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Hidden Gems in Adobe Illustrator

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Brian Wood, contributor to Adobe Illustrator CS6 Classroom in a Book, shows you how to optimize content for use in projects such as websites, apps, and more.
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As the years roll by and Adobe product versions keep climbing, programs such as Adobe Illustrator have increasing numbers of new and improved features that add to the total feature set of the program. With a lot of us using just a portion of these powerful programs for our everyday tasks, I wanted to showcase some of the hidden gems in Illustrator and bring them to the light of day.

Some of these hidden gems are found in previous versions of Illustrator, and I’ll point out if it’s in CS6 only or not. My hope is that you pick up a few gems that can make your time in Illustrator more productive.

Interface Hidden Gems

You’ll find many great shortcuts and useful features in the Illustrator interface, including the following:

  • Dock tools (new in CS6): If you click and hold down the mouse button on a tool in the Tools panel, such as the Rectangle tool, you’ll see other hidden tools appear, right? Well, position the pointer over the arrow on the right edge of the hidden tools and then release the mouse button to tear off the panel of tools. You can then drag the tools by the title bar to any drop zone near an existing panel dock and dock it in the workspace (see Figure 1).
  • Figure 1 Dock tools

  • Expand the Color panel (new in CS6): Drag the bottom edge of the Color panel down to expand the color area (see Figure 2).
  • Figure 2 Expand the Color panel

  • Change the color of the UI and other useful preferences (new in CS6): Choose Edit > Preferences > User Interface (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > User Interface (Mac OS) to open the Preferences dialog box. Change the Brightness of the UI by dragging the slider or choosing an option from the Brightness menu.
  • In the same User Interface options of the Preferences dialog box, you can select White in the Canvas Color option to make the area around the artboards white (CS5 and earlier). Don’t like how Illustrator opens documents as tabs? Deselect Open Documents As Tabs in the same settings (see Figure 3).
  • Figure 3 Set User Interface options

  • Hide panels using keyboard shortcuts: Press the Tab key to hide all panels, and press Shift+Tab to hide just the panels docked on the right. Press any of the shortcuts again to toggle. Press the F key several times to toggle between the full screen modes. To navigate to the next document, press Ctrl+` (Windows) or Cmd+` (Mac OS). To navigate to next document group, press Ctrl+Alt+` (Windows) or Opt+Cmd+` (Mac OS).
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