May 21, 2007

ASK MORDY: Aligning Anchor Points in CS3

I pulled this anonymous question from a comment on a previous post here:

In CS3, when you try to align points, let's say u have a ragged line made with the pencil tool (of let's say 5 points), and then you want to align the points and select all of them with the white arrow tool, how does AI know if you want to align the points between themselves or the whole object relative to another one? I mean, when all nodes are selected, can Illustrator tell if u have selected the object or just all of its nodes? I've been told FH was able to tell the difference.

Illustrator CS3 introduced the ability to align individual anchor points using the functions found in the Align panel (or the Control panel). This question actually bring about something which appears to have somewhat changed in Illustrator CS3 from CS2. Or if it isn't a change in actual behavior (meaning that it did happen in CS2), it's something that we have visibility to that wasn't present in the past.

First, it's important to understand what the Align functions do. When you select several objects and choose to align them, Illustrator treats each of those objects as individual entities. However, you'll notice that if you select several groups, the Align panel will treat each group as an individual entity. Which is why you can't align objects that are within a group when you simply select the group (as the group is treated as one object). To align the objects in a group, you can of course, double click on the group to isolate it. Then perform the align, then double-click to exit the isolation. Of course, you can also use the Direct Selection tool to select a few elements within a group, and you can align those. But if you use the Direct Selection tool to select ALL of the elements within the group, the Align functions realize that you have a group selected. And once again, it's treated as a single object.

Now think of each anchor point within a single object as if they were individual elements in a group. As long as you have SOME of the anchor points selected (meaning, not all of them), then Illustrator allows you to align those points. But as soon as you select all of the point on a path, the Align functions don't see the anchor points anymore -- they see the single path (again, think of the group).

I've noticed that in Illustrator CS2, when you select just a few anchor points on a path, the Control panel lists the Path as being the target. But now in CS3, when you have just a few anchor points of a path selected, the Control panel lists "Anchor Point" as the target. Apparently, that's how the context-sensitive Control panel knows to display all the new convert, handles, and anchor functions.



So you would need to select all anchor point except one, perform the align, then select that last anchor point that was left out, shift click on any other anchor point, and then repeat the align to get what you want. It's important to select the anchor points in that order. You already know that to align to a specific object, you click on a key object once you've made your selection. Well, with anchor points, clicking on an anchor point after it was selected will deselect all other anchor points. So Illustrator uses the LAST anchor point you selected as its "key" anchor point.

With regards to FreeHand, yes, this is far easier to do there. That's because FreeHand has the ability to select all of the anchor points in an object without selecting the entire object itself. For example, if you marquee select your entire object with the pointer, the anchor points become selected, and you can align all of the anchor points in the object. Click on the path with the Pointer and the entire object becomes selected, and will align as a single object. I believe my good friend JET likes to refer to this as FreeHand's ability to select anchor points and paths individually, where with Illustrator, they seem to be one and the same.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mordy, thanks for writing about this. I've been playing with ILL CS3 and the other day had a diagonal line that I drew with 2 anchor points. The second point was lower than the first and I later realized I wanted the segment to be straight again so I decided to try the new align anchor points feature of CS3.

You can imagine how shocked I was when (1) after I selected both points with the white arrow tool, the control panel did not display any align tools and (2) when i opened the align panel itself and tried to perform the "top align" function, NOTHING happened.

Your post explains this oddity and honestly I find this behavior to be most irritating and I feel like it really diminishes the usefulness of this new feature significantly. I can only hope that the Illustrator team has some plans to correct this for CS4.

Mordy Golding said...

Well, at least you know it's not you :)

I too, join you in hoping that this is improved upon in the future.

john seckman said...

So you would need to select all anchor point except one, perform the align, then select that last anchor point that was left out, shift click on any other anchor point, and then repeat the align to get what you want.

For as long as I can remember, Illustrator has had the ability to average anchor points. It is a much easier way to deal with the situation than what is described above.

Other than the ability to set a "key" anchor point, how is this new feature different from the Average command?

Mordy Golding said...

You're right. Many people overlook or simply aren't aware of the average command. Keep in mind that the Align functions will include Disribute, Distribute Spacing, and the ability to Align to Artboard or Crop Area.

Anonymous said...

And I am one of those people... Never used Average before but what a great solution for aligning paths while we wait for Adobe to (hopefully) make improvements in CS4.

Thanks for the tip John!

Gary Spedding, Ph.D. said...

Mordy,
Never mind Anchor points - just kidding.
I am trying to follow some instructions outlined on the web (The Illustrator Layers Magazine) and actually embedded within the bevels.ai file. I am trying to create a new bevel. I follow all the directions, save, close open and try to apply my new bevels with Extrude and Bevel but they are never there. What could I be doing wrong? Any ideas? I think this is the kind of tip that others could benefit from (I tried in CS and CS2 but no joy).

john seckman said...

It should work if you follow the directions in the Bevels.ai file. I've done it several times without any problems. You say you close and reopen (the file?)--do you actually quit and relaunch Illustrator?

Unless you rearrange the symbols in the Bevels.ai file, the new bevel will appear at the bottom of the list.

I don't remember how it used to be done in Adobe Dimensions, but it seemed more straightforward.

Gary Spedding, Ph.D. said...

John and Mordy,

I've tried it every which way but nothing ends up in the Extrude bevel panel. One method said, once the symbol was created, to delete the image from the bevels.ai file and then save. [I still have them in the symbols pallete.) Close and restart Illustrator. I tried leaving it there and deleting it. I followed the directions for both CS and CS2 but no joy. I sometimes get the crazy message about saving back to CS version when I am doing it in CS2 so wonder if the problem is somehow connected to the fact that I have both CS and CS2 versions of Ilustrator on my computer. Anyhow I am out of ways and ideas as to how to get this to work. I even tried restting presference. No joy.

Thanks for your input though.

Teri Pettit said...

The message about saving back to CS format does sound suspicious. Is it possible that you have been editing the bevels.ai file located in your CS application folder instead of the one located in the CS2 application folder? Have you tried starting CS and seeing if you have new bevels there?

Also, try doing something like changing the shape of one of the existing bevels (redefine the symbol but keep its name) and see if that change gets picked up. (After first saving a copy of the original file off somewhere else, of course, so that you can restore the defaults later.)

Gary Spedding, Ph.D. said...

Teri,

I have tried some of your suggestions. One nagging issue I have is that the icons in the CS2 Illustrator folder do look like CS rather than CS2 icons if that makes sense. I'll try and track this craziness down and see if I can then resolve things. Thanks for your input. I'll repost if and when I get things sorted out.

Mordy - any comments from you on this?

Gary.

Gary Spedding, Ph.D. said...

Problem with creating new bevels solved. Following advice from expert Jeff Witchel and the earlier comment from Teri I decided to do a search for bevel.ai files. It turns out I had copies in both the Required and the Plug-ins folders for both versions of Illustrator CS and CS2. Removing all but the Required CS2 file copies allows me to create and save new bevels. Clearly, while making new bevels in one file, Illustrator was somehow still preferring to find a different copy.

Now the issue is that Corey Barker's instructions on the Illustrator Magazine website do not give a pyramid shape from using his 45 degree rightward sloping line (as bevel) on a square shape in Illustrator (nor can I see how that would work anyway). Others are posting at the site that it does not work for them either. Anyone know how to create a pyramid shape using the bevels in 3D extrude and bevel?

john seckman said...

Yes, this can be done with a diagonal line for the bevel. I used a slope of -45 degrees (upper left to lower right). Draw a square of a specific size (I used 50 pt. x 50 pt.) Set extrude depth to desired amount (75 pt. for me). Set the bevel height to slightly less than the squares dimension (mine is set to 49.9 pt.) Select "Bevel Extent In" option.

When the bevel height is equal to or greater than the squares dimensions, thing get out of whack.

Gary Spedding, Ph.D. said...

I'll make it 13 -13th comment.

WOW - thanks to all and finally to Mr. Seckman. I can do some amazing things now following this advice - don't just try it with squares - use others shapes too - also expand and ungroup to create some really neat structures. Though I think the original creates a tetrahedron rather than a pyramid!? I think a pyramid is only three faces leading from base to apex?

James E. Talmage said...

> I believe my good friend JET likes to refer to this as FreeHand's ability to select anchor points and paths individually

Actually, Mordy, I refer to that as FH's ability to distinguish between two common selection states of a path: It's being selected as a whole object, as opposed to its having all its points subselected.

My suspicion (I'm not a programmer) is that AI doesn't really know the difference. It seems directly related to that other decades-old complaint about AI: its insistence upon two separate selection pointers, as compared to FH's ability to accomplish more with only one.

In FH, when a path is just selected as an object, its state and behavior is similar to that of an AI path that is selected with the black pointer (as long as all the points are selected).

So in AI's selection interface, it seems there is an ambiguity that doesn't exist in FH. That ambiguity required an arbitrary decision to be made in order to give AI the long-awaited ability to perform the commands of the Align Palette on directSelected points: It was evidently decided that the new point-alignment capability will simply treat a path that has all its anchorpoints selected as an object.

But, still awaiting arrival of CS3, I've yet to hear a clear response to this question:

You have all the points of path A selected. You also have anchorPoint 2 of path B selected. When you perform an alignment, does anchorPoint 2 align to the bounds of path A, or do all the points of path A and the one anchorPoint of path B become aligned? (Based upon your description so far, my guess is the former.

But the FH user has the choice. And the control over that is intuitive during alignments because the behavior is consistent with the basic selection interface of FH.

JET

James E. Talmage said...

So I'm sorry, but I just consider AI's selection interface inferior to FH's. Try this (again, I'm using CS2):

1. Rectangle Tool: Draw two rectangles.

2. White Pointer: Marquee select all the points of rectangle A. Shift select one point of rectangle B. (5 points selected.)

3. Without deselecting anything, switch to the black pointer. The selection bounding box fully surrounds both rectangles.

4. Use the arrow keys to nudge the current selection. Only the path that has all its points selected moves.

5. Switch back to the white pointer. You see that, although the bounding box completely surrounded both rectangles, only 5 points are actually selected.

6. Switch back to the black pointer. Drag any part of rectangle A. The whole path moves. No part of rectangle B moves (not even its one selected point). Yet the selection bounding box still surrounds both, and if you switch back to the white pointer, you'll see that you still have 5 points selected.

7. With the black pointer, try to drag the one selected point of rectangle B. The whole rectangle moves, and rectangle A becomes deselected.

I'd like to know if all of that makes intuitive sense to anyone. I mean, the black pointer is not supposed to be able to select individual points, yet that is what remains selected if you switch to the black pointer after making a directSelection--and the bounding box contradicts what is acutally selected.

I'd also like to know if any of the above is any different in CS3.

All of this is just more logically consistent in FH's selection interface. And--as exemplified by its long-time ability to perform alignments on any combination of subselected points and whole paths--more powerful.

JET

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