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Adobe Illustrator CS6 v16.0.3

Adobe's flagship vector drawing application gains a new look and much-enhanced performance

by Mike Williams

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License: Trial Software
Operating Systems: Mac OS X, Windows 7 (32 bit), Windows 7 (64 bit), Windows 8, Windows Vista (32 bit), Windows Vista (64 bit), Windows XP
Requirements:

2 GB free hard drive space

Languages: English
Software Cost: $599 (Windows) $599 (Mac)
Date Updated: 11 December 2012
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Downloads To Date: 82604
Developer: Adobe
RSS News Feed: http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/63786611.rss
Twitter Feed: http://twitter.com/adobe
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Adobe Illustrator CS6
Powerful vector drawing tools

Adobe Illustrator CS6 is a powerful vector drawing tool that includes everything you'll need for design, web and video projects.

One major headline this time is the new focus on performance. True 64-bit support and Adobe's Mercury Performance System play a big part in improving responsiveness, but Adobe have also been identifying and resolving bottlenecks all around the package. The previous Gaussian blur implementation wasn't the best, for instance, but it's been optimised for CS6, and as a result Gaussian blurs (and effects which depend on them, such as drop shadows and glows) are now much, much faster.

It's a similar story with the interface. There's an obvious new look (you can even tweak the UI brightness to your personal taste), but Adobe report making more than 40 usability tweaks to the Illustrator interface, from easier font changes to inline editing of layer names.

And workspace management just generally works a little more like you'd always hoped. So even options which were previously hidden away, such as the Shape and Pen tools, can now be torn off and docked. And you can dock tools horizontally or vertically to organise your workspace just how you'd like.

You're looking for something more? Illustrator CS6 is relatively short on the big new features. There's a new image tracing engine to help you convert raster images to vectors, for instance, and the program can now easily create seamless tiled vector patterns, but that's about it.

Is it worth the upgrade, then? Tricky: the performance enhancements and UI tweaks are welcome, but may not be enough to justify the outlay. We'd recommend you try before you buy.

Please note, the file you'll download here is Adobe's Download Manager, which will then fetch and install Illustrator for you. It's a huge file, though, so patience will probably be required.

Verdict:

Illustrator CS6 is notably faster and smarter then the previous edition. It's otherwise a little short on major new additions, but that's no great surprise as the program already did just about everything you could want, and it remains the best vector drawing tool around

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Spotlight: Free Full Software

Spektrel Art 1.0.0

Free Full Commercial Software

Spektrel Art is a stand-alone program and Photoshop plugin which transforms digital photos into "magical art that glimmers and gleams with intersecting lines of tapered light".

What does that mean? Essentially it applies a configurable mix of effects, enhancing edges, smoothing backgrounds and emphasizing colours. Take a look at the thumbnail for one example, and the official product page has more.

Spektral Art works much like any similar tool. Open an image, click one of the thumbnails to apply a particular preset, or click a few buttons and drag some sliders to fine-tune the results.

There's surprising scope for variation, too. For example, just switching from the "Light" to "Dark" theme can transform a bright and friendly image into something dark and sinister, at least in some cases (results vary depending on the source image).

Please note, the demo version doesn't allow images to be saved.

SPECIAL OFFER: as we write, the developer is offering Spektral Art for free. The offer expires August 29th. Please note that you must provide your name, address and phone number to receive your free license.

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