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Adobe Illustrator CS5 : Working with Illustrator Documents - Saving Files (part 1)

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5/1/2012 5:47:43 PM
Saving and backing up Illustrator documents are some of the most important Illustrator tasks you can perform.

To save a file, choose File => Save or press Ctrl+S. If you've previously saved the file, updating the existing file with the changes that you've made takes just a fraction of a second. If you've not yet saved the file, the Save As dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure 1 opens. Illustrator files are best saved as AI files (with the .ai extension) because this is the native Illustrator format, which preserves all Illustrator-specific information.

When saving files, remember these tips and tricks:

  • Decide where to save the file. Ensure that the name of the folder where you want to save the file is displayed above the file list window. Saving your working files in a location other than the Illustrator folder is a good habit. Otherwise, you can have trouble figuring out which files are yours, which files are tutorial files, and so on.

  • Name the file something distinctive. If you look for a file six months from now, you may not recognize it. Avoid using Untitled-1, Untitled-2, and so on. Such names are non-descriptive, and you can too easily replace the file at a later date with a file of the same name. For the same reasons, don't use Document 1, Document 2, and so on.

Here are your formatting choices for saving an Illustrator file:

  • Adobe Illustrator Document. For use when passing between users who have Adobe Illustrator.

  • Illustrator EPS (eps). For use when sending or passing files between users who may not have Illustrator, but can place or open the files in another program, such as InDesign or Photoshop.

  • Illustrator Template (ait). For use in creating templates that you can use as guides for future drawings.

  • Adobe PDF (pdf). For use in sending the file to anyone who has or can download Adobe Reader or Acrobat Standard or Professional.

  • SVG Compressed (svgz). For use when creating a Web page. This option generally produces smaller files than the uncompressed SVG format.

  • SVG (svg). For use when creating a Web page. SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics and is an XML-based format that can produce much smaller file sizes than the typical bitmap formats, such as JPEG and TIF.

Figure 1. The Save As dialog box allows you to save your document in several formats.



When should I save?

You really can't save too often. Whenever I put off saving for just a few minutes, that's when the application aborts or unexpectedly quits. Depending on your work habits, you may need to save more frequently than other people do. Here are some golden rules about when to save:

  • Save as soon as you create a new file. Get it out of the way. The toughest part of saving is deciding how and where you're going to save the file and naming it. If you get those things out of the way in the beginning, pressing Ctrl+S  later is fairly painless.

  • Save before you print. It's just a good idea in case your program quits when you print.

  • Save before you switch to another application. This is another good idea in case you forget that you still have the application running or another application forces you to restart, such as when you're loading new programs.

  • Save right after you do something that you never want to have to do again. For example, you want to save after getting the kerning just right on a logo or matching all the colors in your gradients so that they meet seamlessly.

  • Save after you use an Effect command that takes more than a few seconds to complete.

  • Save before you create a new document or go to another document.

  • Save at least every 15 minutes. This is just a good, basic rule; that way, you're sure to have the latest version in case of a power outage that can shut your system down immediately.


1. Using the Save As command

You activate the Save As command by choosing File => Save As or by pressing Ctrl+Shift+S . By using this command, you can save multiple versions of the document at different stages of progress. If you choose Save As and don't rename the file or change the save location, Illustrator prompts you to replace the existing file. If you choose Replace, Illustrator erases the file that you saved before and replaces it with the new file that you're saving.

2. Understanding the Save a Copy command

The Save a Copy command that you activate by choosing File => Save a Copy or by pressing Ctrl+Alt+S  saves a copy of your document at its current state (with copy appended to the file name) without affecting your document or its name. The next time you press Ctrl+S, Illustrator saves your changes to the original, and the copy isn't affected by any of your changes.

3. Reverting to the last saved version

Choosing File => Revert is an option that automatically closes the document and opens the last saved version of it. This option is grayed out if you've not yet saved the file. When you select it, a dialog box appears asking you to confirm that you actually do want to revert to the last saved version of the document.

You can't undo a Revert action, and you can't redo anything you've done up to that point with the document.


4. Saving for Web & Devices option

Saving an Illustrator file for the Web is an easy step that ensures Illustrator properly saves your file for Web usage. This option allows you to choose various settings, such as the amount of compression that's applied to your document in order to reduce the file size so that your Web pages load faster. Choose File => Save for Web & Devices or press Alt+Shift+Ctrl+S  to access the Save for Web & Devices dialog box, as shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2. The Save for Web & Devices dialog box allows you to save your document in a format suited for use on the Web.

The tabs you see in the Save for Web & Devices dialog box are Original, Optimized, 2-Up, and 4-Up. The first tab, Original, shows the file in its original state. The second tab, Optimized, shows the file in the optimized settings you chose at the right of the Save for Web & Devices dialog box. The third and fourth tabs, 2-Up and 4-Up, respectively, show the figure in the original state along with one or three of the other default options so you can decide which option best suits your needs.


5. Understanding file types and options

You can save and export Illustrator files in several ways. Actually, you can save in and export them to many formats by using the File => Save As and File => Export commands.

Saving an Illustrator file with the wrong options can dramatically affect whether you can place or open that file in other software as well as what features Illustrator includes with the file when Illustrator reopens it. Saving a document as an older version of Illustrator may alter the document if the older version is missing features you used in your document.

As a rule, unless you're going to take your Illustrator document into another program, you can save it as an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file without any problems. This keeps the file size down and makes saving and opening the file much quicker.

6. Using Illustrator's compatibility options

Most software packages are forward-compatible for one major version, but Illustrator is novel in that you can open an Illustrator 1.1 file in the current version of the software, even though many years have passed between those product versions.

If necessary, you can also export an Illustrator document to certain older Illustrator formats using the Illustrator Options dialog box. To open this dialog box, select File => Save As and then choose Illustrator from the Save as type list box. In the options dialog box, you can choose the version of Illustrator to save as.

The only real reason to save illustrations in older versions of Illustrator is to exchange files with Illustrator users who haven't upgraded from an old version. This is pretty much always a bad idea, as saving as a legacy version may remove useful information from your Illustrator file. Within a few months after the release of Illustrator, most users will be upgrading. If they aren't, they probably don't understand the new features and usefulness of the latest version (or in the case of many printers/service providers, they just don't want to deal with the hassle of upgrading). Regardless of why people aren't upgrading, it's going to cause compatibility issues for you, so encourage them to upgrade as soon as possible. If they're truly serious about using Illustrator, they need to be using the most current version. I won't deal with printers that aren't on the most current version of Illustrator because they tend to be technically incompetent when it comes to working with my files correctly, which almost always results in printer-specific errors. The following list provides information about saving files in each version:

  • Illustrator CS4. Saves the file with all Illustrator CS4-compatible features intact.

  • Illustrator CS3. Saves the file with all Illustrator CS3-compatible features intact.

  • Illustrator CS2. Saves the file with all Illustrator CS2-compatible features intact.

  • Illustrator CS. Saves the file with all Illustrator CS-compatible features intact.

  • Illustrator 10. Saves the file with transparency, color profiles, and embedded fonts.

  • Illustrator 9. Saves the file with transparency and color profiles.

  • Illustrator 8. Saves the file in a cross-platform (Mac and Windows) Illustrator 8 format. Illustrator 8 added support for EMF file format and drag-and-drop to Microsoft Office products (Windows), Japanese format FreeHand files, and DXF file formats.

  • Illustrator 3. Saves the file in the Illustrator 3 format. In fact, you can use the Illustrator 3 format for lots of cheating — doing things that Illustrator normally doesn't allow you to do (like opening up a file in Illustrator 3, 4, 5, 5.5, 6, or 7). For example, technically, you can't place gradients or masks into patterns. But if you save a gradient as an Illustrator 3 file and reopen it in Illustrator 7, the gradient becomes a blend, which you can use in a pattern (although Illustrator's Expand feature is quicker for this sort of thing).

  • Japanese Illustrator 3. Saves the file in the Japanese Illustrator 3 format, which preserves the Japanese type options.

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