Adobe Illustrator Bugs, Gripes & Feature Wishlist

Three years ago, members of the Adobe Illustrator team got in touch with me to gather feedback from the Technical Illustration community. While they couldn’t promise any new features, or that any issues we had would be addressed, they were at least reaching out and willing to listen.

Since then, Illustrator has seen two releases: Illustrator CS6 in April 2012, and Illustrator CC in June 2013. Having just recently upgraded to Creative Cloud, I thought it might be time to revisit our list and see what’s been addressed, what problems persist, and what more could be done to improve Illustrator in the future.

Smart Guides

  • Worked much better in CS3. Path edges would snap to other path edges by default. As of CS4, you have to hold Command, making simultaneously copying and constraining a handful (Cmd+Opt+Shift).
    You still have to hold Command/Ctrl to snap paths/points to other artwork.

  • No longer shows extension/alignment guides on constrain angle (ie. if Constrain Angle is set to 30°, I want a smart guide to pop out at 30°, not 0° or 45°)
    Constrain Angle now affects Construction Guides.

  • Needs radius limitation on alignment guides. Always trying to snap to far away objects.
    Problem persists. No way to limit Alignment Guides to a certain radius/proximity. You still get Alignment Guides from far away objects.

  • The Hover-Snap workflow from CS3 worked much better.
    I still think this was a more elegant workflow. To create an alignment guide, you would drag artwork and briefly hover it over another object you’d like to align to.


  • Doesn’t work well on groups of objects. Sometimes it’s like slicing a sandwich and being left with only the cheese.
    I’m not sure if Pathfinder has improved, but the Shape Builder tool is faster and more intuitive.

Color Picker

  • “Spectrum” is useless. The only thing this is good for is picking random colours.
    That stupid spectrum/rainbow picker is still around, and can’t be hidden in the “sliders” view.

  • Hex entry box should accept values prefixed with # or even quotes. I often copy and paste values from web and docs. Illustrator should be able to sort it out.
    Still broken. The fix is frustratingly simple: ignore any characters that are not 0123456789ABCDEF. Flash does this.

  • Color palette needs one more level of drop-down, with a smaller version of the Color Picker (like Flash).
    Still stuck with that stupid spectrum/rainbow picker instead of something bigger and useful like the square Hue/Saturation/Value (HSV) picker like Flash.

  • Color picker doesn’t work if an object is in a group or live paint group.
    Seems to be fixed.


  • This palette is painful. Look at Flash as a model. Click gradient bar to add stop. That stop stays selected. Click on a swatch, color picker or adjust sliders to set color of stop. Double click for eyedropper that can grab colors from anywhere including outside the program.
    I don’t know if this has changed, or I’ve just gotten used to it. The secret to using the Eyedropper is holding the Shift key. Select a gradient stop, then hold Shift and click to sample a colour from your artwork.


  • Select>Same (Fill/Stroke/etc) doesn’t work for Live Paint objects.
    Seems like the same behaviour.


  • These should work more like objects. I want to be able to use my Keyboard Increment and Opt+Arrow Keys to make duplicates and move them around accurately. Smart Guides should apply to these too.
    Still pretty hard to add uniformly sized and spaced artboards. I usually use the Rectangle Tool with Smart Guides to create a path that matches the size of an existing artboard, then use Keyboard Increment and Opt/Alt+Arrow Keys to space copies evenly, then Object > Artboards > Convert to Artboards. There’s also the New Artboard button on the Control Bar at the top when using the Artboard Tool.

  • It would be awesome if CTRL-F would work across artboards. So if you copy something on one and go to another page you can paste it in the same spot.
    This works now.

Free Transform Tool

  • Bounding box resets to a rectangle after every transformation. I want it to work more like Photoshop’s.
    The Free Transform Tool is worse than ever in Illustrator CC. It no longer works with Snapping or Smart Guides meaning it is impossible to Skew, Distort or Transform into perspective with any level of precision. This has sent me back to working in CS6.

Blob Brush/Eraser

  • Circle brush size indicator is size of minimum diameter. Would be more useful as maximum diameter, like Photoshop. Checkbox option?
    Brush cursors still don’t represent the size of the brush accurately.


  • Modifiers (Spacebar for Hand tool, Option for copy) often break, necessitating reboot to fix.
    Haven’t encountered.

  • 8-corner resize puts 10px invisible border around window with resize icon. Not useful.
    Not sure what this is… can anyone remind me?

  • I have a script called ‘Delete Fluff’ that deletes all the default/unused Swatches, Symbols, etc. When I make a new document, I just want a white sheet of paper. Or a way to run this script on every new document.
    This is possible through custom New Document Profiles. Set up a document with whatever settings, swatches, symbols, etc. you’d like then save the .AI to
    ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator 17/en_US/New Document Profiles (Mac)
    Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CC\Support Files\Required\New Document Profiles\en_US\ (PC)

  • Persistent swatches across documents?
    Possible via the above steps.

  • Align To Selection in toolbar is 1px higher than everything else.

  • New stroke tools (Width, Arrowheads) are awesome. But I don’t always need Arrowheads. It’d be great to have another ‘fold’ that ends after Dashed Line.

  • Can only open PDFs one page at a time?
    Still can only one page at a time, but here’s a script.


  • A way to import Keyboard Shortcuts. Can export text, but no way to import. Makes inevitable reinstallations painful.
    Creative Cloud introduced a Sync Settings feature that synchronizes Preferences, Libraries, Presets and Workspaces between computers. Keyboard Shortcuts can also be backed up and restored at:
    ~/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator 17 Settings/en_US/ (Mac)
    Documents and Settings\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator 17 Settings\en_US\x64\Adobe Illustrator Prefs (PC)

    It would be nice to have an Import and Export button right in the Keyboard Shortcuts window though.

  • Syncing. Portability of Preferences, Keyboard Shortcuts, Workspaces, Actions, Scripts, Brushes, etc. across multiple computers.

  • Autosave


It seems that quite a few issues have been improved or fixed. Some still require hacky work arounds, third-party scripts or plugins, or digging deep into your computer’s file structure. But the big deal breaker for me at the moment is the problem with the new Free Transform tool.

Have any gripes, bugs or feature requests for Adobe Illustrator? Share them in the comments!

7 thoughts on “Adobe Illustrator Bugs, Gripes & Feature Wishlist

  1. Steven W. Howard says

    Adobe CC (as much as I’d like to whine about it) has a multitude of great features when paired with Astute Graphics plug-ins.

    The one screaming issue for me currently is constantly having to bring up the general preferences menu to switch on and off the scalability of strokes and patterns. I use this a lot and image many others do to, going back and forth. I think it would be much easier if this was accessible on the top or side tool bar clicking it on and off rather than having to constantly bring up the general preferences menu each time.

  2. @Steven
    Check out the Transform palette (Window > Transform) and fully expand it, there’s a checkbox for Scale Strokes & Effects. This won’t help with patterns though.

    Transform Each may help too.. Object > Transform > Transform Each or Cmd+Opt+Shift+D. It has separate options for transforming Objects, Strokes & Effects and Patterns.

  3. I would love the actions to be a bit more “clever”. For example to create a shortcut key to set the constrain angle to 30, 0 or 150 degrees. At the moment i use Quickeys to set these functions to F keys.
    And while I’m at it surely they could beef up the scissors tool a bit – its been the same since illustrator began. Currently I use the Pathstyler plugin (now owned by astute graphics) but in its original flavour it only runs in illustrator up to CS5.

  4. Steven W. Howard says

    The Transform palette is no better of a solution as you still need to go to a pull-out menu to select the scale effect on and off.

    Again, it would be nice to have a small check box in the top menu or simple short-cut to turn on and off scaling for strokes & effects and one for patterns. I’m still unsatisfied with having to go through multiple steps to turn on and off a feature I use all-to-often. Simplifying the process will save me many, many valuable minutes.

  5. Steven W. Howard says

    I finally found the menu expansion in the Transform pallette in Adobe CC. It previously didn’t allow me to expand the pallette.

    Since that feature is available, I think it would be beneficial for Adobe to add a check box for the pattern scaling.

    I do like that they have improved the free transform abilities more. I think it would be helpful to have increased flexibility in this area in the future. It’s closer to the way an object can be distorted in Photoshop, but I’m still not fully satisfied. I’m hoping this is a feature they continue to adjust and improve on.

  6. James Provost says

    I agree… Free Transform is way more useful in Photoshop. I wish the Free Transform bounding box would stay transformed/distorted at least until you deselected the object(s).

  7. Suchy says

    Just now read this post, so sue me :). So I hope you can still send this along to Adobe.

    The No.1 worst bug (and I’ll admit that I’m still using CS5, but the bug has persisted as far back as I can remember — so I figure it’s still around in CC) is when trying to tab through the color picker’s values to manually enter an exact mix, it typically either errors out with an invalid value message or adds your number onto the existing one [tabbing through a palette/menu is supposed to automatically highlight the value and replace it when you type a new one].

    The number of times I’ve had to go in and retype the value … if only I had a nickel.

    –It would also be nice to have shortcuts synced with the rest of Adobe land. At least with Photoshop and InDesign. But that’s just me.

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