So it was with interest that I saw some recent mention on InDesign Secrets and John Nack's blog as well as other places about this website called Dear Adobe - a place where users could make requests for their favorite Adobe applications. What a great concept! Even though Adobe does have a feature request form that anyone can use, admittedly, it doesn't feel the same when you're making a request to someone who you "think" is not paying attention anyway.
So I took at a look at some of the requests, and was disappointed to see that most of them were just rants that were useless in the form of any type of request. I understand the frustration users may feel (I feel it too), but if you really want to help the situation, you're better off providing useful feedback.
Back when I was the Illustrator product manager, I tried to help Illustrator customers provide me with useful feedback. I was then able to use that feedback to do whatever was possible to improve the product. Comments like "make Illustrator suck less" isn't very useful to the team. I also worked closely with beta testers at the time, teaching them how to write better bug reports and feature requests -- which ultimately helped the team identify issues quickly and fix them.
So I wanted to take this opportunity to do two things. First, I took the 25 top Illustrator requests from the Dear Adobe website and have responded to each of them. Some are valid, some are actually addressed in CS4 (I guess that shows that Adobe is listening to customers on some level), and some are really good examples of what isn't useful feedback at all. Hopefully my responses will give readers some idea of what kind of feedback is useful to Adobe.
Second, I thought I'd share some instruction for what kind of feedback is useful to Adobe -- how to write a great bug report or a great feature request. In fact, I'll talk about this first.
Tips on Providing Feedback to Adobe
First, let's talk about bugs. If you think you've found a bug, or are experiencing an issue, the first thing to do is try to replicate it. If you can reproduce the issue, that's easier to work with. A bug that happens once but never again is much harder to deal with. This is because Adobe can only log a bug in their system if THEY can repeat it themselves. Adobe has labs with all types of computers running all types of operating systems. Once a bug is reported, the first thing Adobe will do is assign someone from Quality Assurance Engineering to try to replicate the issue. The most important reason for this isn't because Adobe doesn't believe you really have a bug -- it's because if they develop a fix for the problem, they need a way to verify that the fix actually solves the problem.
If you can replicate the issue, you should clearly list to Adobe 4 important items:
1. What is your system setup? Sometimes, a bug occurs on Windows but not Mac, or on a specific operating system, or with a certain graphics card. Where you can, fully describe your platform, your amount of RAM, your operating system, and probably most important of all, which version of software you're using. I can't tell you how many times I see people post issues on user forums but who don't state which version they are using.
2. What are the exact steps you did? This is important, to ensure that the folks at Adobe are following the exact same steps you are. You might even number this. For example: 1. Launch Illustrator. 2. Draw a rectangle. 3. Rotate it 37 degrees. etc.
3. What was the result? Tell Adobe what it is that you saw. Did the program crash when you rotated the object 37 degrees? Did the object disappear?
4. What was the expected result? This just makes sure Adobe understand what you were trying to do -- to make sure everyone is on the same page. You might say "I expected the object to rotate 37 degrees and NOT crash" :)
Although not necessary, you might also include additional information (for example, you might state you tried rotating the object 38 degrees and everything was fine, etc.)
As for feature requests, things like system information or exact steps aren't necessary at all. But what is necessary is a clear description of what you're asking for. What are your expectations? What are you trying to accomplish? More so, Adobe is REALLY good at solving problems that designers face. If you describe WHY such a feature would be important to you (i.e., I am constantly getting Excel files from clients and want to be able to import those directly into Illustrator) instead of just making a blanket statement (i.e., "graphs suck, make them better"), Adobe can build case studies and examples and prove to their managers that they are solving real world problems.
Dear Adobe's Top-25 Illustrator Requests
1. Why is it easy to make a transparent gradient in Photoshop and so damned involved in Illustrator. Could they not be the same?
Pixels and vectors are different. That aside, Illustrator CS4 (finally) features the ability to add opacity values to any gradient stop.
2. Could you please add auto-saving to Illustrator? It crashes more than the auto-saving InDesign. And I can't keep punching through laptop screens like this. Cheers!
If Illustrator is crashing that much, there must be something going on with your system. Are you working directly off a server? Maybe some corrupt fonts in your system? I've can't remember the last time Illustrator crashed on my system. But that issue aside, I do hear a lot of folks ask for an auto-save feature. Considering how long is can take to save an Illustrator file, I don't think it's in the best interest of anyone to every 5 minutes have Illustrator tell you to hold on for a while as it saves your file. What I think people are really asking for is something like InDesign's ability to automatically write to a temporary file every 60 seconds, basically ensuring that you never lose more than 60 seconds of work. Alas, InDesign was built from the ground up as a fail-safe application. I too would love to see this added to Illustrator. It's a valid request. But it's also one that I know would probably require a tremendous amount of architectural work under the hood.
3. It would be nice if Illustrator didn't attach 20 unused brushes and 40 unused styles to every new document that is saved.
You have complete control over what Illustrator does or does not add to a file. The default profiles that Illustrator ships with does contain sample content (brushes, styles, swatches, etc.), but you can change that to your needs and liking. For more information on how to do that, read this.
4. All I ever want in Illustrator is to make a SYMMETRICAL FREAKING CURVE, but that's apparently an unreasonable request.
Not sure exactly what this request is referring to, as it could mean one of several things. It's a perfect example of a comment that isn't very helpful to the Illustrator team (or to any team at Adobe for that matter).
5. Fix Illustrators 'export to psd' so the outputted psd actually looks EXACTLY the same as the illustrator file... please...
There are two options available when exporting a PSD file from Illustrator: Flat Image, and Write Layers. Due to the ways that an Illustrator document may be structured and any of those elements that may or not have compatible appearance equivalents in Photoshop, your document may change in appearance when opened in Photoshop. However, if you want the EXACT same image in Photoshop, use the Flat Image option. If you really need the layers in Photoshop, my suggestion is to remove any transparency from the Illustrator and file, and then reapply the transparency as needed when you open the file in Photoshop. At the end of the day, it's the transparency structure that causes the "issues".
6. When I move my Illustrator palettes to my second monitor, could they stay there? Instead of hopping back to my primary monitor?
My understanding is that this was a limitation of the user interface infrastructure. The new user interface added across the Suite products in CS4 (what Adobe internally refers to as "OWL 2.0") now supports two monitors and you should now be able to also save workspaces across multiple monitors.
7. Make the text tool in illustrator able to scroll type choices like in photoshop.
How crazy is this? This is a feature that works just fine in Windows, but is "broken" on Mac OS. It works on Mac in Photoshop and even InDesign. I share this user's frustration with this issue. It's a valid request and something Adobe is well aware of.
8. If I have an object selected and I zoom in, why can't you zoom in on that object?
I usually zoom in with the Zoom tool and by drawing a marquee around the area I want to zoom in on. But this is actually a valid request -- if you have an object selected, Illustrator should zoom in on that area when the general zoom functions are applied. InDesign does this perfectly. Illustrator should follow that lead. Good request.
9. Why the hell would I need a QuickTime codec to see a picture I dragged into Illustrator? It works fine if I use your [expletive deleted] import function.
I don't know WHY this has been an issue for so long now in Illustrator. I do this all the time -- when trying to drag images from a web page in Safari right into an Illustrator document. The good news? This is fixed in Illustrator CS4.
10. Fix your memory issues in Illustrator, I'm so tired of waiting for my files to save.
Here's another example of a request that is of absolutely no help to Adobe. First of all, why are you so sure that your long save times are related to memory issues? Second, what KIND of files are you saving? Do all files save slow? Maybe there's something else that is causing the delay? I'm not saying that Illustrator doesn't have memory issues -- maybe it does. But a comment like this doesn't give Adobe anywhere to start looking. More detail or a description would be helpful.
11. Please make Illustrator handle actions the way Photoshop does.
Photoshop has Actions that support "if-then" functionality -- something I know that John Nack, the PM for the Photoshop team, has specifically pushed for. Sadly, automation in general has been somewhat lacking in Illustrator over the years. This is a good request, but it would be extremely helpful to know exactly what it is you're looking to do in Illustrator. A lot can be done with Actions, so rather than leave it up to Adobe to decide what they can add in that area, why not take your great request and make it even better by articulating exactly what you'd like to be able to do with better Actions in Illustrator?
12. Masks in Illustrator need some major re-thinking.
I would agree, and as such, I'm happy to see that masks are much improved in Illustrator CS4. While the request itself is extremely vague, my hope is that the user was looking for easier ways to work with masks, where artwork that falls outside the masked areas doesn't get in the way.
13. Why has "Lock Guides, Clear Guides, New Guide…" it's on menu section and only "Show—Guides" is hidden somewhere else?
Not exactly sure what this request is. Illustrator's Show Guides feature is a toggle. When guides are visible, it reads "Hide Guides". When guides are hidden, it reads "Show Guides".
14. Give me layer comps in illustrator.... and the ability to organize layer comps into folders like you can with layers.
Illustrator "kinda" has Layer Comps if you consider using the Custom Views feature (see this link for more info). That being said, I do think it's a valid request -- it should be easier to manage multiple design ideas now with the Multiple Artboards feature in Illustrator CS4 -- but a Layer Comps-like feature would be welcome in a future version of Illustrator.
15. Mouse-wheel scrollable layers palette in IllustratorCS3
Now that just about everyone has a scroll wheel on their mouse, I think it's important for software developers to extend that functionality wherever possible in their applications. Thankfully, Illustrator CS4 does feature support for scrolling in panels with the mouse wheel.
16. Please fix all the (expletive deleted) that used to work in Illustrator 10, that you then broke in CS1 (and CS2 and CS3)
Wow. That is an AWESOME request. I'm sure the team will get right on it. Don't get me wrong -- I totally understand the frustration of users. But a comment like this doesn't give any direction to the team. If there's something specific, then spell it out.
17. Fix snap to pixel in illustrator
Hmmm. I'm not aware of anything wrong with the Snap to Pixel command in Illustrator. Again, this request kinda leaves it up to the imagination of Adobe to decide what the "problem" is. I can never emphasize this enough -- if you are seeing a problem, then clearly describe it. That being said, as I had mentioned, I am not aware of Snap to Pixel being broken. What I am aware of is an extremely difficult to manage antialiasing issue in Illustrator in general. While Pixel Preview helps to display where bad antialiasing happens, it provides no way to fix it. And the current toolset in Illustrator makes it difficult to get great looking web graphics out of Illustrator -- especially where text is involved. My request would be "make it easier to avoid nasty anti-aliasing issues where art is blurred, and give us better antialiasing settings for text, like Photoshop has".
18. Please educate Illustrator how to deal with the situation of 2 files open with the same name.
Um, OK. I just tried opening two files with the same name in Illustrator. No problems there. Another great example of a request that doesn't really help Adobe understand what the issue is.
19. I've been sitting here for the last 5 mins looking through all the bitching and that spinning ball of death is still going for no reason in Illustrator.
Again, I totally understand the frustration, but what can you do with this comment? It's not like Adobe is purposely adding the spinning beach ball of death as a feature of the program. So it's not like they can say "oh, sorry about that -- we'll just remove the spinning beach ball of death -- sorry for the inconvenience". What would help would be some more details about what you're doing when that occurs. Is it repeatable or does it happen often? Is it a specific file that causes the problem? Where you copying and pasting something? These types of clues can help engineers guess at where a problem might occur and find it.
20. Why do i require a quicktime codec to view the image i just dragged into illustrator from my browser. and why does this quicktime file not exist
This request is similar to the one above -- and is fixed now in Illustrator CS4.
21. Give Illustrator some upgrade love, already...
Well, in my own opinion, Illustrator CS4 is a pretty suite upgrade (as were the previous ones). But I'll let others decide that for themselves. From a feature request perspective, this doesn't give Adobe any specific direction, but it does a good job at expressing an emotion. I too have sometimes felt that other applications have gotten more "love" than Illustrator. But in reality, each application has a dedicated team that cares very much about their product and that do their best to produce the best upgrades possible.
22. Update your Illustrator graphing tool. It hasn't changed in 10 years. Needs more options.
From your keyboard to Adobe's ears, buddy. I have been advocating a modern graphic and charting tool in Illustrator for many years now. Excel and Powerpoint shouldn't be a designers' only hope for creating graphs or charts. Ordinarily, this request is too general, but this is an exception because the entire feature as a whole needs serious work. Still, if Adobe WERE to revamp this feature, how would they know what specifically this user wanted it to do? Rather than have Adobe do a whole bunch of work and STILL be disappointed, a request like "I want to be able to import an Excel spreadsheet and maintain a live link so that when the Excel file is updated, the graph in Illustrator automatically updates" will ensure that the user and Adobe are both thinking the same thing.
23. Fix Illustrator's terrible font rendering. Make it look like it does expanded.
When is this happening? How is this happening? More detail is required. Is this when rendering type for web graphics? If so, I do agree that Illustrator lacks the superior antialiasing options that Photoshop offers for type. But the wording of this request doesn't clearly describe the issue. Adobe is really good at solving problems.
24. Please give us gradient strokes in Illustrator. Please.
A valid request. InDesign can do this easily enough -- why not Illustrator? Sure, you can get this to work using the Appearance panel and a variety of effects, but still, why not just allow gradients on strokes?
25. You kindly turn off the highlight on text when choosing a color for it, but not when choosing a different weight. Would you kindly do this, or kindly jump off a cliff?
I think I'll choose to jump off the cliff. I was unable to reproduce this, but it could be because I don't completely understand the issue. More detail would help.
My intention here wasn't to answer requests in any official capacity, but rather, to hopefully shed some light on how we, as users, might help Adobe by providing useful feedback. Please don't get me wrong -- we have every right to complain or push back on features or functionality that we feel doesn't help us or is not representative of what we expect. After all, we are the ultimate consumers of the product. At the same time, if we don't clearly communicate our requests to Adobe in any meaningful way, we can't assume Adobe can read our minds. Hopefully, this post helps in that regard.