March 21, 2006

I So Hate Isolate

Even though I've posted this before on the Adobe Illustrator User to User Forum, I thought I'd post something here as well only because I see so many people still asking about it. The questions range anywhere from "what is that gray box that always seems to appear on my screen when I'm working in Illustrator?" to "WHY DOES THIS STUPID GRAY BOX KEEP POPPING UP ON MY SCREEN AND WHY CAN'T I MAKE IT STOP?"

Ah yes, these people have all discovered Illustrator CS's ability to isolate groups. I personally refer to it as Group Isolation mode.

The actual premise for the feature has value, but the implementation leaves much to be desired. Hopefully, this post will clarify the behavior to at least help people understand what is happening, and maybe even to use it once in a while for benefit.

Basically, the idea is that when you have several objects that have already been grouped, you might want to draw additional objects into that existing group. Rather than draw a new shape, ungroup all of your objects, and then regroup them with the new shape, you can double click on the existing group first, to isolate that group. This action will cause a gray box to appear around the boundary of the grouped objects, and is an indication to you that you're now in this group isolation mode.



Any new shape that you draw will now be drawn into that isolated group. To exist group isolation mode, double click anywhere outside the gray box, or select any object outside the isolated group.

Another to activate group isolation mode is to click on the icon that appears in the Control palette whenever a group is selected. The icon looks like a rectangle with four arrows within it.



In truth, the isolation feature was added mainly to assist in the creation and editing of Live Paint groups. When you isolate a live paint group, the gray box appears with stars on the corners, indicating the live paint group (as opposed to a regular group).



So why do I hate this "feature" so much? Mainly because I find myself double clicking often enough that I enter group isolation mode when I don't intend to. It seems to always get in the way. Also, I don't really think the way this feature asks me to. Usually, I have all of my objects created and then I group them. In this case, group isolation only works when I'm drawing a new shape that will be added to an existing group. It just isn't often when that happens (with the exception of working with live paint groups, where I admit that such a feature is useful).

I just wish there was some way to turn this feature off, or to disable it somehow. It's almost as annoying as when I accidentally double click on a text object and my tool changes to edit the text. Let's hope Adobe modifies the behavior of this feature in the next version so that we can derive the most benefit from it with experiencing isolation frustration.

11 comments:

Newmango said...

Thanks for posting this, Mordy. Personally, other than in Live Paint groups - in which case it's handy to know what's in the group and what's not - I have no use for Group Isolation mode.

First, I never accidentally invoke it becasue I never use the regular selection tool. I know, I know - just because I don't use it doesn't mean nobody should. Each to one's own, and all that. You could say not using the Selection tool denies me the benefits of Group Isolation mode. Okay.

The other reason I have no use for this feature is that I don't have any problems adding objects to groups. Using the Direct Select tool, I can select an object in an existing group, and Paste in Front (or behind). Or I can use the Layers palette. But for people who use that regular Selection tool, Group Isolation mode is ... fantastic.

andy baker said...

I've never noticed this because I've never accidently double-clicked. Are you sure your mouse sensitivity settings aren't to blame?

Mordy Golding said...

Thanks for the comment Andy. I'm pretty sure it isn't my mouse. Refer to this previous post of mine...

Anonymous said...

I have an issue whereby when I File>>Place an image into a page in Illustrator (be it tif, jpeg, eps etc...), occasionally I get the grey box around what i'm placing even though it's not being placed into a group, and even has been known to flip the image upside-down!! Thanks to your post I know this to be the Group Isolation Mode, but I'm still unclear why this occurs as I'm not double-clicking. Would it make a difference what object I have selected before placing?

Mordy Golding said...

Gray boxes appearing "by themselves" when doing certain functions with linked images is a known bug in Illustrator. So it's not you. Hopefully it will be fixed in CS3.

Anonymous said...

Phew, I thought it was a bug! Thanks for clarifying. I get this box all the time. I used to undo a few last steps to get rid of this stupid grey box. Now I know how to get rid of it without undoing my work. Thanks! yeah, i wish I could disable it...

badger said...

I absolutely hate this function too, but thankfully you can disable it. Go to Edit > Preferences > General, then uncheck 'Double click to isolate'. Hooray, no more annoying grey boxes!

Anonymous said...

I like that it isolates what I'm editing - stops me clicking the wonr thing etc.. BUT, is there any way I can do this without greying out the rest of my artwork. If there isn't then for me it is completely useless.

Anonymous said...

yap do not like this option at all. THanks for the Preference tip. It saves my life and now I can just do the isolation only when i want to by right clicking.

Anonymous said...

Anyone can use it? OK, if they don’t give a rat’s arse about fine control, precision, etc… basically all the stuff we graphic designers agonise about. Illustrator is a total piece of crap, there’s nothing ‘intuitive’ about it, it’s like working in a pond of sh*t. Until late last yearI was working on a G5 Mac because that was the last version of Mac hardware that would run Freehand. But in the end I had to upgrade and BAH!! Everything takes four times a long! There’s no fine control, you just kind of throw vector paths, primitives (squares, rectangles, etc) and type at the screen and hope it sticks somewhere. Grab a shape or point on a path and carefully position it on screen. Then bump it. Ooops!

In their infinite wisdom Adobe has thrown out the best vector drawing package ever written (Freehand) and dragged all Freehand users, kicking and screaming, into the Illustrator camp. Adobe had the monopoly on vector graphics, there is no second choice (for Mac users at least).

Illustrator, how, oh how do I hate thee? Still counting the ways….

Nic said...

This happens to me all the time, especially when I'm trying to click on a specific anchor to modify it.