Web graphics of every kind – JPEG, GIF, PNG, Flash SWF and SVG.
Flash uses the concept of 'symbols' and 'instances' where a single master drawing can be repurposed by using modifiable aliases without the file size overhead of a completely separate copy.
Instances can be distorted, flipped and recoloured and making a change to the original symbol is instantly reflected in all the instances regardless of their new states. Illustrator now adds this principle and even takes it a few stages further. The symbols can be added to libraries that can be used across multiple documents and they can be 'sprayed' onto the page like Painter's 'hose' tool.
Earlier version of Illustrator could save files in Flash's .SWF format but now it can 'publish' them complete with the HTML code to copy and paste into your own pages. Illustrator's symbols can also be exported so that they can be used as Flash symbols too.
Where you would previously have had to take an Illustrator image into Photoshop or ImageReady to produce rollovers, they can now be sliced within the program. You can use the 'object-based slicing' that updates images automatically if you edit or reposition elements, or the more common manual method used in the other programs. Even better, you can apply different format and compression options to each slice so you could have one in JPEG to handle a tricky halftone and another in GIF format because it is mostly flat color. Slices can even be in vector format if necessary.
SVG (Scaleable Vector Graphics) still doesn't have the support it deserves in browsers, it has Flash to contend with. Nevertheless, Adobe is keeping up the pressure and SVG support in Illustrator 10 has now been greatly improved. It can import any SVG file for editing and you can apply many SVG effects like drop shadows, blurs etc. and they remain in bandwidth-friendly vector format until they are rasterized in the browser.
Another killer feature for Web designers is the ability to export Illustrator layers as CSS layers along with the necessary HTML. You can use these to build a CSS-P layout using absolute positioning or for dynamic effects using DHTML. Layers can be exported initially visible or hidden so you have an excellent starting point.
Anti-aliasing of small text is always a problem on Web pages and Illustrator never before had Photoshop's ability to change the smoothing amount or switch it off completely. In 10, here are several options for rasterizing type. You can use the 'quality' pop-up to slightly thicken spindly fonts or thin-down ones that are too heavy. Anti-aliasing can be set to 'Type Optimized' which gives the best possible effect for the particular font and size, or can be switched-off completely for ultimate crispness of fonts designed especially for screen display.
I could go on about new features in Illustrator, the new line, arc and grid drawing tools and the enveloping and warp effects but there are too many for a short review like this. Suffice it to say, Illustrator 10 is a whole new ball game for Web designers and there is no other vector drawing program that comes even close.
|Adobe Illustrator 10|
|Ease of Use||85%|
|Value for Money||85%|
|'Must Have' Factor||90%|
|Price||Full product $399, upgrade $149 - Mac OS 9.1 to 10.1, Windows 98 to XP.|
|Summary||An essential tool for Web and print designers.|