Experienced users of Adobe graphics products will feel comfortable with Illustrator CS2's interface, as its control set mirrors the overall look and feel of other Adobe apps. One enjoyable new feature is a Control palette, a context-sensitive bar across the top of the screen. Whenever you use a tool--for example, if you click text with the Direct Selection tool--the Control palette displays related option menus such as Font and Font Style. This spares you the time and screen space otherwise wasted by digging among a host of floating palettes.
Illustrator CS2 also shares Photoshop CS2's ability to set and save custom work spaces, allowing you to designate and save the color, layers, and other settings appropriate to your project. However, Illustrator lags behind Photoshop here; where Photoshop CS2 comes with preset work spaces and customizable menus, Illustrator CS2 has neither, so you must create them yourself.Adobe Illustrator CS2 provides a bevy of useful new features. In addition to its integration with Adobe Bridge, a thumbnail-based file manager for better work flow, Illustrator CS2 gets pro-friendly enhancements such as support for PDF/X (an expansion of the portable document format), and help with printing overlapping tiles for oversize documents. Artists will appreciate "at last" additions, such as support for Wacom drawing tablets, improvements to type and color handling, and the ability to export text and objects as Macromedia Flash files. While these changes won't woo Web designers away from the advanced animation capabilities of Macromedia Flash, Illustrator CS2 can speed the development of basic animation for Web sites. Illustrator CS2 also creates and optimizes SVG-t graphics for mobile devices.
Illustrator CS2 doesn't make it any easier to draw original images from scratch, but if you like to scan in sketches or use files from pixel-based applications such as Photoshop, you'll enjoy the Live Trace feature, which automatically converts raster images to vectors. You can use Live Paint to change the color of a traced image and quickly make, say, a cel-shaded version of a family photograph. Although Live Paint makes it more intuitive to fill graphics with color, this may require some adjustment for longtime users. Where before you had to deal with strokes and fills in layers, Live Paint objects are one layer only; if two such objects overlap, Illustrator creates a third region. Because the overlapping region reacts dynamically when you move an object, this nicely speeds up the process of painting in images and eliminates a ton of layer tweaking.
If you alternate between using Photoshop and Illustrator, you'll value the newfound ability to open Photoshop files with layer comps, which let you view a variety of versions of a layout at once. Also easing the all-Adobe work flow is direct access to Photoshop CS2 Filters, Effects, and Gallery. Creative Suite 2.0 even lets you maintain consistent color settings across Illustrator CS2, Photoshop CS2, and InDesign CS2.Like other apps within the new Creative Suite environment, Adobe Illustrator CS2 uses the new Adobe Help Center, a separate window that allows you to look up topics or ask questions. However, like the similar help feature in Mac OS X, simple queries sometimes return many irrelevant answers, and the long list of available topics makes browsing tedious.
The Help Center provides a More Resources button, which takes you to the familiar options of online training, tips, tutorials, and forums. Phone support for installation and product defect issues is free, aside from toll charges. For more knotty issues, Expert Support calls are $39 per incident, and unlimited calls require a $159-per-year subscription.