October 27, 2008

Scripts make multiple artboards in Illustrator CS4 even better

I'm really starting to get used to having multiple artboards in Illustrator. Already, I can't imagine living without them. That being said, I wish there were a few things that would be added to the feature. For example, it would be nice to be able to name artboards, making it easier to keep them organized.

In addition, there are two other enhancements that come immediately to mind:

First, while Illustrator does offer multiple artboards within a single document, Illustrator only provides one ruler for an entire document. Meaning that you have a single set of coordinates for the entire canvas, and each artboard in your file shares this. This makes it incredibly difficult to position objects precisely by the numbers when you have multiple artboards in a file. Either you have to continuously reposition the origin point of your ruler (which will also shift the positioning of patterns), or you have to do a whole lot of math. And you know I'm no huge fan of math. What we really need is a set of ruler coordinates for each individual artboard.

Second, you'd think that with multiple artboards, I should be able to open a multipage PDF document in Illustrator, and have each of the pages turn into artboards. Yes, I know that Illustrator really shouldn't be used for PDF editing, but in many cases, it's a great solution for that. Alas, upon opening a multipage PDF file in Illustrator, a dialog box appears asking which single page you'd like to open.

So it's with great elation that I inform you of two AppleScripts that address these two issues. The genius behind these scripts is a dear friend, Shane Stanley, who calls Australia his home. Funny thing -- while I've known Shane for what has to be more than ten years now -- we've never actually met. At the same time, Shane has generously shared his AppleScript expertise over the years. Shane also runs an AppleScript conference and does consulting.

As these solutions are based on AppleScript, they come with their share of limitations. These scripts will run on Mac only (sorry Windows users), and you'll need MacOS X v. 10.5 or higher to run the scripts.

The first script, Artboard Coords creates a mini Transform panel that displays the coordinates for objects, relative to each artboard. To use it, launch the script, select an object and click on the 9-point proxy and punch in a value. Download the script here.

The second script, PDF Pages to Artboards, is a droplet. Drag any PDF document onto the script and a dialog asks how you'd like the pages to be arranged in the new document. Then sit back and relax. The script will create a single Illustrator document that contains each of the PDF pages as a separate artboard. You can then make edits and quickly save as a new multipage PDF file. Nice, eh? Download the script here.

The scripts are provided "as is" without technical support, and are totally free. Thanks to Shane Stanley for these -- I hope they prove helpful to Illustrator CS4 users out there!


Anonymous said...

Fundamentally, there is nothing really compelling in CS4 besides the limited multi artboard feature for us lineart people. Some of the problems exhibited in most previous versions have not been addressed yet. Mention the loss of the filter menu and the likes of arrows and offset and it starts to get to be a worse idea to upgrade.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mordy, and thanks to Shane.

"PDF Pages to Artboards" would have saved me some time on three jobs earlier this year.

I've been using AI CS4 for weeks and -- even at European prices -- the productivity gains will pay for the upgrade before year end.

It's not all about features, it's about getting work done faster and without frustration.

Off-topic, the Phantasm colour plugin has been updated for CS4, and, on the Mac, the SneakPeek preference pane works fine with CS4.

MW said...

This is a response to anonymous, You may already know this but the arrows feature and the offset path feature that were in the filter menu and the object menu are both available as effects. And the nice thing about them being an effect is you can go back and edit them in the appearance palette if you later decide you want to change the size or type of arrow, or the distance of the offset.

Anonymous said...

monika: when you offset a curve using effects in CS4 you can't have your original curve after expanding appearance (to actually utilize the new offset and original curve). It's not impossible to overcome, but that's not how one expects a program to behave: putting up obstacles instead of helping.

Unknown said...

Anon - Offset path is still available under the Object > Path submenu. So that isn't "lost". In addition, anything that used to be in the Filter menu has been relocated elsewhere (and made better). So no loss of functionality there at all. All of the color settings now utilize the Live Color engine and can be found in the Edit > Edit Colors submenu.

As far as "lineart" goes, I still think that CS4 is a compelling upgrade. As you said, artboards aside, the isolation mode enhancement is really one of those things that totally change the way you work. Considering how complex line art can be, I'm sure you do a lot of locking and unlocking. Isolation mode changes that behavior -- for the better.

In addition, Smart Guides not only makes it easier to better align artwork, but more importantly for line art work, it ensures that anchor points and paths snap perfectly to eachother. This is also a life-changing enhancement as I'm sure that now, you constantly zoom in all the way to ensure that anchor points do actually line up exactly, etc.

As I usually say with any upgrade, it isn't the big ticket features that help you decide if an upgrade is worth it -- it's the little things that matter Nothing is more the case here than specifically with line art.

Anonymous said...


I do not know if this works because i have not yet used CS4, maybe you can give it a try. There is a tutorial in the layers magazine that shows indivisual set of rulers for each artboard, apart from the universal one. In the menu View, the show artboard rulers. This action make appear green rulers for the activated or selected artboard.

Here it is the link for he video tutorial:


Unknown said...

Thanks for the link, Anonymous -- those green rulers are nothing more than eye candy -- they are basically useless. They don't show the actual coordinates of objects. They are like the fake houses that Hollywood builds for movies. Look pretty, but nothing inside :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent resources. Thanks Mordy. I completely agree re: rulers. Seems a shame because (as you say) the outline functionality is there in the per-artboard rulers, but without the full benefit.

Anonymous said...

Mordy, the isolation mode would be a replacement for locking if only you could isolate more than 1 object at a time without grouping them. Back to the old way.

Katie Wray said...

Any chance there's a script for naming the artboards for export? I'm going to have a doc with a whole slew of artboards that I want to export as individual .swfs, and it would be wonderful if I could name them in Illustrator instead of just having them exported as numbered...

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for an answer to the naming an .eps file as something other than -01, -02, etc, as well. Any scripts out there yet?

Anonymous said...

This export to filename-01, -02, -03 is very annoying especially if each file only contains one artboard. Anyone know how to turn it off.

Anonymous said...

this nice, I use windows for this will be one. thanks

svario said...

Is very nice your script!
There's even a chance that you can translate this script in .js or in a language usable by pc users? is really a shame I can not use a script like this!

thank anyway!


Luke Browell said...

Thanks guys for a fantastic script!

It works great - such a time saver (was opening pages individually and copying and pasting contents to new art boards before).

There is a caveat I have discovered - When importing a PDF whose last few pages/artboards are completely blank (originally created in Ai CS4), the script gets as far as the blank pages before throwing an error and requiring a forced-quit. But all the pages prior to the blank one are happily in the new untitled document, so the script still serves it's purpose.

Thanks again for a great script!

Anonymous said...

really sucks that there is no windows version available

Anonymous said...

Hi, is there a way to re-position guides in AI CS4 with your artwork when re-positioning artboards? That would make things much easier instead of having to re-align guides again

Martin said...

This tool is great! But since I installed Snow Leopard it doesnt work anymore.

It says:
Event: doProcess(1, 20.0, 3, "acrossdown", false)
Script: application

Will there be an update soon?

Unknown said...

I second Martin - an update for 10.6 would be fantastic!

Unknown said...

These are wonderful scripts! I have a conundrum that I have been wrestling with ...perhaps some of you Illustrator gurus will be able to help. I wish to run an action across all artboards. To explain further..I have a shape (object) on 50 artboards, I need to transform all to 800 pts. high (proportionately). If I select all or group all and run my action it sees them as one shape and transforms the group to 800 pts. I have also tried to select each one sequentially while recording my action with no joy, the action stops after the first artboard...unfortunately I am on a PC so no apple script for me...please help!

Unknown said...

These are wonderful scripts! I have a conundrum that I have been wrestling with ...perhaps some of you Illustrator gurus will be able to help. I wish to run an action across all artboards. To explain further..I have a shape (object) on 50 artboards, I need to transform all to 800 pts. high (proportionately). If I select all or group all and run my action it sees them as one shape and transforms the group to 800 pts. I have also tried to select each one sequentially while recording my action with no joy, the action stops after the first artboard...unfortunately I am on a PC so no apple script for me...please help!

Matt said...


Anonymous said...

Hello everyone.

My name is Jonathan, currently based in belgium,
I am both English and French native language,
just wanted to say hello and Looking forward to sharing information with all of you:-)

Andréia B. Nobre said...

It's too bad that doesn't work anymore on Snow Leopard...

SFsthetik said...

Someday, please revisit scripts or actions for artboards!! I would like to select multiple artboards and in some type of programmatic way instantly create artboards around these objects. I'm transforming a ton of dingbat fonts into libraries of illustrator art and now in CS4, all I can do is draw an artboard around each object one at a time, one by one. arghhh!?7@!!

Eureka said...

The PDF to artboard script would be so useful for PC users. After thinking on it for a while I have come up with a non-script solution.

I took a 42 pdf file. Reprinted it as a 100x100in page-sized pdf with 42 pages per page. (100x100 inch page so that it wont need to scale down the individual pages to fit the sheet, 7pages x 6pages)

Opened the pdf in illustrator CS4 (took a while to open). Made each page a artboard manually. Saved it as a Ai.file (after making it a Ai file it opened much faster).

It works great for me. Try it out.

elmimmo said...

+1 vote for Snow Leopard-compatible version.

Anonymous said...

any idea why this may not work -(multi artboards script)

I get this error:
AppleScript Runtime Error
Adobe Illustrator got an error: Can’t get alias "Macintosh HD:Users:myMachine:Desktop:multipage.pdf". (-1728)

Event: doProcess(1, 100.0, 4, "acrossdown", true)
Script: application

using Ill CS4, OSX 10.6

Anonymous said...



kairos said...

I've looked for a similirar script for years. Simply a must for any workflow! Sadly, now I'm on snow leopard and Illustrator cs5 :(.
I hope you'll upgrade the script. Thank you very much anyway.

Tim said...

Please make Snow Leopard compatible! Was/is a great script!!!

hoolito said...

Please make it Snow Leopard compatible!
I will hate Snow Leopard if you don't

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the Snow Leopard version:


or to directly download:



Ksimply said...

PDF Pages to Artboards script is not working for cs6 if it works how to use it.?

is there any script to make guidelines for
A4 size flyer needs to make in tri fold how to make the guidelines
Manually there is a huge math to make it in tri fold paragraphs..


Esteban Guzman said...

awesome! thank very much !! gretting from Chili