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Chapter 2. The Interface

Whenever folks speak about Illustrator, someone always seems to drop the word “elegant” into the conversation. And, truly, it fits. Despite its occasional flaws, Illustrator has always delivered a rare combination of a logical interface and extremely reliable performance. And what, I ask you, could be more elegant than that?

But even an elegant application can bewilder and vex the user it has sworn to serve. The biggest strike against Illustrator is that it doesn't always work like other programs. Illustrator provides three different arrow tools where most other programs manage to make do with one. Many commands are missing from the menus and are available only through floating palettes. You change the performance of many tools by clicking with them rather than double-clicking on them. The pen tool takes some getting used to with its Bézier control handles.

The end result is that the elegant Illustrator is hard to learn. But once you come to terms with it, which takes some concentrated and patient effort, you'll never go back to other illustration programs. This chapter introduces Illustrator to new users, reminds casual users how it works, and brings longtime users up to speed. Here's where I explain the interface, briefly describe the tools and palettes, and examine every single one of the preference settings in excruciating detail.

There is nothing that says you have to read this stuff sequentially. Feel free to skip around, read bits and pieces over the course of several weeks, or cut out the pages and paste them over your bathroom mirror. Follow whatever learning style makes you smart in the shortest amount of time.


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