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Say “Hello” to VectorFirstAid

posted by: Nicholas van der Walle, in Articles / News/ Comments: 0

VectorFirstAid is with us! As our 16th Adobe Illustrator plug-in, it's very easy to imagine that we have become blasé witnessing the creation of each amazing new vector new tool. And yet… we have remained like kids in a candy store, all wide-eyed and expectant of new and amazing things.

VectorFirstAid doesn't disappoint. It's a departure from our existing creative tools as it doesn't allow you to draw, tweak shapes or add effects. Instead it concentrates on the task of cleaning artwork and making good in a fraction of the time any professional designer could dream of to completing manually. We have never produced a tool that saves EVERY Illustrator user with ANY workflow more time!

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How does VectorFirstAid help you?

Saving time and a massive amount of frustration. Simple as that!

It was born out of the common issue that imported PDFs are painful to work with in Illustrator. In fairness to Illustrator, this is not its fault; PDFs were never originally conceived as a format to edit. Illustrator loyally recreates what can be found in the document's artwork and text, but that's not always good enough for a designer.

You only have to look at the struggle that's going in an imported PDF's Layers panel to understand what a nightmare it is to work with. Cleaning these documents can take at least an hour. And with VectorFirstAid? Seconds.

PDFs are a common exchange format for Illustrator users when importing documents from Word, Excel, Pages, Keynote and other office-based applications. However, we continued to extend the flexibility and reach of the fixing capabilities in VectorFirstAid resulting in an amazing new workflow for users importing artwork from:

  • CAD programs
  • alternative desktop vector tools (CorelDRAW, XARA, Affinity Designer…)
  • mobile vector sketching tools (Illustrator Draw, Wacom Spark…)
  • vector traces (Illustrator's Image Trace, Adobe Capture app…)

With each of these files, VectorFirstAid can perform many cleaning operations including removing unneeded points and unnecessary clipping masks. Full details here…

If you use a specific workflow that isn't presented in one of the many default cleaning profiles, you can simply arrange your own set of clean-up tasks, order and tolerances to best suit your needs!

But it's also the "convenience" buttons that can ensure that extra sparkle to your artwork and make you look like the pro in the office. Super Smart Point Removal, Rejoin Paths, Join Text Lines and Replace Missing Fonts are now only a single click away.

A side benefit of many of the cleaning and convenience tasks is that your Illustrator files size will shrink. This is especially beneficial when exporting in the SVG web format.

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Mending a masterpiece

On the rare occasion Illustrator chews up your artwork and refuses to reload it, so long as the .ai file was saved with PDF compatibility (the default option) which was not also corrupted, VectorFirstAid can also help you quickly rebuild hours of work.

The process of importing a broken Illustrator file is a case of forcing Illustrator to load it as a PDF. To do this, either place the .ai file in an InDesign document and export as a PDF, or simply rename the .ai file extension to .pdf and import straight into Illustrator. Up until now, this is all native to Illustrator.

Where VectorFirstAid comes into its own, is making sense of the imported artwork by stripping away the excess clipping and compound paths, rejoining broken up editable text paragraphs and more.

Automatic for the people

At this point of launch, we are presenting the tool's main visible features. However, from day one we always intended to make this tool automatic for batch cleaning and processing. This feature – in conjunction with Illustrator's native Actions mechanism – is already in!

In a planned series of near-future videos and demonstrations, we will reveal how you can use VectorFirstAid to wipe clean whole folders full of artwork. Stay tuned…

Nick's personal viewpoint

Around 11 years ago, I specified the first release of Phantasm CS. Over time, I've been so proud seeing Phantasm CS Publisher, VectorScribe, InkScribe, DynamicSketch, MirrorMe, ColliderScribe, Texturino, Stylism, Stipplism, WidthScribe and Autosaviour Pro appear on the market and being adopted by 10's of thousands of designers the world over. I have a soft spot for each. Like children, it's impossible to say which is my favourite. However, also like children, I have to acknowledge some have proven to be high achievers and become more than the sum of their parts; these include VectorScribe, Phantasm, Texturino and now VectorFirstAid.

In my mind, VectorFirstAid is a pre-press style tool for designers. It takes care of all the tedious technical corrections virtually every artwork document requires. Try it for yourself – install the 14 day trial, load up a recent file and hit the Check Document button. You'll probably be amazed how your artwork can instantly benefits from a spring clean.

This new plug-in also shares something in common with WidthScribe as it's a new concept that in all honesty, I don't know how designers to will adopt it in the long-term. I am certain it will quickly rise through the ranks and become one of our most successful products, but exactly which processes an workflows users decide to adopt as their go-to-essential can still be argued at this point. Will our Smart Point Removal tech maintain its high visibility, or will the fully customisable "Fix All" function be all-conquering?

Nicholas van der Walle

Founder, Astute Graphics

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