September 7, 2007

Document Setup and Metadata

Previously, I mentioned how Illustrator has a specific metadata setting in the File Info panel that corresponds to an NDP (New Document Profile). We learned how Illustrator sees this metadata and changes its behavior when creating new documents by adding options such as a transparency grid setting for Video profiles and a Device Central button for Mobile profiles.

But there's more.

Illustrator also changes some KEY document behavior based on the Document Profile metadata that is specified for each file. Let's take a closer look.

When you create a new document based on the Print NDP, your artboard is created at the size you specify. If, for example, you create a document measuring 8.5" x 11", the document is created as such.

As you may already know, Illustrator's artboard is akin to the page size setting in a page layout application. But Illustrator also has something called a Pasteboard. This is the area that your artboard sits on. The maximum size of this pasteboard is approximately 227.5" square, and you can create any size artboard that fits within the pasteboard. I honestly don't know where this pasteboard value came from, but I do know it's a frequent request that this value be increased -- especially for those in the signage or packaging industry -- who are forced to work in scale due to this. But that's for another discussion entirely.

OK, so now that we've filed that info in our biological database, let's take a look at what happens when we create a new document based on the Web NDP. Just as with print, you can specify a pixel size for your artwork, but something entirely different happens when you create the file. Let's say you create a new Web document using an 800x600 pixel setting. Upon opening the document, you'll find that Illustrator created a CROP AREA that measures 800x600. Choose File > Document Setup and you'll find that your artboard size is actually set to 14400 x 14400 pixels.

Because the concept of a "page" is meaningless in web design -- all you care about are pixel dimensions -- Illustrator simply creates one monster sized page and sets a crop area for you at your desired pixel dimension. Since you can create multiple crop areas, you can easily add more design elements or mockups to your document, etc.

This all happens because the Document Profile metadata of the file is set to Web, which instructs Illustrator to act in this way.

But there's even more here.

When navigating within a document, you're always zooming in and out, panning, etc. A command I often use is View > Fit in Window (Command-0/Control-0). But you'll notice that when you choose the Fit in Window command for a web document, you get what you expect -- your artwork fits right in your window, even though the artboard itself is huge. This happens because when Illustrator sees the metadata is set to Web, it CHANGES the behavior of the Fit in Window command. With a Print document, Fit in Window means "fit artboard in window" but with a Web document, Fit in Window means "fit active crop area in window". You'll also find that the Print dialog has been modified to print your artwork based on the crop area, not the artboard size.

This behavior of using a crop area instead of a "page" size also applies to documents created with Mobile and Video profiles as well. Again, this is because the concept of a "page" has a totally different meaning in mobile and video design.

If you change the Document Profile metadata of any of your NDPs (as I demonstrated here), you'll see that it will take on these behaviors.

In closing, I find it incredibly exciting that Illustrator CS3 has the ability to alter its behavior simply based upon a document's metadata. It's wild! I am unaware of any other application (Adobe included) that has this capability. The possibilities of what this can mean are truly limitless. Especially when you consider that you can alter a file's metadata without even having to the open the file itself. That means with a script or through an application like Adobe Bridge, you have the ability to alter the settings or behaviors of multiple files with zero effort.

Think of what could be done. Imagine that a document's metadata could add or remove menu items in an application. Imagine metadata that automatically sets appropriate resolution settings. Innovation comes in many forms, and this a great example that illustrates how the Illustrator team (and Adobe in general) are always thinking far down the road when working on specific versions. Who knows what future functionality will be possible due to this capability? Only time will tell.


Josh said...

Alas, if only the almighty crop tool would snap to objects (guides, anchors, etc..) It's a MAJOR pain to use without that.

Mordy Golding said...

I totally agree.

jphg said...

absolutely yes !!

Anonymous said...

Instead of the crop tool, you could create a rectangle and then choose Object>Crop Area>Make...

Denise Brown said...

Is there any way to make the grid lines on the pasteboard transparent?