In the Real World Illustrator book, each chapter offered what I called a "Feature Matchup" which compared and contrasted two features that may have appeared similar, giving a better understanding of when to use on over the other. In reality, I wanted to call these "Celebrity Death Matches" -- the concept was really along the following lines: You're blissfully moving along, working on a project, or reading the book, and you come upon two features that seem to be about the same. how do you know which one to use? So I was looking at these feature matchups akin to the way Trinity needed to fly a helicopter in the first Matrix movie. She pulled out her cell, called Tank and had him download a helicopter pilot program to her. Her eyes fluttered for a second and then she had the info she needed to proceed. My attempt with the feature matchup was the same -- to stop what you're doing, flutter your eyes for a few seconds to get the info you need, and then proceed with the task knowing what to do.
One thing that I couldn't really do in the book though, was contrast such a matchup with Freehand. And the truth is, now, many FH users are looking at using Illustrator (notice I said using, not switching). So I thought it might be interesting to do a matchup with the way both FH and AI work. There's a lot we can talk about here, but in this first installment, I wanted to talk about Freehand's Paste Inside feature and Illustrator's Mask feature.
Freehand has an extremely elegant and simple way of masking items. You can take any object, select another object, and choose "paste inside". When doing this, it's similar to what QuarkXpress does (sort of like InDesign, but not as much though). Basically, the object becomes a frame for the art that you pasted inside of it. You can move the art around within the object, but you can't select it by clicking outside of the object. I'm not sure exactly what the limitations are, but I believe you can go up to seven levels deep (have 7 nested "paste insides" that is). Unless I'm mixing that up with lenses?
Illustrator can achieve the same effect, although getting there is a bit more challenging, and editing maybe even more so. In Illustrator, you can have any object become a mask for other artwork. Anything within the mask is visible, and anything outside teh boundaries of the mask is not. However, one can still select artwork even if the artwork isn't visible (i.e., it's outside the boundary of the mask). This makes it all to easy to accidentally select artwork that you don't intend to select, and usually results in the requirement to constantly lock and unlock objects.
For simple and quick work, paste inside is a dream. It doesn't require much brain power and allows you to build elements quickly, and edit them without accidentally selecting unwanted artwork. However, Illustrator contains 3 different types of masks, and once you understand how they all work, you have a tremendous amount of power and control over your artwork. Especially so with Opacity masks and Layer Clipping masks. However, it requires more work as in order to really take advantage of these (especially Layer masks), you really need to plan out your file correctly, or at least organize it in a way where you won't be changing stacking order just by creating a mask. I like paste inside alot, and give it the edge for most of the work that I do (mainly because most of the work I do is simple stuff), but for complex documents, maps, etc, you couldn't pull masks out of my cold dead hands.