Design insights & tutorials.

Adobe Illustrator: Opening Tricky Files

Sometimes files just don’t want to play nice. And usually when that happens, there’s a deadline looming.

Knowing ahead of time how to get out of a tricky situation can make the difference between having time to do the job at an easy pace, or pulling your hair out.

I’ve come across two handy Illustrator utilities — one software, one a tip — that might just save your neck if you ever get yourself into the situations addressed by each of these.

Opening new Illustrator files in an older version

It’s happened to all of us: we’re not running the latest version of Illustrator, and a client or fellow designer sends over the CS18 version, which of course we have no way of opening. Sure, one can ask the sender to do a “Save As…”, but usually our priorities are not those of others. What to do?

A tip over at has one possible workaround: place the EPS document into your current version of inDesign and then create a PDF from it. The resulting PDF you should be able to open in Illustrator, and from there get access to vector logos or any other elements you need access to.

Opening Illustrator files in a different format

Poster by Matteo Discardi is an OS X donation-ware utility that does one thing: drag some Illustrator files on the app (.ai, .eps or .pdf) and a small prompt window pops up that allows you to change the file to any of those three formats. Why not just open the file and do a “Save as…”?

Simple: files that crash Illustrator when attempting to open them. We’ve all been there. Having the file in a different format might make the difference between being able to open the file and access the vector goods you need, or spending hours on emails and phone calls trying to get the original designer to send the file in a different format.

Discardi also offers another vector file conversion tool, Pongo, which will take any Illustrator CSx file and convert it to your choice of .jpg, .png or .svg — not so much a neck saver but a handy way to quickly get a raster version of a vector art file. Worth having in the toolbox.

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.

    It would be neat to have a similar set of tools but for Windows. I’m sure Jeff and the other have a few in their toolbox ;-)

  • Craig

    Thanks for some great tips and resources! I have been there spending needless hours on emails and phone calls a few times :-(

  • Craig

    Thanks for some great tips and resources! I have been there spending needless hours on emails and phone calls a few times :-(

  • Jason

    A much much much quicker way of opening newer version Illustrator files in older versions on a mac is to open it with Preview and save as a PDF. InDesign takes twice as long as Preview in my experience. Works 90% of the time.

  • Tomasz Czajka

    Hey – and what about corel files? I need to open some .cdr and I don’t have Corel. Morever, these are multiple pages documents, so they crashes while loading to Inkscape – any ideas?

    • Simon H.

      I know that Ai is able to open some versions of the CDR files. Hope that helps!

  • gucci backpacks

    thanks for your sharing!

  • Lisa Thomason

    Love Adobe products, and some really neat ideas for opening tricky illustrator files. LT

  • Michael

    Acrobat opens a large variety of these files as well (probably better than InDesign) and you can export them from there as PDFs. Or open in acrobat and use the advanced editing tools to edit or open…

  • ahoblit

    I’ve also had success manually changing the file extension from .eps to .pdf and vice versa. Often files become corrupt through email, requesting that your clients send zipped files sometimes prevents them from becoming corrupted.
    - Anthony

  • F Tareque


  • Vector logos

    A logo designed in Adobe Photoshop may be ideal for web design or smaller printing but if you’re serious about branding, the resulting raster art will be of limited use. When printing a sign or banner, the raster logo will be scaled up and become severely deteriorated and pixelated. While some great effects can be done to the logo in Photoshop, the final product will have limited uses.

  • Leslie Dean Brown

    Whay thank you! I’m sure these tips will come in handy!