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Illustrator CS4 Interface and Workflow

With this new upgrade of AdobeR IllustratorR CS4, the Illustrator, InDesignR, FlashR and PhotoshopR interfaces have even more features in common than before. One feature that you are seeing throughout Creative Suite is the new tab-based workspace, where the document windows are tabbed and display across the workspace in several ways. You can set up your favorite workspace layout using the controls on the new Application Bar, which is a new part of the Menubar. The new Arrange Documents menu, which is found on the new Application Bar, gives you several options for displaying multiple open documents. You can choose from 2 up to 5 up, Tile or Consolidate All. This gives you great freedom when working with multiple documents and allows you to easily switch between and compare documents.

You will also notice that Illustrator's Application Bar has a new Essentials drop-down menu which contains a list of several preset workspace layouts. Those of you who work with all the programs in the Creative Suite will especially like the new "like" workspace presets that are similar to InDesign, Freehand and Photoshop workspaces.

Two new buttons on the Control Bar that will make life easier are the Document Setup and Preferences buttons, which open the Document Setup and Preferences dialog boxes. You no longer need to wade through the menu lists to make quick changes to your documents.

I am so glad that Adobe added the new multiple artboard feature. This is such a time saver and a great help in organizing multiple artwork into one project file. For example, if you were working on a stationary project, you can have individual artboards for the business card, letterhead and envelope within one file. It's as easy as starting a new document. Just set the number, size, spacing and bleeds for the artboards in the New Document dialog box. Illustrator will add these artboards onto the larger canvas area. As you work, you can move, resize and edit the individual artboards. Once you are ready to print, you can tell Illustrator to print one or all of the artboards together. When getting ready to send to the printer, you can use the new Separation Preview panel to display the breakdown of how the ink colors in your document will look when printed.

Illustrator CS4 ships with some new templates, brushes and symbols. There are project-based templates such as FlexSkins or various blank templates for business cards, stationary, banner ads and boxes. The list of preset symbols has increased also to include Hair and Fur, Charts and 3D Symbols, to name a few.

One new feature that I first encountered in InDesign and is also in Illustrator is Smart Guides. Smart Guides aren't really new but they are much smarter. These guides are very intuitive and seem to only popup when you need them. For example, when you draw a rectangle, a box pops up and dynamically displays the dimensions of the rectangle. Or you might want to draw another rectangle next to that one. When you do this, green guidelines show the center and outside alignment.


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