People often ask me what my favorite features of Adobe Illustrator are, and while I’m always happy to discuss things that I love about the program, I also think it’s important to have an open conversation about what the product is lacking. In this article I will outline 10 things that I want Adobe to add to Adobe Illustrator in the future. DISCLAIMER: This is MY list. Your list may vary, and that’s ok.
1. 100% Width Shape Creation
I’ve tweeted about this before, but it’s something I REALLY want, so I’ll lead off with it here as well. Oftentimes when I’m creating web/app mockups in Illustrator I use rectangles for elements like headers, footers, etc. When I’m creating these rectangles I’d love to be able to click my mouse, type 100% width or height in the insuing dialog box, and have Illustrator auto-generate a shape based on the dimensions of the document (which I don’t always remember off the top of my head). I’ve actually spoken to people at Adobe about this one, and they don’t seem to understand the need for this, however, I think as Illustrator becomes more of a web design tool, it will become very important to a lot of people.
2. Better Image Trace
Image Trace in Illustrator is unpredictable and produces less-than-desirable results more often than not. Adobe needs to fix this. The Adobe Capture mobile app seems to have a pretty decent tracing capability, but it’s still far from perfect. The need for better raster-to-vector conversion is still a huge painpoint for a lot of users and Adobe would score a huge win if they could fix this one.
3. Modern Save for Web Capabilities
Adobe continues to cram Photoshop down our throat as the (apparent) successor to Fireworks, but the fact remains that it simply isn’t what a lot of people want to use for these tasks. Illustrator was an obvious choice to replace Fireworks when Adobe chose to sunset it after CS6, but it just never happened. Photoshop continues to get great features like “Export As…” and “Quick Export” which have really streamlined the saving process for web assets. Adding features like this to Illustrator should be on the roadmap at some point, along with updating the list of devices/screen sizes supported in the new document dialog box. After all, we’re gearing up for the iPhone 7, and Illustrator still hasn’t added the iPhone 6 to their list of devices.
4. Better Text Warping Features
My friend Von Glitschka and I had a discussion about this last week at the HOW Design Conference. Warping text in Illustrator is unnecessarily complicated. There needs to be a better way to warp text. I’d love to have a dialog box that allows me to choose different envelope shapes and then allows me to refine the placement and distortion of the text. The way Illustrator handles this now forces the user to either create their own shape, or use Live Effects, and it also doesn’t differentiate text from other types of shapes, which makes warping somewhat of a one-stop-shop. I’m hoping to see something like this come along in a future update, and I’m sure many of my fellow type enthusiasts will agree.
5. Guide Layouts
This is another “well, Photoshop has this…” request. Guide layouts are great for people who work with column-based layouts (which many web designers do). For those not familiar with Guide Layouts in Photoshop, they basically mimic what the GuideGuide plugin does by allowing you to specify number of columns, margins, and gutter size. Adding this to Ai would really expedite the way I create my layouts and help me be more productive.
6. Scrubby Sliders
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again… I WANT SCRUBBY SLIDERS! There’s not much else to say, really. The fact that these exist in multiple Adobe applications and not in Illustrator is ridiculous.
7. On/Off Switch for Smart Shapes
Smart Shapes were one of the most heavily-marketed features of this year’s Illustrator updates. However, for people who have been using the shape tools for decades, there needs to be a way to turn these “smart” features on and off. I’m not a huge fan of how the new shape tools work. Some of the features are nice (especially when creating an ellipse) but I want to be able to turn those on with a keyboard shortcut or something.
8. Revised Gradient Panel
The gradient panel is probably the most painful panel to use in Illustrator for me. There’s not enough control, adding/removing points is tedious, and the panel itself just feels cramped and hard to use. When working with complex gradients, for example, I’d love to be able to zoom into the gradient bar in order to gain a more granular level of control over the stops. Reimagining this panel is long overdue, and I hope Adobe can deliver something in this area soon.
9. Better Illustrator File Support in Other Apps
I realize this one doesn’t really fall on the shoulders of the Adobe Illustrator team, but more on the shoulders of Adobe in general. I think the lack of support (or poor support) in other apps is absurd. For example, take Adobe Muse. The implementation of placing Ai files into Muse has been really painful. As Adobe continues to diversify their app portfolio, it would be great if Photoshop compatibility wasn’t the only thing they (apparently) cared about.
10. Stability and Performance
I’ve always been a staunch defender of Adobe Illustrator when it came to complaints about its stability and performance. However, since the CC transition, this has become a huge issue. Illustrator now takes far longer to launch than it has in previous generations, and operations like Pathfinder, Shape Builder, and Image Trace are all slow and crash-inducing. I almost never had an Illustrator crash before the switch to CC. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps I was just one of the lucky ones. Nowadays it’s commonplace for Illustrator to crash on me during an operation, and even when sitting idle I will notice that it somehow encountered an issue and crashed. This doesn’t exactly instill confidence. Maybe it’s time for a rewrite, or maybe it’s time to take out/update some of the archaic features and tools. I’m not sure what the answer is, but somebody needs to figure it out.
Some will read this and think it’s meant to slam Illustrator and/or Adobe. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love Adobe Illustrator. I use it every day, and it’s one of the applications that I teach a TON of content on for lynda.com. I want Illustrator to succeed, and I want Illustrator to push the envelope. I just feel that there hasn’t been a lot done to address certain issues and that there are some gaping holes that should be filled. I’ll never stop using this application, but I want to ensure that new users continue to give it a whirl too, and I think the best way to do that is to continue making better!