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  1. Working with Files in Illustrator
  2. Illustrator's Commands to Save and Export Files
  3. Linking and Embedding
  4. Troubleshooting
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Illustrator's Commands to Save and Export Files

When you start a new document, it is, by default, an Illustrator document. However, the file isn't actually recorded to disk until you use the Save, Save As, Export, or Save for Web command. When the file is written to disk, you must select a file format. The format (as noted previously) determines many important aspects of how the file will be recorded. File compatibility, compression scheme, and file size are just some of the factors that you must consider.


The Save command maintains the file's existing format and simply updates the file's information. If a new file has not previously been saved, the Save As dialog box opens.

Save As

The Save As dialog box offers three file formats from which to choose:

  • Adobe Illustrator Document (.ai)—This is the native file format for Adobe Illustrator. It supports all the features of the program. However, earlier versions also use the .ai file extension and do not support all the features of Illustrator 9. Specifically, transparency may drop out of an image. The difference may be subtle when effects such as drop shadows are involved.

    Illustrator offers you several options when saving a file in its native format. You can see them in the dialog box shown in Figure 3.1.

    Using the Compatibility option, you can make the file emulate earlier versions of Illustrator. You should use it when the file will be opened in an earlier version of the program. You can also embed the fonts used in the document and subset them to reduce file size. (See "Embedding Fonts" later in this chapter.) Any specific ICC profiles in use when the file was created can be included, as well as any files that were placed but not embedded. (See "Linking and Embedding Images" later in this chapter.) If an earlier version of Illustrator was selected for Compatibility, you have the option of choosing how to handle transparency. If you choose to preserve the paths, the file will be fully editable in the earlier version of the program. If you opt to preserve the appearance, sections of the illustration that employ transparency will be flattened (rasterized and divided). Figure 3.2 shows the result.

  • Figure 3.1 After you select a name and location for a file and click OK, this dialog box opens.


    If you exchange files with anyone using an earlier version of Adobe Illustrator, suggest that your colleague download the free Version Checker from Adobe. With this plug-in installed, users of earlier versions of Illustrator get a warning when opening an AI9 document. The plug-in can be downloaded from the following sites:





    Figure 3.2 The two objects on the left were flattened when the file was saved. To the right, the parts have been scattered to show them individually.

  • Adobe PDF (.pdf)—The native format of Adobe Acrobat, PDF files are now very common. Acrobat Reader can be found on most modern computers and is freely available for others. Documents saved in PDF format can be viewed on almost any computer.

    PDF files support both vector and raster (bitmap) information. Although PDF pages are PostScript at heart, they can also contain annotations and notes, and can be searched and hold hyperlinks.

    You'll see two panels in the Adobe PDF Format Options dialog box after you've named and chosen a location for your file. On the General panel (shown in Figure 3.3), you can select general Acrobat options. On the Compression panel (shown in Figure 3.4), you can specify compression settings. In either panel, you can use the Options Set menu to select the predefined sets of options for Default (print) or Screen Optimized (Web).

  • TIP

    Before saving complex illustrations as PDF files, you can take an extra step to help preserve the appearance of your image and ensure problem-free printing. Working on a copy of your original, open the Layers palette. From the palette menu (the little triangle in the upper-right corner of the palette), select Flatten Artwork. You can then save the file in PDF format with its original appearance intact.

    Figure 3.3 The General options for PDF files include compatibility and embedding. Thumb-nails are used within Acrobat and Acrobat Reader, but not as previews in Illustrator's Open dialog box.

    Figure 3.4 Note that in addition to allowing separate settings for different types of artwork, this dialog box warns that some art will be flattened.

  • Illustrator EPS (.eps)—Encapsulated PostScript is a page description language developed by Adobe. Like PDF, it supports both vector and raster information. EPS is often used to put a graphic element into a page layout program. Typically, the EPS file is an image on a page, but it can be a complete page as well.

    EPS files can contain previews that are visible in a page layout program. When no preview is present, a placeholder (a box with two crossing diagonal lines) is shown on the page. Macintosh previews are available in PICT (Macintosh) or TIFF format, and either can be 1-bit (black and white) or 8-bit (color). Windows EPS files can have previews in TIFF or Windows Metafile (.wmf) format.

    In addition to choosing the file format for the preview, you can set the preview to contain transparency in the EPS Format Options dialog box (see Figure 3.5).

  • TIP

    Because TIFF previews are compatible with both Windows and Macintosh, choose this option when saving as an EPS file. And, although the 8-bit color preview will increase the file size slightly, choose it rather than the 1-bit black-and-white version.

    Figure 3.5 Among the other options on this dialog box are a choice of PostScript Level 2 or Level 3. PostScript Level 1 is supported only when you're saving as Illustrator 8 or earlier.


In addition to the three primary file formats available in the Save As dialog box, Illustrator offers a variety of export formats. Those formats unlikely to ever be needed can be deleted from the Photoshop Formats folder, found within Illustrator's Plug-ins folder.

A number of Illustrator's export formats require rasterization before you save the file. The Rasterize dialog box is shown in Figure 3.6.

Figure 3.6 RGB, grayscale, and bitmap color modes are supported, along with a choice of resolution and antialiasing.

  • Amiga IFF (.iff )—The Commodore Amiga is still in use as a video-editing platform, and the Interchange File Format (.iff) is also in use with some paint programs. However, most Illustrator users have no need for this format. Because IFF is a video format, it supports only RGB, grayscale, and bitmap color modes.

  • AutoCAD Drawing (.dwg)—AutoCAD is a premier architectural and engineering design tool. DWG is the program's standard vector file format. DWG (and its sister format DXF) swaps white fills and strokes for black. The export dialog box is shown in Figure 3.7.

  • Figure 3.7 AutoCAD version, bit depth, and raster format for fills and textures are among the choices for the DWG format.

  • AutoCAD Interchange File (.dxf )—This file format is used to exchange information between AutoCAD and programs that do not support the DWG format. From Illustrator, it can also be used to exchange information with those programs. When you're working directly with AutoCAD, however, DWG is usually a better choice. DXF is a tagged format. The dialog box is identical to that of DWG (shown in Figure 3.7).

  • bitmap (.bmp)—BMP requires that the image be rasterized before you save. The Rasterize dialog box is identical to the one shown in Figure 3.6. In addition, however, the BMP format offers compatibility with Windows or IBM's OS/2 format, a choice of color depth, and (in some cases) compression (see Figure 3.8).

  • Figure 3.8 The Run Length Encoding (RLE) compression option is not always available.

  • Computer Graphics Metafile (.cgm)—This format is designed for use with complex engineering and architectural diagrams. It is not suitable for illustrations that incorporate large amounts of text. It is a vector format. The export function has no user-definable options.

  • Enhanced Metafile (.emf )—An advanced version of Microsoft's Windows Metafile (.wmf) format, EMF is available only for 32-bit Windows. The export function has no user-defined options.

  • Flash (.swf )—Although not the native Flash format, SWF fulfills the need for a vector-based, interactive file format. SWF is actually the Shockwave file format. (Flash's FLA is a proprietary format controlled by Macromedia.) This is a Web format, but viewers must use a browser equipped with the Flash plug-in. For more information, see Chapter 24. Figure 3.9 shows the dialog box for Flash (SWF) Format Options.

  • JPEG (.jpg)—One of the two main file formats on the Web, JPEG is a 24-bit file format best suited for photographs and other continuous-tone images. In addition to Export, JPEG is available through Illustrator's Save for Web feature. More information is available in Chapter 23.

  • Problems creating JPEG files for the Web? If they're valid JPEG files, but your browser won't show them, see "RGB for the Web" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of this chapter.
  • Macintosh PICT (.pct)—Like GIF, PICT is most effective when you're working with areas of solid color rather than continuous tone. This Macintosh format has some (but limited) support in Windows programs.

  • Paintbrush (.pcx)—Like IFF, BMP, and a number of other formats, PCX requires rasterization before you save an image. (The Rasterize dialog box is shown in Figure 3.6.) PCX was developed for the PC Paintbrush program. Illustrator fully supports only version 5 of the format.

  • Figure 3.9 The specific options in this dialog box are discussed in Chapter 24.

  • Photoshop (.psd)—Photoshop native format files can now be created from Illustrator. Layered Illustrator documents can be exported to Photoshop with layers intact. Illustrator 9 supports the Photoshop 5 file format but not all the new features found in Photoshop 6. Figure 3.10 shows the Photoshop Options dialog box.

  • Figure 3.10 The available color models are RGB, CMYK, and grayscale.

    For additional information, see Chapter 19, "Raster Images and Rasterized Objects," and Chapter 28, "Integrating Illustrator 9 and Photoshop 6."
  • Pixar (.pxr)—Pixar is the file format used by the PIXAR workstations for 3D and animation work. Saving in the Pixar format automatically rasterizes the image (refer to Figure 3.6 for the dialog box).

  • Scalable Vector Graphics (.svg)—Discussed in depth in Chapter 24, SVG is a new vector file standard that incorporates JavaScript interactivity. Most Web browsers require a plug-in to see SVG files. As you can see in Figure 3.11, SVG allows you to embed information required to properly display the image.

  • SVG Compressed (.svgz)—A compressed version of SVG, SVGZ can substantially reduce file sizes. Only one level of compression is available.

  • Targa (.tga)—Targa files are designed for use with systems incorporating the Truevision video board. Numerous MS-DOS color applications can use the format. Artwork is automatically rasterized (refer to Figure 3.6) when saved as Targa.

  • Figure 3.11 The various options in this dialog box are explained in Chapter 24.

  • Text (.txt)—This "plain text" format is a most basic text format. It is a suitable choice when you need to move text to a word processor without fancy formatting. Such options as baseline shift and character scaling will be ignored.

  • Tagged Image File Format (.tif )—TIFF (as the file format is known) is among the most common raster image formats. In addition to image-editing programs, many scanners produce TIFF files. This format is among the most common for placing rasterized images into page layout programs. In addition to the settings shown in the Rasterize dialog box (refer to Figure 3.6), the TIFF Options include LZW Compression settings and profile embedding.

  • Windows Metafile (.wmf )—The file format of clip art from Microsoft Office for Windows (among other files), WMF is a vector format.

Save for Web

The Save for Web command opens what is perhaps Illustrator's most impressive dialog box. Save for Web, which might be considered an independent program within Illustrator, will be fully explored in Chapter 23. It even creates a separate and independent preferences file. Its entire function is to properly optimize graphic files for the Web in GIF, JPG, and PNG formats. As you can see in Figure 3.12, it offers up to four variations of optimization for comparison.

Figure 3.12 The Save for Web dialog box, despite its appearance, is actually quite user friendly.

Save for Web allows you to balance the file's size against its appearance, even to the point of specifying exactly how many colors will be included (8-bit color only). Because it works only with GIF, JPG, and PNG, the files are rasterized when you save. Save for Web also allows you to specify a target file size and let the program make the decisions about how to optimize.

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