HTML5 in Illustrator? OMFG!

There must be some secrets to becoming a Product Manager at Adobe and one of them seems to include a requirement to understand your customers as little as possible and instead of giving them working tools, build castles in the sky and feed them with trend-whorish extensions every now and then. That’s pretty much the only way I can explain the madness behind adding HTML5 support to – of all the least suitable apps you can come up with – Illustrator of all things. That is just plain ridiculous, if you ask me. Why?

First let’s have a look at stylesheet support. For one, the few CSS attributes the current implementation supports take a halfway practiced web designer about 30 seconds to add to a style sheet. Second, said CSS export only creates dumb stylesheets that don’t obey property inheritance and create a lot of redundancy that needs to manually be cleaned up. Third, in typical Illustrator fashion, we end up with typographical measures that may not at all be useful in a pixel-precise design. Fourth, and that’s where it really falls apart, the elements it covers are pretty much CSS Level 2/2.1, so any claims to that being specifically aimed at CSS3 are at best delusions of grandeur by the marketing department. Now, on some level these things are still okay-ish, but workflow-wise do nothing for any web-serious person.

The bigger lie is hidden in what they sell as their new SVG support. As we all know from our daily tenure with Illustrator, it has a tendency to embed placed images when it isn’t supposed to and it also quite thoroughly eradicates every trace of how an object has been transformed once you apply certain operations to it. Now with CSS3 supporting a native transform property in addition to this having forever existed in SVG already plus HTML5‘s <canvas> tag, wouldn’t it make perfect sense that instead of spitting out resampled images in their transformed positions or requiring a larger canvas for transformed vector art you can use small canvases and have the browser transform those items, thus avoiding anything from transparency masking issues to potentially bad sampling and antialiasing? Of course it makes sense – to me and you, but probably not so much to the people responsible at Adobe. So what do we get? Pretty much the same "bad" SVG that we had before, extended by some half-hearted way to add variables for scripting and embedding, hidden behind some pretty ugly icons and menu commands in places where you would least expect them. *yikes* It’s amazing, that the company who invented the format cannot make their own apps spit it out in usable form. That, by the way also extends to the use of variables, which is again an SVG feature that has been there forever, just in in a way, it is of no serious use to anyone.

But then again, this is Illustrator we are talking about, is it not? After having been ruined by years of neglect, one probably shouldn’t expect too much, and no matter how all those Product Managers may defend the decisions that were made by Adobe, it remains just plain wrong. I mean, what is the point of throwing on such features, when the core program cannot carry them properly? No matter how you twist and turn it, this extension is pretty much useless in its current state and it will be so until the day the main program becomes more suitable for general structured design work. Come to think of it, to this day, Illustrator hasn’t even a clean, persistent and logical layer and group model, much less any way of parametrically doing things like rounded corners as CSS3 defines them…

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