Adobe Illustrator: Opening Tricky Files

Sometimes files just don’t want to play nice. And usually when that happens, there’s a deadline looming.

Knowing ahead of time how to get out of a tricky situation can make the difference between having time to do the job at an easy pace, or pulling your hair out.

I’ve come across two handy Illustrator utilities — one software, one a tip — that might just save your neck if you ever get yourself into the situations addressed by each of these.

Opening new Illustrator files in an older version

It’s happened to all of us: we’re not running the latest version of Illustrator, and a client or fellow designer sends over the CS18 version, which of course we have no way of opening. Sure, one can ask the sender to do a “Save As…”, but usually our priorities are not those of others. What to do?

A tip over at has one possible workaround: place the EPS document into your current version of inDesign and then create a PDF from it. The resulting PDF you should be able to open in Illustrator, and from there get access to vector logos or any other elements you need access to.

Opening Illustrator files in a different format

Poster by Matteo Discardi is an OS X donation-ware utility that does one thing: drag some Illustrator files on the app (.ai, .eps or .pdf) and a small prompt window pops up that allows you to change the file to any of those three formats. Why not just open the file and do a “Save as…”?

Simple: files that crash Illustrator when attempting to open them. We’ve all been there. Having the file in a different format might make the difference between being able to open the file and access the vector goods you need, or spending hours on emails and phone calls trying to get the original designer to send the file in a different format.

Discardi also offers another vector file conversion tool, Pongo, which will take any Illustrator CSx file and convert it to your choice of .jpg, .png or .svg — not so much a neck saver but a handy way to quickly get a raster version of a vector art file. Worth having in the toolbox.