The Devil’s in the Dashed Line Details

Adobe’s marquee apps like Photoshop and Illustrator get a lot of criticism, sometimes deservedly and sometimes not. But they’re still workhorses for millions of people, and as a reader reminded me recently, often they feature the kind of attention to detail that really matters to designers, even in the smallest ways.

Sometimes it’s the little things. Illustrator has the ability to align dashes to corners. For the life of me, I can find no other Mac graphics program (Affinity Designer, Omnigraffle, Graphic [Autodesk], …) that has a similar feature. Am I missing something?

I hadn’t realized this, but this reader is totally right. I revisited this feature recently to see for myself. Here’s a 150 px square with a 1px thick dashed line that breaks for 5 pt every 15 pt. Notice how the corners are not uniform.

Dashed Lines in Adobe Illustrator without Corner Details Applied

Here’s the same square, with the catchily named “Align dashes to corners and path ends, adjusting lengths to fit” option turned on. The result: pretty corners.

Dashed Lines in Adobe Illustrator with Corner Details Applied

And here’s that square again, with dashes that are 75 pt long instead. The dashes magically align with the corners and the midpoints of each segment of the square.

Dashed Lines in Adobe Illustrator

In each of the last two cases, product designers, managers and engineers sweated over the details to make sure the output matches the designer’s intent. That’s a rare quality—even amongst the many newcomers to the design tools space who are clearly as passionate about creative tools as Adobe is. This is not to say that Adobe apps do not have lots of work ahead to be simpler, more performant, more in tune with what users want. It’s just to say that creating software for designers requires an extraordinary amount of attention to even the smallest details; you have to account for nearly every detail that every designer would ever want to finesse. You know how designers are; we’re fussy.