I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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Illustrator crashInDesign’s auto-recovery feature has saved me several times from utter design despair. This is why, along with recent heartbreaking crashes, I’m frustrated with Adobe for not incorporating the same recovery feature in Illustrator.

Will the new CS3 sport this feature? Probably not. According to LenHewitt on Adobe’s forums, there are some major technical limitations:

Page layout applications are very different from other graphics apps. They are essentially database applications, where every object has a database entry describing the object, it’s position of the screen, size, fills, strokes, position in the document layering etc.

Consequently, that data is then available to rebuild the document if tragedy strikes.

This makes page layout apps slower in operation but more robust. Were Illustrator or Photoshop to use a similar technique, I suspect the performance would be seriously degraded.

Is this true? With the multitude of smart engineers at Adobe, I have to imagine there’s a way to make it work. After all, isn’t InDesign partially based on Illustrator’s code base? And from what I remember, the original beta of InDesign AKA Quark-Killer looked almost exactly like Illustrator, except with multi-page support.

Until Adobe gets it right, the only course of action is to remember to manually save every few minutes–a habit everyone forgets to do.


  • Paul Armstrong

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    6:38 am

    It seems like it’d be quite easy to do this in Illustrator… since everything is vector, they could save each new point and it’s properties. Or, like the InDesign way, each object has its own database entry and all of its properties… it really doesn’t SEEM like it’d be difficult. Maybe there is something else that I’m missing.

  • Josh P

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    6:50 am

    A simple solution to this is an auto-save feature. Almost every other major piece of software gives you the option to turn on an auto-save feature but ti’s something Adobe seems to think is necessary.

  • Ncus

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    7:50 am

    I agree with Paul. Sometimes AI is crashing in my Intel machine. Having an auto-save feature would be nice.

    But, i don’t want to auto-save in Photoshop while i am editing 600 CMYK illustration.

  • pmc27

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    8:02 am

    The problem is not to remember to save the files. The problem is the time that you spend saving your work, sometimes several minutes. So I think that the autosaving feature would be a problem for slow machines or big files. The solution is that they do Illustrator more stable so it won´t “quit unexpectedly”.

  • Chanpory

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    10:29 am

    I’m suffering from crashes on my Intel MacBook also. CS3 is coming out soon, so hopefully it will ease the problem.

    Auto-save would be a nice complement to an auto-recovery feature. I could see the problem with working with large files and that taking processing power. I’d imagine there’s some programming ingenuity that could allow the program to keep track of what changes has been made since the last saved version. That way it’s not saving the entire file repeatedly.

  • Ex-Seattlite

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    11:44 am

    As a member of the development team for the first three major releases of Adobe InDesign, I can tell you that InDesign was not “partially based on Illustrator’s code base.” In fact, there was very little communication between the Illustrator team in San Jose and the InDesign team in Seattle, at least up to the time I left in mid-2002.

    InDesign was created largely by the same product engineers who had worked on PageMaker, although little, if any, of PageMaker’s code went into InDesign.

  • Chanpory

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    11:59 am

    Hey Ex-Seattlite, thanks for clarifying the roots of InDesign. I had assumed it must have borrowed from Illustrator, because InDesign at that time looked incredibly like Illustrator. Appearances can so deceiving.

  • Megumi K

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    12:26 pm

    Ever since my machine was upgraded to Intel-chip, Illustrator has been crashing whenever certain functions, like dividing paths, are performed. This has been giving me and our IT guy headaches. I’m waiting for the CS3 to hopefully fix this problem. I’m glad to realize this isn’t happening to just me. Thanks for voicing out. BTW, Life Clever is an awesome piece of my life puzzle. Thanks for all your great tips. ;-)

  • Chanpory

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    12:35 pm

    Hi Megumi, I just discovered a fix for the Pathfinder Illustrator crash on Intel Macs. I’ve been tearing my hair out too.

    Check it out here:


  • Megumi K

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    1:36 pm

    Wow… Thanks for the link. I don’t obsessively use the appearance palette, so it’s bearable. Let’s hope this patches the problem. This hardly seems like a patch, though. Are they so involved in CS3 development that they’re looking the other way when it comes to problems like this? I fear that’s the case.

    Thanks much, Chanpory.

  • Bryan

    gravatarMar 9, 2007
    10:16 pm

    Looks like this AppleScript should do the trick (although it is in French it seems fairly straightforward oui?):


  • Philip

    gravatarMar 12, 2007
    9:34 pm

    thanks for the pathfinder tip. this has been driving me crazy esp. since whenever i get the IT guy to come over I wasn’t able to reproduce it. Now I know why!

  • Vi

    gravatarMar 13, 2007
    7:31 pm

    As a fellow designer, I also long for auto-recovery feature in Illustrator. I feel as though I’ve developed a strange symbiosis with Illustrator and can often tell when it’s about to crash. I’m running CS on a G5 Mac with OS 10.4, and it tends to crash about every 3-4 hours that I use it. So I try to save everything and close/restart the program every three hours and that seems to work well for me.

  • eric McNew

    gravatarMar 17, 2007
    10:32 am

    I remember way back in the early 90s a great pre-Phhotoshop program called ColorStudio had auto-recovery… you’d think they could find a way to do it 15 years later

  • Stretchjames

    gravatarAug 23, 2007
    12:13 am

    My version of illustrator CS3 is probably the most unstable program I have ever worked with. It’s really frustratnig, because it’s the benchmark for vector design. Don’t get me wrong I love illustrator, It has some absolutely fantastic features that have become invaluable to me. As an ex Freehand user I understand that vector illustration programs have stability issues. However, Coreldraw has incorporated an autobackup feature which saves a duplicate of the file you are working on.

    Surely it would be realy easyn to write a piece of code that simply runs the “save copy” command, and calls the new file ***** backup, re-writing it every so often.

    What I would like to see, is an Autosave feature that sits as a checkbox on the top toolbar that allows me to set how often it does an autosave. That way on bigger photoshop files, I could set it to save once every half hour, and on smaller files, every ten mins or so.

  • ishiiboy

    gravatarAug 31, 2007
    10:13 am

    I am also an Ex-Freehand user. I used both frequently not because I had to, but because I found each program had it’s advantages and disadvantages. The robust feature list is clearly one of Illustrator’s strengths. The length of time needed to save documents is definitely one if it’s weaknesses. I don’t know how long it takes to save a CorelDRAW file, but Freehand took just a few seconds–usually less than 10 seconds even for complicated artwork. One possible solution would be to have a very customizeable preferences panel for Auto Save that would allow you to customize it to the way you work. For example, I often work in Illustrator, get pulled away to work on other projects temporarily and then come back to what I was working on. Why not have an option to save while Illustrator has not been the frontmost program for more than a user-specified amount of minutes/seconds? Or, possibly possibly a setting that tells the computer to alert the user after a user-specified amount of time, “You have three unsaved documents, would you like to save them?”. The software could then bring them to the front and let you decide if you want to save them, cancel save, or close without saving–much like when you try to quit without saving. Even another failsafe could be a keboard/mouse recorder that runs while in Illustrator and autosaves itself to a small text file and could be played back upon rebooting the program. Sure it could take a while for Illustrator to recreate your document, but it would be a lot faster than starting over.

  • Ben Garrison

    gravatarSep 9, 2007
    11:44 pm

    As a long-time Illustrator user, I have had countless hours of productive time lost due to the dreaded unexpected quits. I tried everything. New memory. Maximum memory. New computers. Ugrade after upgrade. Surfing the net looking for solutions. The only solution I came up with was my own: Assigning a voice to the clock. Every fifteen minutes the time would be announced. Only I would hear “TIME TO SAVE.” Of course, this gets annoying if you’re also listening to music or somethng. InDesign allows the user to turn off certain functions that users will rarely need. Illustrator should do that too. Many of us rarely use a lot of the bloat built into the arsenal. Maybe a pared-down program would run smoother and crash less often.

    Often artists get too engrossed in the process to remember to save. On large files it also takes a long time to save and not practical to hit the S key every few minutes. I thought Illustrator once had a mechanism to save a copy to the desktop to avoid losing what was done up to the time a kernel panic occurs, but that doesn’t happen any more. The program simply disappears like a rabbit down a hole. It can pop like like frail soap bubble and leave you with the ethereal contents of that bubble: Nothing. The only alternative at that point is engaging in a maelstrom of swearing. Sometimes I’ve peeled paint from the wall with my invective. All we can do at that point is rant. Thanks for listening to mine.

  • scott

    gravatarNov 20, 2007
    4:04 pm

    Great, now I find out. I can’t believe for the price we pay for Illustrator that Adobe didn’t have a clue enough to give the user an auto-save option, or moreover, that the program is so flawed as to quit. I was up until 3 in the morning finishing up a new logo that was so tricky to work out, only to learn that I couldn’t even save it. Thanks Adope.

  • Stu

    gravatarJun 26, 2008
    6:42 am

    Copy and paste this into script editor:

    (* Version 1.0 26 June 2008 Script by Stuart James *)

    property userRep : 30 property idleInterval : 1800 — 30 minutes property saveType : “EPS” — type of document

    on idle tell application “Finder” to set myStrator to (name of application process 1 whose creator type = “ART5”) as text

    if myStrator = "" then
        -- do not do anything
        using terms from application "Illustrator CS"
            tell application myStrator
                if exists current document then
                        file path of current document
                        save current document
                    on error
                        set documents to choose file name
                        if saveType = "EPS" then
                            save current document in myfile as eps
                        else if saveType = "PDF" then
                            save current document in myfile as pdf
                            save current document in myfile
                        end if
                    end try
                end if
            end tell
        end using terms from
    end if
    return idleInterval

    end idle

    on run set userRep to choose from list {5, 15, 30, 45, 60} default items userRep with prompt “Set the interval between saves in minutes” cancel button name “Cancel” without multiple selections allowed and empty selection allowed if userRep = false then set userRep to 30 set idleInterval to (userRep * 60) set saveType to choose from list {“EPS”, “PDF”, “AI”} default items saveType with prompt “Select format to save file to” cancel button name “Cancel” without multiple selections allowed and empty selection allowed if saveType = false then set saveType to “EPS” set saveType to saveType as text end run

  • Cait

    gravatarSep 30, 2008
    3:43 pm

    ~_~ Googled to see if illustrator had an auto save thing as illustrator just died after 3 hrs of work. XD

    le sigh

  • Benjamin Jancewicz

    gravatarOct 21, 2008
    9:34 am

    The feature is available now!


  • Daniela

    gravatarNov 13, 2008
    5:47 pm

    Thanxs a lot!!! I’ve spent many hours doing things that i would lose later because of the problems of my PC, i don’t understan too much of this, because I don’t get the most of computer things.. but this was something that was driving me crazy, so I realy apreciate this!! Thank you very much!!! This must be spread all over the designers world!!!! :) My happiness have come back!!

  • Adobe

    gravatarJun 29, 2009
    10:37 pm

    FUCK YOU ADOBE FOR NOT HAVING AUTO RECOVERY, Lost my work so many times, keep the fuck up with other companies. pfft

  • ben

    gravatarOct 14, 2009
    9:39 am

    No matter how it stores the document, there’s no hard limitation on periodic backups. Databases can be backed up. I use source control (svn) that can merge, store and track changes of just about any binary or ascii object, quickly. This is simply a case Adobe Illustrator being the standard and the product manager not having the right priorities. As a developer it’s at times a form of cognitive dissonance to think that your software crashes – of course in the real world it happens and at all the worst times..


    gravatarMar 15, 2010
    9:24 am

    totally agree with the ‘adobe’comment.. GODDAMN YOU ADOBE for Illy so FUCKING unstable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I and my work pay megabucks for a version of your program, lOSE HOURS OF WORK and then you do NOTHING to actually solve it’s problems except come out with CS4 which they then want more money for.

    If they had ANY sense of justice they would give extremely cheap upgrade vouchers for those struggling with the HORROR that is Illy CS3.

  • Paul

    gravatarApr 14, 2010
    6:10 am

    I’ve got an external auto-save application, it’s called taking a picture of the computer screen with a digital camera before clicking the close button.

    Fucking Illustrator.

  • Max

    gravatarJun 8, 2010
    5:16 am

    It eems that in software world the rule is : the more you pay the worse quality and unproductive you get. Dont loose time learning adobe softwares, learn gimp and inkscape, save money and time. Maybe, adobe will someday come back to quality, for the moment they seem to be doing like a lot of company, concentrating a lot of efforts on marketing and management with people who dont know nothing about computers. One day they may realise that thousands of bad developpers will never make a good soft, only 10 very good ones are necessary.

  • DrawFanboy

    gravatarJul 31, 2010
    6:20 pm

    Perhaps folks in US should learn what so many of us in Canada & Europe know: go with Corel Draw.