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Opening Files

Fortunately, not every Illustrator session begins with creating a new document from scratch. To open an existing illustration saved to disk, choose File » Open or press Ctrl+O—that's the letter O (Cmd-O on the Mac). Alternatively, you can open a recently used illustration by choosing File » Open Recent Files and selecting a name from the drop-down menu.

You can open four kinds of files in Illustrator.

  • Drawings previously created in Illustrator (and saved in any of the Illustrator native formats).

  • Drawings created in FreeHand or some other drawing program and saved in either the Illustrator file format or the format native to the other drawing program.

  • Documents created in InDesign, QuarkXPress, Photoshop, or FreeHand and exported in EPS format (or other programs that can export in EPS format), or documents converted to PDF.

  • Images saved as TIFF, JPEG, or some other compatible format.

If you open an illustration (a line drawing saved in any of a number of different formats, including both the Illustrator and the FreeHand native formats), it pops up on screen in a new illustration window. You can edit any line, shape, or word of text as explained in the chapters that follow. Similarly, you can open and edit the lines, shapes, or text from vector EPS documents. (You can't do much, if any, editing of this nature in a raster image you open in Illustrator, though you can still apply filters and other effects to it. For more on this, see Chapter 20.) You can also edit the shapes and text inside opened PDF files, although it is possible that you may lose some objects in the PDF conversion.

When you open a TIFF file or another image, Illustrator displays the image in a new illustration window. You can move or transform (scale, rotate, flip, or skew) images, as well as apply Photoshop filters and effects (as described in Chapter 20). But it's just not possible to edit them in the same way that you edit object-oriented illustrations.

I'll discuss individual file formats and the special ways to deal with them later on in the section “Why All These Formats?” But first, let's briefly go over the basics of opening a file from disk. If you already know all about opening files, feel free to skip this section.

Using the Open Dialog Box

When you choose File » Open, Illustrator displays the Open dialog box, shown in its Windows and Mac incarnations in Figures 4.1 and 4.2, respectively. Your only job here is to locate and select the drawing with which you want to work. The dialog box lets you search through the folders on all available hard drives, CD-ROMs, and floppy disks. Sometimes you can even preview what the file looks like before you open it.

Figure 4.1. The Open dialog box is your tool for locating files stored on disk. This is the Windows version.

Figure 4.2. The Open dialog box as it appears on a Mac running OS 10.1. As you probably know if you're using this system, when you click once on a file name, you'll see a preview (if there is one) in the right-hand pane.

The Folder Bar and Scrolling List

When you're in the Open dialog box, you and your mouse can get to any location on your computer or network to select any existing file. At the top of the box you'll see a folder bar, showing your current folder name—your location within the file hierarchy. Click on that bar to see the nested folders, and drag to switch to a parent folder; that is, one of the folders that contains the current folder.

In this way, you can navigate to anywhere on the drive or to other connected computers (not that I recommend opening files over a network, mind you).

Below the folder bar is a scrolling list that contains the names of all the files and folders inside the current folder. Since you're seeing this through the Open dialog box, the files you'll see will be based on the option you've selected in the Files of type option box (Show option box on the Mac), covered in the “Showing Fields” section further down. Once you've found the file, select it in the scrolling field and click the Open button, or just double-click on the filename.

Using the Preview

The Open dialog box includes a thumbnail preview of the selected illustration or image. The beauty of the preview is that you don't have to open the graphic to remember what it looks like. The preview feature is constantly on in Windows (though if your file hasn't been saved with previews or does not support previews, you will just see a gray box) and in Mac OS 10.1; in Mac OS versions earlier than 10 you can turn it on or off with the Show/Hide Preview button in the Open dialog box.

To see the preview you have to have saved a thumbnail along with the file inside either Illustrator 6 or later (previous versions didn't support previews) or Photoshop 2.5.1 or later. Illustrator can also display the PICT previews included with some EPS files.

Showing Files

The Open dialog box has a Files of type pop-up menu (called Show on the Mac) where you can choose what types of files you want to see. The choices are:

  • All Formats: Called All Documents on the Mac, this option lets you see all of the files in whatever location you're looking, whether Illustrator can open them or not.

  • All Readable Formats: Called All Readable Documents on the Mac, this option lets you see all of the files that Illustrator knows it can open. This option is the default and helps you focus on the files you want to work with, and not waste time with the others.

  • File Types: You can also choose to display only a specific type of file that Illustrator knows it can open. For instance, you may want to open only CorelDraw files. You can choose that file type to list only those files. This list also helps you understand which file types Illustrator does recognize.

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