June 29, 2015

Adobe Illustrator CC 2015: Best Upgrade Ever?

We're all familiar with software upgrades. Back in the day, upgrades were packed with numerous features and were launched with fanfare and huge marketing events. I still recall attending the PageMaker 5 launch event, where, to a packed theater in NYC, Aldus proudly unveiled the new toolbox featuring a Rotate tool.

Today's business model has changed, and huge feature-laden releases every couple of years have been replaced with more frequent releases that are smaller and more focused. Perhaps more importantly, with the rich toolset that we already have in place, companies like Adobe have turned towards modernizing their software code and improving upon their existing tools and features to make them better.

A good example of the above is the JDI initiative that was started by the Photoshop team a few years back. Normally, new features are carefully planned and agreed upon by various team members. Engineers are then assigned to implement those features, systematically completing one and moving to the next. The Photoshop team undertook an initiative to specify certain days in the software development schedule called JDI days or "Just Do It" days. On those days, engineers were free to go back and modify or improve existing features in the product. These changes were based on things that either the engineer didn't have time to do initially, or things that members requested, etc. Now, almost all teams at Adobe have JDI days. These are valuable, because sometimes, a small modification or improvement can translate to hours of work saved or a huge reduction in frustration on the side of the user.

But sometimes there is work that goes beyond a small feature... beyond a modification... beyond something "big" like a new tool or feature. And sometimes, that work is invisible until far into the future when it is finally realized. In the case of Adobe Illustrator, the future has (finally) arrived.

Years back (in 2012), the Illustrator team made a serious investment in rewriting the application from the ground up. Illustrator CS6 was touted as being 64bit (I wrote about it here). That groundwork enabled the Illustrator engineers to do significant work under the hood. Just making it 64bit didn't make the difference, but without getting there first, additional work wasn't possible. The exciting work began in earnest AFTER the release of Illustrator CS6.

Fast forward to last week, when Adobe released the 2015 version of Adobe Illustrator CC. In my humble opinion, it is probably the best upgrade in Adobe Illustrator history.

It contains numerous small enhancements that make every-day work better, such as an improved Shape Builder Tool, a significantly higher zoom limit, as well as preferences for using the rubber-band effect when using the Pen tool.

It contains incredible under-the-hood functionality that translate to a reliable platform, such as GPU support for the vast majority of today's computers (Mac included), significantly faster performance, and crash protection (similar to what InDesign has had since the beginning of time).

It contains a glimpse at what the future can bring with the new CC Charts feature. Granted, this is a preview and is (extremely) limited in scope. But as we saw with Illustrator CS6, you can't look at the CC Charts feature now... but rather what it enables for the future.

If you haven't had a chance to explore this new version, I'd highly recommend giving it a spin. And if you've been holding out on moving to Adobe Creative Cloud, this is probably the time to go all-in and take advantage of what is the best Illustrator upgrade ever.

3 comments:

Rudi Spitzers said...

Hi Mordy,
hm… still my handles don't jump to the grid like they used to do. There's no option to turn that back on. So that might be an interesting JDI request. And why is the option 'Smart guides' still checked when your Grid is magnetic? Very confusing for a starter.
Rudi Spitzers

Kristina Hughes said...

Thanks for keeping us update! Adobe Illustrator is far more appropriate design tool for logos. In fact, it is highly recommended by the global design community.

mefull said...

Best upgrade ever seems like a wee bit of hyperbole. Besides increased zoom (something that should have been done long long ago) I don't see much different with this release. Before Creative Cloud, Adobe always used to wonder why doesn't everybody upgrade? Well it's because Adobe didn't give them a reason to. Taking a whole release cycle to rewrite the code from the ground up may make life easier for developers and I'm sure it will pay off down the road, but it's not a sexy upgrade that everyone has to run out and buy. (OK the pattern tool was nice) Build a better mouse trap and people will have a reason to upgrade. Seems to me this is another ho-hum push it out the door upgrade. The Plug-in folks don't seem to have a problem coming up with new features, come on Adobe you can do better.