Monday, September 24, 2007

Adobe Illustrator: Smackdown

I’m going to give it to you straight: Adobe Illustrator may well be going the way of Quark.

Back in the 1990s, Quark ruled the roost when it came to layout software. It wasn’t the best, but it was what most everyone either chose to use or was forced to use due to its industry pervasiveness. Nevermind that it was archaic, completely un-user-friendly, and either required you to jump through hoops to get things done or forced you to buy plugins to supplement its anemic abilities. And it was way overpriced.

Now, let’s consider Adobe Illustrator. Much of the same can be said for it in this decade. There’s very little that’s user-friendly in Illustrator. From font kerning to drop shadows, you’re forced to plug in numbers into a palette field. Does this seem odd to anyone else? I’m a designer, not an engineer. I want to do it onscreen with live tools that show me exactly what I’m doing. The need to guess at a number is absurd. (And it really is guesswork, because, c’mon, does anyone really know how putting “-47” into the Tracking field on the Character palette is going to affect 64pt. Univers?). But most of you I’m sure are scratching your heads right now, thinking, “Jeez, how else are you going to change the kerning?” Which is exactly my point -- Adobe has most designers so entrenched in the ways of Illustrator that they have difficulty understanding a different and easier way of getting it done.

Another example is how Illustrator deals with points. Needlessly complex and just plain weird from a designer’s standpoint. To edit the points of even a simple object could require as many as six (six!) point tools (and that doesn’t even include all the necessary key commands that you have to use along with the tools). WTF? And just try selecting multiple points without accidentally selecting the whole object or inadvertently moving something you didn’t mean to. The next time you edit a drawing, count how many times you have to hit Command+Z due to Illustrator’s unwieldiness rather than your own design errors.

And interactive gradient transparencies are impossible in Illustrator. I don’t mean that they’re difficult -- I mean you can’t do them. It’s not an option. Which is strange considering other vector draw programs can do them, why not Illustrator? Oh, sure, you can create a transparency mask and kind of get the job done if you had to, but it takes an incredible amount of time and it won’t work for complex drawings.

So here’s the deal. I’m not going to keep going on about the shortcomings of Illustrator and how it needs to change. Instead, I’m going to show you. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a comparison of Illustrator CS2 and (don’t laugh) CorelDraw 11. Yes, I said CorelDraw.

I’ll be putting together a quick-and-dirty illustration of the word “Hero.” Nothing fancy, but it will show the chasm that exists between the real design world and how we often have to settle when working with Illustrator. I’ll attempt to create roughly the same drawing in both Illustrator CS2 and CorelDraw 11. But beware all you Illustrator haters -- I may well find some superior characteristics in Illustrator that I definitely wouldn’t want to see go away.

Stay tuned...

No comments: