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Adobe Illustrator CS2 review: Adobe Illustrator CS2

Adobe Illustrator CS2

Daniel Drew Turner
4 min read
Adobe Illustrator CS2

If last year's upgrade to Illustrator CS seemed minor, then Adobe Illustrator CS2 takes a major jump. New are professional features such as support for the PDF/X standard, long used in ad creation and prepress, which should open the application to a new constituency, especially with the welcome support for underline and strikethrough text styles. Thanks to the focus on integration across the Creative Suite 2.0, you can easily make your Illustrator CS2 projects flow across other Adobe design and layout apps, whether you're designing for print, the Web, or even mobile devices. The interface of this Illustrator upgrade remains familiar, while adding a handy Control palette to locate common tools. The new Live Trace feature turns pixel-based images into vectors, a gift for artists who want to start with a photo or sketch as their canvas. You can pair Live Trace with the new Live Paint tool to repurpose entire libraries of bitmap graphics, and it's easier than ever to add colors to shapes, but this upgrade doesn't soothe the headache of drawing with vectors. Still, because the enhancements, such as mobile design support, outweigh the drawbacks, we consider Illustrator CS2 to be the best tool of its kind. Installing Adobe Illustrator CS2 with the Adobe Creative Suite 2.0 requires four CD-ROMs' worth of data, but you can select elements or individual applications, easing the burden on your hard drive. Previous versions of Illustrator can coexist on the same computer, a relief for any firm that needs to tinker with legacy files.

Experienced users of Adobe graphics products will feel comfortable with Illustrator CS2's interface, as its control set mirrors the overall look and feel of other Adobe apps. One enjoyable new feature is a Control palette, a context-sensitive bar across the top of the screen. Whenever you use a tool--for example, if you click text with the Direct Selection tool--the Control palette displays related option menus such as Font and Font Style. This spares you the time and screen space otherwise wasted by digging among a host of floating palettes.


Adobe Illustrator CS2

The Good

Improves painting and tracing; collaborates with Photoshop CS2 and other Adobe offerings; better type handling broadens page-creation options.

The Bad

Lacks the natural painting options of Corel Painter; doesn't make vector graphics more intuitive; less-than-perfect help system and Flash support.

The Bottom Line

Vector graphics buffs will find this Illustrator upgrade worthwhile, especially to work with SVG-t art for mobile devices.

Illustrator CS2 also shares Photoshop CS2's ability to set and save custom work spaces, allowing you to designate and save the color, layers, and other settings appropriate to your project. However, Illustrator lags behind Photoshop here; where Photoshop CS2 comes with preset work spaces and customizable menus, Illustrator CS2 has neither, so you must create them yourself.

Adobe Illustrator CS2 provides a bevy of useful new features. In addition to its integration with Adobe Bridge, a thumbnail-based file manager for better work flow, Illustrator CS2 gets pro-friendly enhancements such as support for PDF/X (an expansion of the portable document format), and help with printing overlapping tiles for oversize documents. Artists will appreciate "at last" additions, such as support for Wacom drawing tablets, improvements to type and color handling, and the ability to export text and objects as Macromedia Flash files. While these changes won't woo Web designers away from the advanced animation capabilities of Macromedia Flash, Illustrator CS2 can speed the development of basic animation for Web sites. Illustrator CS2 also creates and optimizes SVG-t graphics for mobile devices.

Illustrator CS2's new Live Trace feature obviates the need for a separate application, such as Streamline, to make vector art out of raster images, such as photographs.

Illustrator CS2 doesn't make it any easier to draw original images from scratch, but if you like to scan in sketches or use files from pixel-based applications such as Photoshop, you'll enjoy the Live Trace feature, which automatically converts raster images to vectors. You can use Live Paint to change the color of a traced image and quickly make, say, a cel-shaded version of a family photograph. Although Live Paint makes it more intuitive to fill graphics with color, this may require some adjustment for longtime users. Where before you had to deal with strokes and fills in layers, Live Paint objects are one layer only; if two such objects overlap, Illustrator creates a third region. Because the overlapping region reacts dynamically when you move an object, this nicely speeds up the process of painting in images and eliminates a ton of layer tweaking.

If you alternate between using Photoshop and Illustrator, you'll value the newfound ability to open Photoshop files with layer comps, which let you view a variety of versions of a layout at once. Also easing the all-Adobe work flow is direct access to Photoshop CS2 Filters, Effects, and Gallery. Creative Suite 2.0 even lets you maintain consistent color settings across Illustrator CS2, Photoshop CS2, and InDesign CS2.

Like other apps within the new Creative Suite environment, Adobe Illustrator CS2 uses the new Adobe Help Center, a separate window that allows you to look up topics or ask questions. However, like the similar help feature in Mac OS X, simple queries sometimes return many irrelevant answers, and the long list of available topics makes browsing tedious.

The new Help Center feature offers searchable help topics locally, augmenting Adobe's online help forums.

The Help Center provides a More Resources button, which takes you to the familiar options of online training, tips, tutorials, and forums. Phone support for installation and product defect issues is free, aside from toll charges. For more knotty issues, Expert Support calls are $39 per incident, and unlimited calls require a $159-per-year subscription.


Adobe Illustrator CS2

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 9Support 7