I was a bit skeptical when Adobe came out with Illustrator 9. I mean, how many changes could be made in a program that was already miles ahead of the pack when it came to computer generated graphics?
I was wrong.
The new version of Adobe Illustrator ($400) is not only brimming with new features, it is much easier to use than the older versions. In fact, I was so intrigued with the program I took a two-day course to see if I had the stuff to become a certified illustrator designer. Now I can draw an arrow going through a pear!
In the past, I've made a point of distinguishing between the cult of Macromedia freehand artists and illustrator artists. Although these two factions still exist, I wouldn't be surprised if many of the freehand devotees cross the line and begin dabbling with the competition.
The first thing I noticed was that they had made it a lot easier to create objects on the screen. It seems more intuitive now, like drawing with a pen on paper. And, if you make a mistake, you can either erase what you've done or draw another line near the bad one and the disfigured line is replaced.
Also, this new version of illustrator is more webified. There are loads of features to help you create graphics for the World Wide Web including the ability to create "flash" animations.
Here's a list of the new features for those that need their weekly fact fix.
For the Web:
You can produce flash and SVG graphics with smaller file sizes resulting in faster download times. You can also export a single SVG file to flash or export it in layers to separate flash files.
You can output graphics as GIF, JPEG or PNG images.
You can compare a thumbnail of the original graphic to three optimized versions in live view panels to make tradeoffs in image quality and file size.
You can work in pixel preview mode to adjust how your artwork will look on the Web.
You can add all sorts of special effects to your graphic including, drop shadows, transparencies, and images that appear and disappear (fade-outs).
You can apply transparency settings to any layer or object, including type, raster images or spot colors.
You can reduce the number of points on a selected path to create a smoother line.
Drawing tools are easier to use including the dreaded lasso and bezier pen tools.
You can create special shapes using the star, spiral, polygon, ellipse and rectangle tools.
You can produce "difficult-to-draw" objects using the pathfinder palette to combine, subdivide or isolate parts of overlapping objects.
You can paint, disperse artwork, paint patterns or create calligraphic paths along an editable path using custom-made brushes.
You can combine, blend and graduate colors.
You have high-end pre press controls to apply halftone screens, print color separations and trap colors.
You can place text along a path, write columns of text, wrap text around a shape and build rows or columns of text.
Of course is only a glimpse at what the program can do. I didn't even go into layer management, its control and precision tools, automation and links management, its compatibility with other Adobe programs, and all of the export and import formats it can handle.
Although it really isn't meant for rank amateurs like myself, it is designed so we can use it and feel like we're professionals. Remember, even you can learn to draw an arrow going through a pear!