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Through the years, I've taught Illustrator to thousands of creative professionals, and I've discovered something interesting: Illustrator, now in its 15th version, has changed a lot over the years, yet for the most part, many people still use Illustrator the same way today as they did when they first learned how to use it. People often don't have time to catch up on new features, or they feel they already know the program well enough and don't need new training. Because of this, many Illustrator veterans have missed out on some key features and basic foundations that can have a huge impact on how they use Illustrator every day.
Some of the changes that have happened in Illustrator over the years are significant. In truth, a brief look at the history of Illustrator reveals what even experienced users may still have a lot to learn. If we think about underlying architecture, there are basically two significant eras in the history of Illustrator. I like to call them Before Transparency, or BT, and After Transparency, or AT. And in the world of Illustrator, year zero would begin around the late 2000 when Illustrator 9 was released.
Many people are familiar with the fact that Illustrator 9 had a feature called Transparency, but what most people don't realize is that in order to make transparency possible, Adobe had to change the file format or the language in which Illustrator documents are created. Illustrator BT is based on Adobe PostScript or EPS, while Illustrator AT is based on the PDF language. Let's take a closer look at Illustrator 9. For various reasons, Illustrator 9, released in June of 2000, was one of the best-selling releases in the history of the program.
The Internet was booming, designers were scrambling to create web sites, and Illustrator 9 contains some key web features like Save for Web and Pixel Preview. Also, the economy was strong and people were spending money and buying legal copies of Illustrator, so there was less pirating. Ironically, at the same time, Illustrator 9 was one of the worst releases in Illustrator's history. Why? Well first, Illustrator 9 wasn't stable. The program crashed often, documents would often become corrupt, and you would lose your work even after you saved it.
Second, the Transparency feature has caused quite an upheaval in the print industry. Files would print poorly or incorrectly. We'll talk more about that in a future insider training title called Seeing through Transparency, but for our discussion here, the takeaway is that the vast majority of print service providers recommended that designers steer clear of Illustrator 9. Now, Adobe did fix the stability and the corruption problems with an update that came out around six months later, and the issues around transparency would eventually work themselves out. But it was already too late.
The industry at large had condemned the Illustrator 9, and designers went back to using Illustrator 8. It was only when Illustrator 10 was released in late 2001 that people felt it was safe to go back in the water and consider upgrading. The fact that Illustrator 10 was Mac OS X native, also help drive its adoption at the time. Human nature seems to dictate that when people upgrade to a new version of software, they only look at the new features in that version. All the marketing materials cover the new features, as do the training materials.
People often don't bother looking into features that were added in older versions. And since just about everyone skipped over Illustrator 9, they didn't really have the opportunity to learn about the features that were added in that release, which leads us to the interesting discovery: You see, one of the main reasons why Illustrator 9 wasn't stable at first is because Adobe crammed more features into that release than into any other in Illustrator's history-- features like live effects, drop shadows and glows, or layers and opacity masks, graphic styles, a simplified path command, lasso selection tools, integrated PDF support, nested layers, and the Appearance palette.
Many people simply missed out on some of these features. Perhaps more important though, the underlying file format change--the move from EPS to the PDF language-- resulted in key structural changes. For example, groups and layers changed, and objects can contain multiple attributes. Adobe actually did a great job at ensuring that the user experience would be consistent. You can move from Illustrator 8 to Illustrator 9 without having to learn about these structural changes. Everything just seemed to work the same.
This allowed people to continue using newer versions of Illustrator as if they were still using Illustrator 8. Now, over 10 years and six versions of Illustrator have passed, and many people are still using Illustrator with that Illustrator 8 mindset. They're missing out on understanding key concepts and on learning how to work more efficiently, and as a result they often don't fully understand some of the newer features that have been added to recent versions. But all that is about to change. This course, Rethinking the Essentials, is geared toward helping you establish a mindset to really understand how the 21st century Illustrator works.
And these key concepts can help you unlock all of Illustrator's secrets, secrets that we'll uncover together throughout this course and in future Insider Training video titles.
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