Archiving Illustrator Documents with Art Files


Art Files for Mac 10.4 or later

I love talking to fellow designers about the tools they use. I especially love talking to Illustrator users. One thing I often ask is, "What do you use to collect your Illustrator files for output?" I'm beginning to think I'm asking the wrong question.

I first fell in love with Illustrator at version 3. It's been a mainstay on my computer throughout the years and it's the first place I go when I'm inspired. I look back fondly at the days of only drawing in "Artwork" mode, junking up my art board with the "Blend" tool and relying on 8-bit pixel previews of placed images. Many tedious parts of Illustrator have been improved over the years. Many, that is, with one glaring exception… Collect for Output.

It's always been a problem for me getting Illustrator documents over to printers or colleagues in a usable format. Transferring the Illustrator document is simple enough. But what about all of the fonts and placed images used? You can always perform the tedious task of seeking out the image files, figuring out where fonts live on the hard drive, copying them one by one and hoping you've got what you need. It's time-consuming at best, and very often error-prone.

I'd been intrigued by the need for file collection. The solutions out there were too expensive and too complex for my needs. As a designer and a developer, I decided to take action. For the next 6 months, I'd eat, breath and sleep the Illustrator file format. I wanted to create a stand-alone application that is simple to use, can collect multiple documents at once, is powerful enough for large art departments and is affordable enough for independent designers. Independents like the package designer that sat at my desk when I wasn't coding. On August 12, 2003, I released Art Files.

Art Files makes collecting documents a breeze. Just drag and drop your Illustrator files on the application and watch it analyze your documents in seconds. Click another button and your documents, images and fonts are packaged into a single folder that is ready to transfer and store wherever you like.

But what about the question at hand, collecting for output. The two most common responses I get from fellow designers that don't deal much with file collection are, "We use PDF's to send our documents to the printer" and "We just embed any images we use and create outlines for the fonts". While both of these techniques do provide a simple way to hand over artwork for output, they do little to allow for editing. This means the printer may not be able to make last minute changes for you, such as correcting typos or adjusting colors. You may be stuck having to resubmit artwork.

Another important function of file collection that's often overlooked is archiving. Just recently I was updating the UI for an application we're working on. (It's a sibling of SneakPeek Pro we're hoping to release soon.) But when I went to open the Illustrator document, it told me that I didn't have "Myriad Pro Black Italic" loaded on my system. Where is that font? I obviously had it some time last year. I've had similar problems trying to open layouts I've worked on in the past—Could not find the linked file "LogoShadow.psd". Ummm. Uh-oh.

It made me realize, some artists may already have a decent workflow for passing off artwork to printers. But many, if they're like me, haven't worked out a great archiving routine yet. Art Files makes it simple to archive Illustrator documents and their environments needed for opening and editing in the future. It's not just about collecting anymore, it's also about archiving.

So allow me to ask the question again, "What do you use to collect your Illustrator files for archiving?"

40 comments:

Sigurdur Armannsson said...

There has now been a period for several years where most artwork goes to print as a pdf. And therefore not much need for Art Files or similar applications.
However I see a new period on the horizon. Since designers are discovering the great benefits of using native files, ai and psd in production there is a new danger when someone else is maybe doing another project for the same client.
He might link to the same native files and then later on decide that some of his linked files needed a change in one way or antother.
We are avoiding this in InDesign by making packages for each project and ArtFiles seems to be the obvious pick to resolve this for Illustrator.
You might think of this when marketing ArtFiles.

Matheau said...

You bring up an interesting point Siggi. Thanks for the comment.

CriMeWatCh said...

do you have anything for PC? am really looking for

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