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Exporting Files from Illustrator CS5 (part 2) - AutoCAD Drawing, AutoCAD Interchange File & The Flash Format

10/31/2011 6:01:27 PM
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The AutoCAD Drawing (.dwg) and AutoCAD Interchange File (.dxf) Formats

The DWG and the DXF formats are both used for exchanging files with computer-aided design (CAD) applications. They can be especially helpful when you want to send Illustrator artwork to architects, interior designers, or industrial designers. Both formats support vector and raster elements.

When exporting a DXF or a DWG file (they both use the same export dialog box; Figure 6), you can specify the version of AutoCAD you want your file to be compatible with and the number of colors in the resulting file. If your file contains raster elements (or if vector elements need to be rasterized), you can choose to have them embedded as either bitmap or JPEG files.

Figure 6. Illustrator uses the same export options dialog box for both DXF and DWG formats.

Additionally, you can choose to export only the artwork that you currently have selected on the artboard. Selecting Alter Paths for Appearance modifies paths, if necessary, so that they appear when opened in a CAD application. Additionally, you can outline all text to avoid the need to send fonts.

The Windows Metafile (.wmf) and Enhanced Metafile (.emf) Formats

The Windows Metafile (WMF) and Enhanced Metafile (EMF) formats were developed to move graphics between applications on the Windows platform. These two formats support both vector and raster elements but are severely limited with regard to the kinds of art they can reliably display and print (EMF is slightly better). Both formats can create only straight vector lines, not curved ones. To make up for this, curved lines appear as numerous tiny straight paths, which results in large files with many anchor points. If possible, avoid using these formats for anything other than simple artwork. You can’t specify any additional options when exporting WMF or EMF files.

The Flash (.swf) Format

SWF is a popular web-based file format that supports both vectors and rasters. The Flash file format has become extremely popular because of its capability to contain interactive or animated content. You can use Illustrator to generate a SWF file that you want to upload directly to a website, use in a Flex framework rich Internet application (RIA), or even place into InDesign for creating interactive PDF files.

The SWF Options dialog box contains “just a few” options for creating the SWF files that are right for you (Figure 7, on the next page). Along the right side of the dialog box are options to save presets of SWF output settings, to preview your SWF in your default web browser, and to preview your SWF using Adobe Device Central. The SWF Options dialog box is actually split into two separate panels labeled Basic and Advanced, which you can access by clicking their respective buttons that appear underneath the Cancel button along the right side of the dialog box.

Figure 7. The Flash export dialog box in Illustrator has so many options that there’s a Basic button and an Advanced button that are used to toggle between two full panels.

Basic Options

The options in the Basic panel of the SWF Options dialog box are general settings that apply to most SWF files:

  • Export As. You can export Illustrator files in one of four ways: AI File to SWF File, which creates a single SWF file that contains all your Illustrator artwork; AI Layers to SWF Frames, where each layer is converted into a key frame, resulting in a single animated SWF file; AI Layers to SWF Files, where each layer in your Illustrator document is exported as a separate SWF file (useful when you are creating Flash scenes); and AI Layers to SWF Symbols.

  • Version. You can export a SWF that is compatible with any available version of Flash Player. The default is Flash Player 9, which is present on more than 98 percent of computers that access the Internet.

  • Options. A variety of general settings appear in this section. You can choose to export your SWF at the exact size of your artboard or active crop area. If your file contains artwork that may not translate to the SWF format perfectly, you can select Preserve Appearance to expand or rasterize those areas to ensure the integrity of the appearance of your art. Compressing a file will result in a smaller SWF. You can choose to include all symbols in your resulting SWF (even if they aren’t used on the artboard), have your text converted to outlines, and ignore kerning that you may have applied to text. You can also choose to enclose metadata (from information you’ve entered using the File > File Info function) and protect the resulting SWF file from being opened in Flash by applying a password.

  • Curve Quality. This setting controls the quality level for curved paths in the resulting SWF file.

  • Background Color. This setting allows you to specify a background color for the SWF file.

  • Local playback security. You can choose whether the SWF file can access local or network files only.

Advanced Options

The options found in the Advanced panel of the SWF Options dialog box are settings that apply to rasterized portions of a file and animated content:

  • Image Format. If there is raster content in your file (or if flattening requires that content becomes rasterized), you can choose how those images are stored in your SWF file—either using a lossless format or a lossy format. If you choose the lossy format, which is JPEG, you can choose a JPEG quality and the Baseline setting. You can also choose the resolution you want your raster content to use (usually 72 ppi).

    The rest of the options in the Advanced panel of the SWF Options dialog box are specific to animated SWF content. Therefore, they are available only when choosing the AI Layers to SWF Frames option in the Export As pop-up menu in the Basic panel of the dialog box.

  • Frame Rate. This setting controls how fast the animation plays and is measured in frames per second (although in the context of Illustrator, they are actually layers per second). A lower value will slow down the animation, while a higher value will cause the animation to play faster.

  • Looping. Selecting this option causes the animation to repeat itself endlessly.

  • Animate Blends. If your Illustrator file contains any blends, selecting this option will automatically animate those blends in the resulting SWF file. This setting allows you to keep blends live and editable in your Illustrator file and still get the desired animated result. Otherwise, you would have to use the Release to Layers function in your Illustrator file to manually create the content necessary to create an animation. You can choose to have blends animate either as a sequence (each frame appears individually, one after the other) or as a build (each frame appears successively, adding to the previous one).

  • Layer Order. By default, Illustrator animates layers from the bottom up, but you can alternatively select the Top Down option.

  • Export Static Layers. Static layers are those that appear in every frame of the animation. If you select this option, you can Command-click (Ctrl-click) any layers that you want visible throughout the entire animation. For example, if you had an animation of a bird flying across a cloudy sky, you might set the layers that contain the sky and cloud elements to export as static layers.

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