The Beziér Artist’s Liberation Front: Adobe Illustrator Feature Requests

Adobe Illustrator logoAfter an engaging exchange on Twitter with illustrators: Garth Bruner and Von “Vonster” Glitschka, who are constantly Twittering about their frustrations with being forced to switch from Freehand to Illustrator after Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia, things reached the point where all involved thought that we need a way to band together and get some feature requests implemented in the next version of Adobe Illustrator.

Me, I have never used Freehand but I have gripes of my own and they seem to overlap with those of the Freehand refugees. Bruner has even gone so far as to announce a screencast comparison workflow project comparing Illustrator & FreeHand, more as a way to show Illustrator users what he feels are essential features missing from Illustrator, as well as opening a dialog to perhaps gain some feedback from AI users as to ways to accomplish some of these tasks. 

Terri Petit, Adobe Illustrator Product Manager has stated multiple times in the Adobe Forums:

“the best way to increase the likelihood that bugs will be addressed in a dot release is for multiple people to either submit an official bug report on the online form, or call the Customer Support phone lines and report it that way. The number of times a problem gets officially reported from the field by different customers is the main factor in prioritizing what gets attention and how it is handled. Feature Request/Bug Report Form: You may want to bookmark this link.

The User to User Forums are just what the name says, a way for users to help each other. They are not a way to contact Adobe. Bug reports on here may make engineers aware of the problem, but engineers have very little input into which bug fixes are slated for inclusion in updates. That decision is controlled by Customer Support and Product Marketing, with their decision being based primarily on the level of customer demand, with other factors being the risk of the change introducing other problems, whether there is sufficient QE resources to test the changes, and whether it will require changes to localized resources.”

Feature requests are in fact implemented, provided enough users request them. I proposed via Twitter that what would be most effective would be for Illustrator users to band together, vote on/submit feature request via blog comments, and then have everyone requests the exact same features. Given that I hardly know anyone who submits feature requests period, getting enough artists involved and asking for the exact same thing has to make an impact if we all banded together and submitted the exact same requests on the Adobe Bug Report/Feature Request Page.

Rick Yaeger over at MacMerc posted Von Glitschka’s list of desired new features and fuctionality enhancements for Adobe Illustrator, which I am also posting below, with some comments and additions. I think this is a great starting point, as many of the the Freehand user gripes he mentions are also complaints I have about Illustrator, and these are coming from an Illustrator-only user since version 8 of the software.

The Glitschka list (with comments):

New Feature Requests

  • Transparent Color Swatch: So we can blend from a color to transparent. (Like in Photoshop and Flash). No need for the wonky opacity mask that won’t work in smart objects anyway so it’s somewhat useless
    • I have been wanting this forever. I was flabbergasted when transparency finally came to Illustrator, but there was no transparent swatch, thus making it impossible to fade a gradient to transparency without opacity mask workarounds.
  • Layer Tags: Simple tag “Layers” or “Layer Groups” with a tag like “PDF” and then if you save out as a PDF it creates a multi-page PDF using only the tagged layers in order.
    • not sure about this one, want to know more about the workflow on this.
  • Sub Selection of Content: The ability to sub-select down through content without having to hide, turn on/off layers in the layers palette, send to back or any of the other work around we have to do to get to the art we want to edit buried under other items in our work. Reference FreeHand for how simple this could be.
    • Illustrator does allow one to use keyboard shortcuts, but they just select objects in order from top to bottom – all the objects on the layer are included. I never use it, because it sucks. What they need is the InDesign way of doing this, where you Command-click the area and you progressively select objects below the mouse click only.
  • Preview Path: Show path as you build vectors. (See FreeHand) Right now I have to commit to a final location of a point before I see how the shape of the path following it is effected [sic]. This is counter productive and just bloats build time.
    • It seems almost every vector app except for AI does this, and I agree it’s pretty handy. No idea why Adobe doesn’t adopt this. If you aren’t familiar, the working path will act like a ‘rubber band’ as you move the pen tool, allowing you to see how the path will look when you click the next point. Illustrator currently gives no such preview of any kind as you are building an open path and adding points. I’d like to see this one as an otion in case I don’t like it.

Functionality Improvement Requests

  • Modify snapping performance on Objects. Right now it’s based on cursor location rather then point location. That is just nuts and makes editing art a pain in the keester.
    • Agreed. this one has been argued endlessly in the Adobe forums. At the very least, make it an option in the preferences.
  • Align tool: Create a pref that by default sets the alignment tool to automatically align based on larger item selected. Having to do the second option click is just a waste of time.
    • I would disagree here, and would rather have it align to the first item you click on as the align-to object.
  • Pathfinder: Make pathfinder functions expand automatically by default. If people prefer not to do this then have it a pref we can turn on/off. (Like most functions let us decide, don’t dictate it).
    • It used to be this way in older versions. I can understand why they did this, with the editable Effects; but it used to be only applying Pathfinder as an effect would require an expansion – the Pathfinder palette always used to be immediate.
  • Non-Breaking Path Pref: A pref we can turn on/off to prevent paths from being able to be accidently pulled off a shape. (Why they even have this function is beyond me? It’s just simply stupid. I still have yet to hear anyone explain why you’d want to do this to begin with?).
    • I don’t know what this is all about – never came across this, or even understand what’s happening on his end.
  • Masked Items Pref: Build in a preference that allows users to turn on/off the ability to click on masked items outside the masked area. Kind of defeats the purpose of a mask if you can still click on the hidden areas Adobe.
    • Big time agree here.
  • Masked content bounding box: When copying out or sizing content that has larger content masked into smaller shapes within my art it bases the bounding box off the hidden masked content. This is a major pain in the ass and the way Adobe has chosen to handle the functionality is just moronic. Fix it.
    • Another long-standing gripe on my end.

As I mentioned, many of these have been long-standing gripes by Illustrator users (including myself) over the years. I have a few to add myself – such as the fact that not all palettes in Illustrator respond to the scroll wheel – but I am going to compile those for a future post.

In the meantime, if you agree with the above I urge you to head over to the Adobe Bug Report/Feature Request Page and request any or all of the items here you’d like to see changed.