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Adobe answers long-time requests with multiple artboards and transparent gradients, but itâ€™s the added polish that makes Illustrator CS4 a compelling release.
Iâ€™ve always believed that Adobe Illustrator suffers from an identity crisis. Unlike Photoshop or InDesign, which are easy to describe with a single descriptive phrase (â€œphoto editing,â€ â€œpage layoutâ€), Illustrator has always been referred to more generically as a "vector graphics application." Yet Illustrator CS4, now in its fourteenth version, has evolved into an essential design tool for just about every type of creative professional.
At one time, Illustrator competed head to head with FreeHand. But after Adobe acquired Macromedia, it announced it would no longer develop FreeHand. And the other mainstream competitors to Illustrator, Corelâ€™s CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 and ACD Systemâ€™s Canvas 11, don't run on Macs, and neither app has secured a significant foothold in the professional design community.
That makes me especially happy to tell you that the Illustrator CS4 upgrade offers a little bit of everything: entirely new features and significant enhancements that will appeal both to longtime users and to people migrating from FreeHand. And, probably the most impressive of all to me, a collection of â€œlittle thingsâ€ give Illustrator an overall polished feel.
Adobe Illustrator CS4 runs on both the Mac OS and Windows. Bought new as a standalone app, it will cost you $599. Upgrades from Illustrator CS, CS2, CS3; or FreeHand MX, 10, 9 are $199.
Artboards! Artboards! Artboards!
Sound the trumpets! Release the balloons! The most requested Illustrator feature of all time -- multiple artboards -- has finally arrived. A single document can now contain up to 100 artboards, and each artboard can be of its own size and orientation (they can even overlap each other). Each Illustrator document contains a single large overall â€œcanvasâ€ where you can easily manage all of your artboards, using Illustratorâ€™s new Artboard tool.
When the Artboard tool is selected, Illustrator switches to Artboard Edit Mode, allowing you to move, copy, add, or delete artboards. A toggle lets you specify whether the artwork on an artboard moves along with the artboard, or whether artboards move independently. The improved Smart Guides feature (covered later in this review) also works on artboards, making it easy to arrange them.
Because you need to be in Artboard Edit Mode in order to manage artboards, I find that artboards never get in the way of my work -- they are there when I need it, and donâ€™t bother me when I donâ€™t.