Another free plugin! I really can’t call it new because this one’s been a popular download for years, but it is still free. It does one simple function: it draws straight lines constrained to isometric angles (unless you hold down the shift key for 45-degree constraints or Option/Alt for no constraints), but this time, however, it’s a bit better. It borrows some functions from the Concatenate plugin so new lines are automatically joined if they’re drawn from the endpoint of another.
You probably already know that isometric drawings are easier when you turn on Smart Guides with the 60-degree preset and construction guides checked. Combine this with the free Isometric Actions and isometric clipart, and that was pretty much my toolkit for technical and assembly drawings until I discovered CADtools. Isometric Line Tool, however, is still one of my main tools. I gave it the keyboard shortcut “Y” (naturally) and use it often for simple tasks.
Please feel free to download and try the Isometric Line Tool. I hope it serves you long and well!
Buried not-too-deeply in Adobe’s SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) is a list of pre-defined art object types. While some were included in Illustrator’s Select > Object menu, many more were not. It seemed useful to select the other object types, as well, and objects such as paths had properties that were easily obtained and often helpful to select within an illustration. In that spirit, I wrote Select Menu plugin and, given that it was relatively simple to build and applicable to casual users, I’d make it available for free.
It’s not always clear though, what each object type represents, so please understand than some of these choices are simply passed along to you to use to the extent that Adobe uses them when creating their digital form of your artwork. For example, if you use the Shaper tool in CC 2017, you’ll see in the Layers Panel that a Shaper Group has been created. That object type isn’t in the list, though, so finding them would involve examining every object in the document and examining its structure and properties to select those that fit the definition of a Shaper Group. I hope to find enough data on Shapers, Envelopes, and other objects to add them to the menu, so updates are likely in the foreseeable future.
Illustrator CC added Point Text Objects and Area Text Objects, so Select Menu adds them for CS6 users as well. In addition, it adds the following 27 items for everybody:
Legacy Text Objects
Path Text Objects
I hope the menu is as helpful for you as it has been for me. If it fails to select an object you feel it should, please copy that object into a separate Illustrator document and send it to me as a bug report. If I can find the problem, I’ll fix it.
The topic of item selection can be taken much farther, though, so if you want a real selection power tool, you’ll probably not find one better than Hot Door’s NitPicker plugin, which I find indispensable in addition to Select Menu.
If you’re familiar with the Square Up plugin, you may happy to know that it’s now available for Illustrator CS6 through CC 2017.
Have you ever been given a project with almost-usable art to use as a starting point? You know, the kind where straight lines should be at right angles, but it’s just a little bit cockeyed? I used to manually snap every point to a grid, but thought “good grief, there must be a simpler way.” That’s when I got the idea for Square Up. With it, you can just select the paths you want to straighten, select how you want them aligned, and “click” it’s done. There are four methods of squaring which could probably benefit from a brief explanation.
Horizontal and vertical: OK, this one may be self-explanatory, but I’ll elaborate anyway. The plugin first collapses all control handles so that any organic shape will become a polygon or polyline. It then measures the angle of each segment, and if it’s roughly vertical, the horizontal position of the endpoints are averaged so that it becomes true vertical, with similar treatment of horizontal segments. If it’s somewhere around 45 degrees, it just leaves it.
Preferences constrain angle: This one works similar to the first option, but aligns segments either parallel or perpendicular to whatever you set your constrain angle to in Illustrator’s preferences.
Object’s dominant axis: This is my favorite. I found that as I use Illustrator’s Free Transform tool to resize and rotate a rectangular object, like the outline of a structure on a map or architectural plan, the object gradually degrades to something resembling a parallelogram. The plugin measures all of the segments’ angles and averages them, then uses that as a major axis to align with. It even works on a group of objects that need to be rotated to the same angle.
Just collapse control handles: Because sometimes all we want is to sharpen the corners.
I might mention that the plugin now comes in a new, compact size. At first I made a panel that mimicked the dialog shown here, then realized it didn’t have to be that huge. Even though panels (remember when we called them palettes?) have some real advantages over modal dialog boxes, there is a point where they begin to crowd our work area so I promise not to make mine larger than they really have to be.
What’s your least favorite tool in Adobe Illustrator? Don’t get me wrong, Illustrator is an amazing piece of software, but with so many great features, something’s bound to be, um, less great. For me, that bit of mediocrity is the Scissors tool. Without a doubt, it performs a very necessary function, but I long wished I could get around the error message “Please use the scissors tool on a segment or anchor point (but not an endpoint) of a path.” It’s possible, of course, to dismiss the dialog and choose not see it again, but the finicky behavior is still there, making it a hassle to trim stacked or intersecting paths.
In 2001 I finished the first version of Cutting Tools, beginning with the Hatchet tool, designed not to throw up its hands and abandon the job site if the top path at that location happens to be an endpoint. There’s often another path under there, or maybe several, which I’d like to slice through in one fell “thwack!” Next I added the Table Saw and Saber Saw, which accommodated even more path destruction in one gesture. Once I had amassed a collection of leftover paths to clear away, either extreme laziness or a desire for efficiency inspired a quick-delete tool. I soon added a shortcut from the Hatchet so I could sever and sweep in one move of the stylus. Early versions of the Vector Vac animated the vectors spinning and shrinking as they got pulled into the vacuum. At first the effect was fun, but it soon just seemed silly.
Although it was the first of my plugins to rewrite for CS6 and CC, Cutting Tools’ multiple iterators and mutable arrays took a little time to tame, but the plugin is now updated and ready to be cut loose. I hope you find it useful. The plugin comes pre-loaded with a thousand trial uses for your evaluation. Really, 1,000! You may never want to run [Illustrator] with scissors again.
How often have you placed a pattern into a path, but needed to align the pattern with other art, but without moving the path? With a little guesswork and patience, it can be done, but there ought to be a simpler, more straightforward way. And there is!
When I draw a floor plan and place a pattern of a grid drawn at a given architectural scale behind it, I want the upper-left corner to align with the grid. How useful would a grid be, really, if it were simply plopped randomly behind the art? To use the plugin, I select the path with the pattern fill and click on one of the eight directional triangles to move the pattern left, right, up, down, or diagonally by one point. If I press the Command/Control key, the movement is divided in half, or the Option/Alt key will divide the moment by four. On a Mac, pressing the Control key while clicking will divide the distance by eight, and holding combinations of these keys will combine the effects so that I can make adjustments of 1/64 of a point. Pressing the shift key, too, will make each key work as a multiplier to move the pattern farther with each click.
Have you ever drawn a dashed line diverging from another? With the Dashes adjustments, you can precisely slide the dashes on a path forward or back along a path to align them as needed.
With the CC release, you can also select art objects and move them in small increments. I find this helpful for things like fine-tuning the placement of city names on maps or other situations where snapping isn’t helpful.
After working with pattern adjustments I found that patterns from existing art may have been scaled, rotated, or sheared, and to regain control of the pattern, there’s an Untransform button. Besides restoring a pattern to its original proportions, it also works on images (making them easy to export with the highest quality possible) and on other placed images such as EPS.
Please feel free to download it and try it out. In demo mode, you can take your time because the trial period doesn’t expire, but is instead based on a thousand test clicks. I’m sure you’ll find it a useful addition to your Illustrator workflow. As always I welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions.
I know from the regular emails I get that a lot of people have been eagerly anticipating the next generation of my Graffix plugins for Adobe Illustrator. Concatenate is already available, Cutting Tools is literally days away, and the others will be following quickly. In the meantime, “early adopters” can get a 50% discount by entering the coupon code PRERELEASE50 when you check out. If you’re the type who wants all of the plugins, the Productivity Pack may be a good fit for you. At first, you may not see a significant savings, but there are more plugins coming and they will be added to your Productivity Pack purchase when they arrive, probably early this summer, even if it’s months after the sale.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll advise that the Proof Block plugin has been dropped due to poor sales and the fact that I’ve written a script that does what Proof Block did an much, much more. In a future post, I’ll talk about that. Second, Trackplan Tools for designing model railroads will no longer be available. On the upside, a lot of functionality from that plugin like tangent lines and curves will be rolled into a new plugin. I think you’ll like it. I use it daily!
It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago that I first wrote the Concatenate plugin to join lines from imported CAD files. In all these years, Concatenate has never seen a price increase or a charge for a compatibility upgrade. Since the CS6-CC version is completely rewritten for Illustrator CC from a new library, it will be treated as a new product, but at the original 1997 price. Improvements are already planned for it so updates are imminent, but since it’s as functional as the original it seems best to make it available to people to add to their CC toolset as I’ve added it to mine. For a limited time, you can take advantage of a 50% discount with the coupon code shown on the product page.
Other plugins will be arriving very soon, as well.
Thank you for your support and encouragement over the years!