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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
While there are plenty of panels inside of Illustrator, perhaps the most important one is called the Control panel. The Control panel, which appears across the top of your screen here, may not look the same as the other panels, but it does behave in the same way in that you can click and drag on this little line over here on the far left to reposition it. Now it's in a floating state. And you can even bring it to the bottom and dock it towards the bottom of your screen. However, I like it towards the top. It's really kind of round where my eye level is, which I like about it, and the most important aspect of the Control panel itself is that it's context-sensitive.
In fact, most of the information that appears in the Control panel is simply duplicated in the other areas of the user interface. For example, in this area I can specify the stroke weight for a path, but that same value also appears here inside of the Stroke panel directly. Since, adjusting the stroke weight is one of the most common things that you'd do to a path, Adobe took this setting and brought it up over here in to the Control panel to make it easier to find. It also means you don't have to have the Stroke panel open all the time, and while there certainly are times when you need additional functions that are available only inside of the Stroke panel, if you look at the Control panel, you'll see the word Stroke appears underlined.
That means that you can click on it. If I move my cursor over the word Stroke, I can click and that temporarily brings up the entire Stroke panel right here in context. I'll be able to access other stroke settings, for example, Dashed Lines or Activate Arrowheads, and as soon as I click away, that panel disappears. Now as I said before, the Control panel itself is context-sensitive. That means when I make a certain selection on my artboard or I choose a different tool inside of my Tools panel, I will see different settings that are commonly attributed to those functions. For example if I choose my Type tool, you'll see the Character and Paragraph Settings up here and I can bring up those entire panels just by clicking on those words.
But here is the interesting thing. You see when you click on the Type tool on your screen, you may not see the exact same things that I do here on my screen. That's because the Control panel is also aware of the resolution that your monitor is set to. Depending on how much room you have on your screen, you may see additional options. If Illustrator finds that there isn't enough room to display all the settings, it collapses them to these little blue underlined words, which you can click on to get the full functionality of those panels. You can achieve some level of control by specifying which types of functions are available to you inside of the Control panel at any time.
To do that, move your cursor all the way to the far right of the panel and click on the icon up here. This listing provides all the possible functions that can be displayed inside the Control panel and a checkmark next to it means that will currently appear if there's room for it and if the context that you're in calls for that kind of function. For example, if I don't really care much about the Transparency settings, because maybe I hardly ever use that setting, I can uncheck it from this list. Notice now that option disappears. If you have a high-resolution monitor though, you may want to leave all those options checked, giving you access to a full range of functionality in the Control panel.
Overall what the Control panel really does is put certain functions at your fingertips and relieves you from having to have many other panels open. It gives you more room to work with and that makes it easier for you to focus on the work that you're doing.
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