Lately I’ve been creating a lot of wireframes in Illustrator and outputting them as PDFs to share with others as well as to send to my iPad for portable viewing. Even though Adobe is the publisher of Illustrator as well as the originator of the PDF format, there is nothing about this process that’s elegant, to say the least.
So last week I wondered aloud on Twitter whether anyone might already have figured out a way to automate this process. (To clarify, I accidentally typed “currently visible files” in that tweet when I mean “current visible layers.”) I didn’t get any replies until today, when my friend Matt Ericson told me that my tweet had inspired him to clean up some Illustrator actions that he’d created to do something similar to what I was looking for. His script Export Illustrator Layers as PNGs doesn’t output PDFs, but a stack of PNGs can be easily enough converted to PDFs, so close enough.
Correction: Matt informs me that this script is in fact capable of outputting PDFs as well as PNGs.
Actually, I realized that what I’m really looking for is not just a way of automating the output of various layers as files, but also a feature that (I think) is missing from Illustrator altogether: layer comps — similar to what’s available in Adobe Photoshop. That handy feature lets me combine multiple layers to create specific views representing different states of an interface, without having to duplicate persistent U.I. elements (e.g., navigation buttons or a footer) across several layers. Why it is that after so many years and so many expensive upgrades that Illustrator’s layers features Photoshop’s layers feature don’t act more or less exactly like one another is a mystery to me.
Anyway, I guess I just wanted to share Matt’s terrific script, which you can download here, and also add some more gripes to the inexhaustible supply of user complaints about gaps and inconsistencies in Adobe’s Creative Suite products. Carry on.
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