Adobe Illustrator CS6
Reviewed by David Wheadon
Adobe Illustrator is my preferred vector drawing tool and has been for the past seven years.
Nothing else on the market comes close. You get the odd renegade user desperately hanging on to Coreldraw due to its much cheaper price tag, but the bulk of vector artists are using Illustrator.
Are the new features added to the latest version (Adobe Illustrator CS6) worth the cost?
At first glance the new features wouldn't make me want to rush out and buy the upgrade from CS5 to CS6. The 64 bit Illustrator CS6 is packaged with both 32 and 64 bit versions. So if you're operating system is 64 bit this means there are RAM advantages. Every release up until now has been 32 bit, meaning even if your computer was loaded with eight gigabytes or more of RAM, Illustrator would only be capable of accessing just over three gigabytes of RAM, resulting in the frustrating "out of memory" message when working with large files.
Adobe said this release had been rebuilt from the ground up resulting in better performance. From my short time testing and working with this latest release, I have to say things feel much smoother when scrolling and zooming, and the product is generally more responsive.
Illustrator CS6 has a new default look. Adobe has done away with the light grey sidebars that we've come to expect and created an adjustable charcoal grey interface. This brings the focus back to the artwork, not the array of buttons surrounding it.
It's not a new idea, but the new amount of memory now available has allowed Adobe to have font previews in the font drop down selector.
Now when changing fonts, the list of available fonts are shown in their actual font.
There are improvements to workflow, as with the ability to click on a layer name and make a name change directly. In previous versions changing layer names required opening the layers' property box.
The tool for transforming bitmap art into vector art has some massive improvements.
The trace tool comes equipped with common presets and creates better art with fewer anchor points, and better control over the trace process.
So is this version of Illustrator worth the price of an upgrade? The answer isn't black and white, as Adobe has added some nice features to what was already way ahead of the next best thing on the market.
The big new features are very specific to niche trades, meaning for your average graphic designer the upgrade may not be exciting as it would if you were a pattern designer.
If, however, you're using the product every day, the performance upgrades alone will leave you with no regrets on the money spent.
David Wheadon is a Hamilton-based graphics, print and web designer.