The Hidden Power of Illustrator CS: Web Graphics Techniques, by Steve Kurth, ISBN 0-7821-4158-7

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, February 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Sybex, Inc., go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$39.99, CDN$59.99, UK £29.99

Steve Kurth has written several tomes on Adobe products. This latest book is evidently an attempt to cover the new version's web capabilities. Upon receiving this book I felt that it looked a little thin. I was therefore surprised by the amount of information it contained.

The author takes a sample-based rather than project-based approach to the education process. The initial chapters begin with extensive coverage of a large number of web specific issues, like file types, application usage, color spaces, bandwidth and file size issues and do a good job of covering many of these basics and constraints.

The book next covers Illustrator's core concepts and features along with comprehensive coverage of many key functions. Kurth further details the new features and capabilities of Illustrator CS as well as covering the fundamentals of web design. I especially liked how many commands and command options were explored using diagrams. These diagrams reference the various transformation options and nicely illustrate the different combinations and their effect on a sample graphic.

The Save for Web dialog is another powerful Adobe feature which has well-deserved good coverage in this book and which in itself aptly demonstrates just how powerful this newest iteration of Illustrator really is. This dialog's coverage includes slice options and tools, optimization, linking, color reduction, file type and CSS layer handling.

In the next section I encountered something which I noticed on my first skim of the book. I found references to programs other than Illustrator, specifically Golive and Dreamweaver. While I felt the coverage of other programs was appropriate and extremely useful, I was a little nervous about the location of this information. I was just getting into the features of Illustrator CS and didn't want to wander off topic. The information included coverage of integration and application-specific handling of web features within these other programs. Going through the book in-depth, I felt that this section should have been moved to an Appendix (the book has no appendices in this printing).

The book next takes us back to Illustrator to cover some more basics. Topics such as Preparing the Work Environment, Setting Preview Models, Saving & Editing Views and Adjusting Illustrator's Defaults set the basis for understanding your workspace. Kurth then jumps into several projects in which he demonstrates just how easy it is for a user to create many web-specific graphics including buttons, symbols, icons and seamless backgrounds. New features, in particular 3D handling and animations, are nicely covered in their own chapter with some simple but effective examples.

Chapter 8 is by far the weakest in the book. It tries to lead the user on how to create a complete web page using Illustrator CS. Unfortunately the author jumps through several unconnected examples, rather than taking a single project approach which would have been much more beneficial. The benefits of SVG are also eschewed in the final chapter although the coverage of Java interactivity does need expanding upon.

Cons: Distinctive Mac bias in command references. Some of the examples were poorly illustrated because the examples were grayscale despite referencing color features and values. No CD-ROM packed with additional goodies (I like the freebies found on typical book CDs). Sketchy coverage of SVG and Java.

Pro: Comprehensive coverage of web features. Excellent coverage of Illustrator's feature set. Good cross referencing for both GoLive and Dreamweaver users. Clear and concise coverage of features required for web page creation.

I recommend buying this book if you want to learn about the web capabilities of Illustrator CS. Although the book will not teach you Illustrator CS (and could have been a little larger), it will still show you just how powerful Illustrator CS can be and how worthy an addition it will be to your arsenal of web tools.

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