SoftwareInReview looked at illustrator software programs. Listed below are our top six illustrator programs for 2011. Each program was ranked based on ease of use, effectiveness of features, and availability of help/support.
- Illustrator by Adobe – www.adobe.com/products/illustrator
Illustrator by Adobe has so many great features that there is no way to mention them all. The program is compatible with almost every file type, including AutoCAD files. This is the only program we reviewed that lets you open more than one artboard at a time, allowing you to work on multiple projects side-by-side. The program also provides an easy to use graphing wizard. Illustrator takes every line you draw, no matter how rough, and turns it into something beautiful. There is an endless supply of help available. The program provides everything from FAQs to online tutorials, and even a training class for an additional fee. If you have used other Adobe products, you will not have a hard time learning to use this program since it is designed similarly. If you have never used Adobe products the learning curve will be a little harder, but hang in there because this program is worth it. One of the best things about Illustrator is that your finished project can look like it was done by a pro, even if it wasn’t.
- CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 by Corel – www.corel.com/product
CorelDRAW is slightly less expensive than other illustrator software programs, but it still packs a big punch. The program comes loaded with over 300 templates to get you started. It includes an extensive selection of patterns and textures to choose from. This software also supports AutoCAD files and just about any other file type you may work with. One drawback is that CorelDRAW does not make available graphing or 3D vector effects. However, Corel makes up for this by providing users with the ability to change colors and see what the actual color will look like before printing. This feature is a huge saver of both time and paper. There is an overwhelming choice of help for the user including on-line chat. Particularly helpful is the step-by-step tutorial loaded into the program. The price and ease of use makes up for a few less features, making this program a good choice.
- Designer Pro by Xara – www.xara.com/us/products/designer
Designer Pro by Xara does not contain all the bells and whistles of some of the other programs we reviewed. However, we rated it third because it does provide design options for website creation. This program also gets high marks for ease of use. Besides being intuitive, making it easy to use for even a beginner, it provides the most sought after functions on a convenient toolbar. Although no telephone support is offered, there are enough other help options available. The low price, ease of use, and website creation options more than make of for the lack of some features such as perspective and graphing tools.
- Canvas 12 by ACD Systems – www.store.acdsee.com/store
ACD Systems emphasizes that Canvas 12 is a great tool for creating technical drawings. The software is full of advanced accuracy tools which help the user to create precise images. Notes can also be attached to objects which are great if more than one person is working on the project. Additionally, Canvas 12 includes photo editing and layout capabilities. A big drawback to this program is it is difficult to navigate. The toolbar does not include common functions, making the user hunt down what they want by going through drop down menus. This program supports a large assortment of file types. Online digital guides and email support are available if you need help, as well as a quick reference guide on ACD System’s website. Canvas 12 is a powerful illustrator tool for professional users, but it will definitely frustrate beginners.
- Expression Design by Microsoft – www.microsoft.com/expression
Expression Design by Microsoft provides all the necessary tools to create quality vector images. This program provides the largest work area of any illustrator software we reviewed. It also provides a toolbar which includes some, but not all, common functions. However, you can customize some functions you typically use and save them to the toolbar for future use. Expression Studio is also not compatible with as many file types as other illustrator software, including AutoCAD files. However, it does offer the ability to convert files to several different file types. Microsoft offers general help support through live chat, but does not have help specific to Expression Design. However, there is a user guide and an ample supply of video tutorials available on the internet. We should also note that this program cannot be purchased separately; it is one of four programs packaged in Expression Studio 4 Ultimate.
- FreeHand MX by Adobe – www.adobe.com/products/freehand/
FreeHand MX by Adobe provides the user with an extensive list of features. Some of its better features include a graphing wizard, perspective tool, and really great 3D vector effects. This program supports most file types, but it does not support EMG, SVG, or RAW files. The software can be a little cumbersome to use because it does not provide a one-stop shop to change the appearance of objects. Instead, the user must go to multiple pallets to get the desired effect. Digital manuals and telephone support are available if you need help. The biggest drawback to this program is that Adobe has announced that while they will continue to sell FreeHand, they will no longer be updating the software. While FreeHand MX is currently a powerful illustrator program, it will eventually become obsolete as other illustrator programs continue to be updated.