Design insights & tutorials.

Adobe Illustrator Feature Requests: Round 1


A while back I ran a post encouraging Adobe software users to use the feature request/bug report feedback form on Adobe’s website. This time around I want to start an semi-regular feature asking our loyal readers and visitors to take action on some specific feature requests.

As Illustrator is the program I work primarily in, it always seems to have the biggest list of feature requests for me. Go figure. Seems a lot of other vector-based illustrators feel the same way, and a lot of them were former FreeHand users jarred by the switch to Illustrator.

After some extended conversations via Twitter, IM and email with fellow cartoonist and illustrator Garth Bruner, he’s put together a list of the feature requests he’s submitted to Adobe (I wish I had saved all of mine!) and graciously  shared them with me to post here. In his own words:

Here’s my list of Feature Requests I sent to Adobe via their Feature Request Form. Most of these are to increase my efficiency with Illustrator. I really want to love Illustrator and learn as many shortcuts and tricks so that Illustrator can get out of the way, and just let me create.

Anyway, if there are ways to accomplish the things I’ve listed here, I would love to be told I’m wrong ;)

The following are Garth’s wishlist, and I am publishing them here with the added request that if you find any of these to be something you’d also like to see implemented in Illustrator, that you use the Adobe Feedback Form and requests these as well. The more voices, the better.

Also, I have annotated some of these with potential workarounds for any FreeHand users who aren’t aware how to perform a certain task within Illustrator.

Objects and Selections

Enhanced Selection tool behavior and access: I want to be able to rotate, scale, and skew an item by dragging various points/areas on the bounding box. When using the Pen tool, using Command to toggle to the Selection tool works great; please add the ability to use Command+Control to toggle to the Direct Selection tool, eliminating the need to select that tool in the Tool panel improving drawing efficiency.

* In Illustrator CS4 at least, while the Pen tool is selected, one can access the most recently used Selection tool (Selection, Direct Selection and Group Selection tools) by holding down the Command key. If one chooses the Direction Selection tool before switching to the Pen tool, one can temporarily access the Direction Selection tool via the Command key and the Group Selection tool by holding down the Command+Option modifier keys. The Group Selection tool is not the same as the Selection tool, but in many instances it can suffice.

I propose that permanent modifier keys are added to all the Selection tools: Command key for the Direct Selection tool, Command+Option for the Group Selection Tool and Command+Option+Shift for the Selection tool.

Sub-select by Command-clicking through a stack of items. Adobe has already implemented this in InDesign; if one has the Selection tool active, holding the Command key and clicking repeatedly will select each object successively below one another. This is super handy and I would love to see this implemented in Illustrator.

Visual group/path differentiation: As Illustrator currently functions, one cannot visually differentiate between a group or a path on the artboard. It would be wonderful if when an item is grouped, that just the bounding box shows with no highlighted outlines.

* I would like to see this implemented as an option in the Preferences.

Text feature requests

- A visual preview of what fonts look like from the Control Bar, just like it does in the Menu Bar > Type > Font.

- The ability to increase/decrease the kearning/leading of a paragraph by dragging the side points on a text box using a combination of key commands/click and drags.

* This can be done with keyboard shortcuts: select a text box, then use the Option key plus the right & left arrow keys to change kerning; Option plus the up/down arrows will increase/decrease leading.

- The ability to select a block of text by selecting the text itself rather than the invisible surrounding text box. This is especially irritating when there are overlapping text boxes.


Select paths by the Appearance: Illustrator needs the ability to select a path by clicking on the appearance of a path (thick line edge) rather than just on the path itself. When you have 2 paths, one with a thin line and a duplicate directly underneath with a thicker path, you should be able to select the thicker path by clicking on the outer edges of the path.

Easier blend tweaking: Need the ability to modify a blend in the contextual control bar when a blend is selected. For example, the ability to change the steps in a blend there rather than have to go to Object > Blend > Blend options… every time you want to make a change.

* Agreed, editing a Blend is a big pain in the neck as it works currently.

Copy/Paste Attributes: The ability with a key command to copy attributes from one item to another: Text, color, gradients, transparencies, effects. It is currently cumbersome to have to click on the eyedropper tool every time I want to do this, and I do it often. I know I can hit the “i” key, but not when text is selected. I’d also love the ability to copy effects at all, as you can in Photoshop (Copy/Paste Layer Style).

* A potential workaround for this is to use Graphic Styles, which can be dragged to any object.

Eyedropper Gradient Bug: When using the eye dropper tool to copy a gradient from one object to another, the gradient is copied, but not the gradient angle and placement. This could save so much time if it had the option to do so.

Align to Point: The ability to align a whole object to another object’s selected point. If this is currently possible, I don’t know how.

* The methods I am aware of to align objects are as follows (and these are under CS4): using the Align panel to align objects, select all the objects you want to align, then click on the object you want to use as the “master” object to align the others to. Aligning to point: choose the Selection tool, then click and drag on an object’s anchor point and drag to the object you want to snap to; when your cursor is over a point on the second object, releasing will snap both objects on those anchor points.

In closing

So what’s next? A few things. I want to hear back from our readers on any other Illustrator feature requests they have. Leave yours in the comments below and we’ll round up the most-wanted and run a followup post for those features in the near future.

Next, any of the above features you’d like to see in the next version of Illustrator, please copy/paste the text for the relevant feature(s) above, and submit to Adobe via their official feedback form. Yes, you’ll have to submit each individually. It will probably take about 15 minutes of your time, but if any of these features are important to you in the least, it will be worth the time spent.

The one thing Adobe has repeatedly let us know about the feedback form is that the more users requesting a feature, the more likely it is to get added to Illustrator. Sure, it’s great to complain on a blog and gripe via Twitter, but let’s take action here and put the excellent community of Go Media readers — and every other artist/designer you know — to work. We can make a change with our feature requests, but you gotta submit.

As I said, this is just the first in a series of a call-to-arms to our readers to have the software we use every day built the way we want it. I’ll be running another feature request post for Illustrator in the future, but I also want o do this for Photoshop and InDesign as well. If you have any feature requests for those applications, sound off in the comments below.

About the Author, George Coghill

George Coghill isa freelance humorous illustrator/cartoonist specializing in mascot cartoon character design & cartoon logos. His cartooning & illustration work can be seen at and at his cartooning and illustration blog. Be sure to follow me on Twitter here!
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We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Simon H.

    Well I do have to agree with most of these…

  • Marco Meza

    I would like to see the ability to create an outline from a group in one single command. For example: I have a complex rendering of a character with all of its elements grouped. Instead of >ungrouping >expand or outline path >then go over to my pathfinder palette and combine all of these elements; it would be much faster to select the group, go to command menu and Object> Outline group. That would be my first request. I have thought of others but, I should've wrote them down.

  • Gaita

    Did you know that all of those features you are requesting were implemented in the old and venerable (and now defunct thanks to adobe) Freehand MX at least 5 years ago?

    Not only that, but freehand had a much better object control. For example you could change the number of points in a star you have already drawn just by changing a value in the appearance palette, in the same way you could change its external or internal radius, or the roundness of a rectangle corners.

    I'm afraid that for illustrator to behave this way, a serious rewrite of the app's code is necessary and Adobe has a tendency to ad features instead of refine them. Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I'm not holding my breath…

  • mattrobb

    Two that I have already submitted to Adobe.

    ILLUSTRATOR: When I do am doing an illustration from a photo I set the photo to a template layer and draw out the shapes needed in Outline mode (Ctrl + Y). I find this especially useful if I am working with a gradient mesh and need to sample colours from the photo. If the the Photo is dark It can be very difficult to see the wire frame. I propose that the colour of the wire frame can be changed through the preferences menu.

    InDESIGN: I would like to be able to apply a Master Page ON TOP of all other objects. Instead of having to override Master Page items And bring them to the front.

    If anyone has workarounds for either problem I would love to hear them.

  • mattrobb

    By the way this article was a GREAT idea. Thanks George.

  • Gaita

    The solution to InDesign is easy: Use layers.
    Put the elements of the master page that you want to appear on top, in one layer.
    Create a second layer (below the previous one). This is the layer you are going to work on.
    Create a third layer for the objects of the master page you want to go below your work.

    You are done.

    Extra tip: block the top and bottom layer to prevent working above or below your master page layout.

  • clint

    It would be great that when you used select>Same>fill color/stroke that it would select everything even within groups several layers deep.

    Also outline stroke on my mac version adds way too many points to the outline, real pain sometimes.

  • Marco

    Gaita, your not the only one holding your breath. I don't think Adobe puts in near the amount of effort into Illustrator as they do with all their other programs. You'd think ever since the first version we would be using it almost effortlessly by now.14 versions later and the drawing tools are still about the same.

  • Tracy

    I like a lot of these – but especially the font display!

    I wish that the window groups wouldn't resize themselves as I switch between tabs (e.g. I have swatches and color in the same group as tabs) – it makes everything jump around and is irritating.

    Also, I wish that the navigation in the Menu Bar > Type > Font was easier. The scrolling is a pain.

    I have CS3, so I don't know if these are still an issue with CS4…

  • Marco

    A transparency tool would be nice. I know the work around would be using opacity masks. It would be quicker to just use one tool.

  • Tracy

    Also, I prefer InDesign's method of placing images and resizing the 'box' of the image with the pointer, and image size by directly selecting the image. I don't want to make a clipping mask for every image. Clipping masks get annoying over a large photo because I'll click way away on what I think is another object, but will instead select the clipped image.

    I'd love to hear if there's a way to do this (can you 'expand' your clipping mask?) and I'm just being dumb.

  • OverIthisWire

    I agree with all of those as well. A better way to rotate would be great when inking. If they can get the art board to rotate like photoshops rotate is set up it would be even better. In photoshop i have one of my express keys set to rotate- would love to have that same option while in illustrator.

  • mckibillo

    I also wanted to do this, so I just recorded the steps as an action, assigned it a keyboard shortcut and voila! But yeah, it would be nice if it was available as a menu command.

  • mckibillo

    Man, that would be soooo sweet

  • mckibillo

    One suggestion I've already submitted to Adobe is, it would be nice if there was something like a “shatter” command that could cut the path of an object at all it's anchor points. I often find myself apply brush effects just to parts of a path, say if I want just the end of a thick stroke to taper down by using an art brush. You can cut the path now by selecting the relevant anchor point and using the cut option in the toolbar, but it would be nice to be able to just shatter the entire path.

  • mckibillo

    OK, I've submitted these as well as some of the request from the Von Glitschka interview.

  • whacko

    My request is for Photoshop and not Illustrator.

    For Photoshop, give it a white board like Illustrator has. It is completly possible to push objects out of the document space in Photoshop but very difficult to find them again once they are outside of the visible area. When working with a .psd file, saving the file saves all of the document information inside as well as outside of the document space. It would be very nice to see what is outside of the document space in order to decide if it is worth saving or deleting. Also I have run into many occasions where transformations and such do nto work as expected because some small group of pixels on a given layer is outside of the document boundary and therfore effectively invisible.

  • NR

    in InDesign, can you view documents in tabs like the other programs? If not i would like to have that option.

    ILLUSTRATOR – I think LIVE COLOR needs some improvements. There needs to be a reset button as well as the ability to undo and redo, and the ability to choose from regular swatches in the swatch palette without it being a color group, and eyedropper functionality.

  • NR

    for ILLUSTRATOR i also wish that you could change the numbers of the artboards… if you can and I am unaware, let me know!

  • Pepe Netro

    I would like to see the rubberband option as in photoshop.

  • Web Design Singapore

    I like the font display best! thanks for this!

  • NR

    Oh man… I just remembered a really important one.
    PHOTOSHOP NEEDS a distribute spacing option in the align palette like illustrator and indesign. It is so annoying when you can't evenly space type layers and stuff like that.

  • medi

    1. I would like to change the color of a group of objects without un-grouping them. That goes for both fill and stroke. This is very time consuming.

    2. it would help if the “type on path” tool typing direction could be reversed. When typing on an ellipse, I would like to be able to change/reverse the direction of the typing.

    3. quick method to rotate objects to specific degrees without going to object>transform>rotate. I am aware of the free rotating methods. This request is for specific degrees of rotation. Maybe a right click when the selection tool changes to the rotate tool when hovering on the corner of an object?

  • Dobbo

    The one big thing i can't believe they haven't yet got in illustrator…

    chain-transform (my term lol) – when you transform an object you can hit cmd D to repeat the transformation and create a copy…. but i want to rotate a bit, scale a bit and move a bit.. THEN repeat that set of transformations with a single keystroke. This would open up so much freedom in creation. A clunky work around is actions which is really not worth it if you want to try things out, play around or work on the fly. Maybe a key like tild held down while performing the transformations would record/link them for repeating with cmd D.

  • sblgraphics

    Thanks for sharing.

  • bluesquint

    Hi, [excuse any wrong terminology!]

    Don't know if this would be a common problem, but one that frustrated the hell out of me when they changed from CS2 to CS3:

    I “group within a group” all the time.
    In CS2 you could double click on an object within a group and go straight to it. If something was above it, you could lock it, double click again and go to your desired object. Now, if your desired object is at the bottom of a nest, you have to keep clicking through the whole isolated group. And if you want to lock an object above it you have to come out the isolated group, lock it, then go back in!


    (Unless someone can tell me I'm doing something obviously wrong.)


  • George Coghill

    Good call on the Action workaround.

  • George Coghill

    Garth had asked me to not include the fact that these feature requests were mostly a result of his switch from FreeHand to Illustrator.

    I assume that going forward we may see quite a bit of the FH tols appear in Ai. the acquisition was probably in the middle of the CS4 product development cycle.

    Keeping those feature requests constant will help.

  • nr

    they fixed that in cs4

  • George Coghill

    You can change the color of the paths for each layer in the Layer Options dialog box. Not sure if this affects a Gradient Mesh wireframe though.

    As far as InDesign, you should be able to move objects to any layer on the Master Page to set their stacking/layering order. Also, don't forget about nested Master Pages — you can base Master Page(s) on one über Master Page.

  • George Coghill

    CS4 implements transparency in Gradients. What version are you using?

  • George Coghill

    In Ai CS4, you no longer select the clipped areas of a clipped object/image. This was a huge frustration in many recent versions of Ai.

  • George Coghill

    I's love to see the Free Rotate tool as well as Ps CS4's Spring-Loaded Keys feature.

  • George Coghill


  • George Coghill

    Indesign CS4 allows for document tabs.

    I am not too familiar with Live Color, but the standard Undo & Redo commands do not work as expected for you?

  • George Coghill

    I want to see this as well. As far as I know, it's not yet possible.

  • George Coghill

    Agreed, it's ridiculous that Photoshop's Pen tool has this option, but not Illustrator's.

  • nr

    you can't undo while in the live color dialog box

  • nr

    what is the rubberband option?

  • George Coghill

    1. At least in CS4, you can “drill down” into a Group and manipulate them individually.

    2. You should be able to drag the 'type on path' end handles, but not sure if this will solve your issue. Are you trying to type right to left, or have the text itself reversed?

    3. The only method I know of is to switch to the rotate tool and click to bring up the options for numeric rotation.

  • George Coghill

    You might be better off trying to use Blends and perhaps also the 'Replace Spine' feature for Blends.

  • George Coghill

    Ouch. Yeah, that needs to be fixed then.

  • mattrobb

    THANK YOU GEORGE! The ID tips worked great. Unfortunately changing the layer colour has no effect on wireframes.

  • bluesquint

    Ah ok.
    Wasted vitriol.


  • George Coghill

    I didn't think it would affect the wireframes. Good suggestion to add to the list.

    Glad the other tips helped!

  • George Coghill

    Thanks! I am hoping we can turn Adobe Illustrator into the killer vector app it can be, especially with the acquisition of FreeHand.

  • George Coghill

    It's a preview of how the vector path will appear — it's kind of “stuck” to the pen tool tip as you move it around. Previews how the control handles are affecting the path you are creating.

    In Photoshop, select the Pen tool and then click on the drop-down menu at the far right of all the shape options. Select “Rubber Band” — you'll see exactly what it does.

  • nr

    Holy crap. I never knew that. This changes EVERYTHING.

  • George Coghill

    Many vector apps do this, very odd it was left out of Illustrator.

  • thinsoldier

    You can see quickly see how big the bounding box of each layer is by zooming way out , activating the 'show transform controls' checkbox of the Move tool and then going through all the layers with alt+[ and alt+]

    Any layer whose bounding box extends outside the document area should be investigated further

  • thinsoldier

    Freehand did it

  • thinsoldier

    I could have sworn I did that in illustrator before (probably wrong). Holding down the tilde key in older versions while dragging an object made hundreds of copies of the object/path as you moved your mouse

  • thinsoldier

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. Illustrator can learn A LOT from other apps that deal with “objects” like it does. Mostly it could learn a ton from 3d applications. The only 3d app I have experience with is Maya so that's where most of my suggestions are based on.

    If you've never seen someone use a 3d app, find a friend who has and let them show off their favourite workflow/object interaction features to you. If you've ever used illustrator you'll see a ton of things you wish illustrator had. Especially when you see nurbs curves.

    [Easier blend tweaking: Need the ability to modify a blend in the contextual control bar when a blend is selected. For example, the ability to change the steps in a blend there...]

    Many programs solve this issue by having “construction history” and/or providing access to the “node” that creates the effect. Allowing you to edit values on the fly in a side-bar. (See Gaita's Freehand Start Point example)

    [...rather than have to go to Object > Blend > Blend options… every time you want to make a change.]
    Maya addresses this by having the ability to “tear off” any menu panel into a temporary window. If you know you're going to tweak, undo, tweak, undo blends for the next 3 minutes then you could tear off the Blend menu before you start for easy access.

    [Sub-select by Command-clicking through a stack of items.]
    Maya has no less than 3 different ways of looking at all the objecs in your file. Depending on what you're looking for and why, one method might be better than the next. The current layers panel is cramped and cumbersome but they'd piss off to many people if they changed it. They should have a look at maya's Outliner, Dependency Graph, and Hypershade. Also look at similar things in other 3d apps for some ideas. (Graphic Styles are a lot like shaders.)

    [Align to Point: The ability to align a whole object to another object’s selected point. If this is currently possible, I don’t know how.]
    The way snapping to grids, paths, edges, and points works in Maya is a thing of beauty.
    And other 3d apps have wonderful alignment, distrobution, and duplicate/distribute/align tools.

    The #1 thing that I feel ALL 2d vector apps should learn from 3d apps in general is persistent object coordinates and pivot points relative to word (page) coordinates. In a 3d app, when I move the pivot point it stays where I put it. If I rotate an object it remembers that it used to be at 0deg and now it's at 87deg and at any time I can go back and change 87 to 0 and have it nice and straight again.

    The other thing that need improvement is the scale tool. For YEARS myself and 4 other designers I've worked with have struggled with that damn tool. The simple scale widget of any 3d app is more user friendly and IMO gives better visual feedback when being used.

    Other 2d to 3d similarities
    “Expand” is similar to “delete construction history”
    Compound Shapes are similar to having a single polygon object with 2 or more distinct “shells”
    Gradient Mesh is similar to Vertex Colors
    Envelopes are like Lattices
    Bezier Paths are like Nurbs Curves

  • whacko

    That is a useful tip, but it is no where near as useful as the whitespace in Adobe Illustrator.

    I don't want to just be able to see how large the elements on a layer are (or more specifically, how far outside the document). I want to actually see all of the elements that are not actually part of my image. Possibly be able to drag photos and layers to the outside of the document while I compose them into my final artwork.

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

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