The November 2015 update to Illustrator brought with it some useful but very subtle new features that are easily missed.
As you draw shapes you may notice some extra icons and smart guide activity. These are a new feature called Live Shapes. Live Shapes allows you to draw and manipulate shapes more quickly, easily and accurately without the need to constantly change tools to do so.
In this example we drew a polygon with the standard polygon tool. On completing the shape (and without deselecting the polygon tool) the enclosing frame is now peppered with icons, each of which can adjust the shape in a specific way.
Scaling and rotation are self explanatory however it is not necessary to select the selection tool before using these widgets.
To change the angle of any corner, use the drag the corner radius widgets. A blue highlight will appear to indicate the current corner, this turns red when the maximum radius is reached.
Shape centres are easily identified with the Centre point widget and this can also be used to move the shape around-again without using the selection tool. Polygon shapes also have a Side widget which allows the number of sides to be dynamically edited by dragging.
The shape properties can also be adjusted in more detail using the Transform panel which now features a variety of new controls.
Elliptical shapes can be further adjusted by using the new Pie Widget which divides the ellipse into sections via a simple drag motion. This can also be inverted to create individual slices.
In addition to these features you will also notice new Smart Guide hints which appear as magenta lines as you draw and adjust shapes. New hints include trajectory indicators, diagonal hints and hint crosshairs. The Smart Guides can be controlled by using the Smart Guide Preferences pane.
The Live Shapes features are at least partly designed for use on tablet devices, specifically Microsoft’s Surface, but they add some really intuitve and useful functionality for desktop users too.by