by infinite_resolution


May 20, 2010

Ruler updates in Illustrator CS5

Based on PostScript model, Illustrator’s artboard position was defined in the first quadrant. This means that the rulers originated from the bottom left of the artboard. In Illustrator CS4, we introduced multiple artboards, but ruler-origin remained the same – at bottom left of the first artboard.


In Illustrator CS5, there has been a significant functional update in ruler. Illustrator CS5 now has a new kind of rulers, called the Artboard Rulers. The origin of these new rulers are at the top-left of ‘each‘ artboard. Which means that each artboard can have its own custom ruler-origin.



If usage of rulers is common in your design process in Illustrator, here are a few things of interest in AiCS5:

  • With this update positive vertical increment happen in the Y-axis when going from top to bottom, similar to other applications like InDesign and Photoshop.
  • When changing the ruler origin, pattern fills used to get re-tiled and their appearance changed. With Artboard Rulers, ruler-origin changes do not affect pattern fills.
  • For those using scripts, the existing scripts from older versions would continue to work the same way. They need not be modified to updated coordinates.

Here a great video on Adobe TV by Mordy Golding that explains this.

Contributed by Neeraj Nandkeolyar, Illustrator Workflow Team


  • By Sounav - 1:05 PM on July 29, 2010  

    Great feature!

    • By Ivan - 6:44 AM on December 1, 2010  

      Great feature? typing -6in to move an object upward is a great feature?

  • By Michael Moyer - 12:10 PM on August 18, 2010  

    I have 5 years worth of work and thousands of dollars worth of film all with the orgin in the lower left corner (1st quadrant)! How can I change CS5 from the 4th quadrant back to the 1st quadrant????

    …I prefered the old way

  • By Moon Cohoe - 3:33 PM on August 30, 2010  

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  • By Bill Leyo - 7:43 PM on August 30, 2010  

    I agree with Michael. The old way followed the standard formula taught to every grade school child. Upward of the x-axis and right of the y-axis is positive. Downward of the x-axis and left of the y-axis is negative. This has been the case sine the ancient Greeks. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  • By por - 1:46 AM on September 26, 2010  

    there is no ruler setting wtf??? i want to set 10s pixel on ruler

  • By Bev Harmon - 3:53 PM on November 2, 2010  

    I totally agree with Bill and Michael – it wasn’t broken and you broke it. I am going to have hours in this change. Put it back!!!!

  • By frank klatil - 7:01 PM on November 18, 2010  

    Where is any readable documentation on how to reset the ruler origin to its default position?

  • By Dennis - 2:42 PM on February 3, 2011  

    I also agree w/ Michael & Bill. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  • By Rich Gartland - 6:14 PM on April 15, 2011  

    Can somebody give advice for how to display page item coordinates in a CS Extension panel, where there might be older documents or CS5-created documents? If the coordinate system changed in CS5, it might seem that besides showing the left and top coordinates, for example, it would be necessary also to say something about the coordinate system being used (old or new) — or is there a best practice for displaying coordinates in a way that takes the differing coordinate systems into account? I’m having a heck of a time understanding whether I should make use of the document’s “rulerOrigin” and/or “pageOrigin” properties, and on top of that — what are the coordinate systems for those properties? The documentation is really not very helpful here.

    • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 9:04 AM on April 19, 2011  

      Till CS4 there was just one ‘canvas’ ruler, the co-ordinates of which were applicable to all the artboards. But with this update in CS5, each artboard has its own ruler origin, the default of which is at the top-left of each artboard. This top-left origin is same as what we have in InDesign or Photoshop. When working with multiple version files, the creator version of the file can be one indicator that differentiates between ‘canvas’ and ‘artboard’ rulers. While CS5 has the newer capability of artboard rulers, older versions just have one ruler. So, opening an older version file in CS5, the ruler origin gets reset to top-left of each artboard, and that is the only change. No artwork or content is affected in the process.

  • By Mike Key - 2:47 AM on May 4, 2011  

    I too preferred the old way, it was causing much confusion and delay everytime I typed a value into the move dialog box.
    I found a way to fix it though and it actually wasn’t as scary as it looks 🙂

  • By Georgina - 2:29 PM on May 13, 2011  

    Please, please change it back. I can’t get used to this, I have been working everyday for 10 years with the original orientation in the 1st quadrant! Can you fix this immediately? This is very frustrating to me.


  • By ltaylor - 9:00 PM on July 27, 2011  

    What silly person thought it would be a great idea to make +Y transforms move DOWN and -Y transforms move UP? How counter intuitive can you get? Change it back, Adobe, or at least give us a preference to override!

    • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 4:41 AM on August 1, 2011  

      We do understand that moving away from old ways of working does cause some discomfort. And this was debated and discussed much before this change was made. Let me outline a couple of those.
      1. The behavior of Ai w.r.t rulers was opposite to what all other applications, from Adobe and others, were doing. For example, Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat etc. All of these applications have positive increments to move the object down. So, the experience of working with rulers in Ai was opposite (for Y co-ordinate) other applications.
      2. There were additional features related to Rulers that we wanted to introduce, but owing to the limitation of ‘traditional’ way of rulers, which was based on the PostScript model, we weren’t able to do that. After this change we now have rulers which are ‘Artboard’ specific and not fixed for the entire canvas. Also each artboard could now have its own ruler origin.

      As humans we do have a resistance for change, but making this change was necessary for reasons we’ve outlined above. And if you still wish to work the old way, do look at the forum thread and a post in the thread dated May 15, 2010.

      Hope this helps.

  • By Carlos Canto - 11:18 PM on August 15, 2011  

    I just posted a script to make it easier to implement the fix to switch back to CS4-like page origin, given in the forums posts posted above

    look here

    • By Terry Hemphill - 11:44 AM on August 16, 2011  


      Big thanks for sharing this with the community.

      –Terry H.

  • By Willy - 5:16 AM on December 11, 2011  

    Hi. I have hundreds of AI CS4 files with artboard rulers turned on. When I open such files in my new install of CS5.5, the artboard are still there. But I cannot figure out how to turn them off to take advantage of the new toggling between global rulers and artboard rulers (which I like – the CS4 artboard rulers were very hard to see because their green color does not stand out except when in artboard view).

    • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 1:53 AM on December 15, 2011  

      Hello Willy,
      It would be nice if you could send a sample CS4 file to . It will help us look into the issue better.


  • By Paul Hershfield - 10:15 AM on December 14, 2011  

    Our office uses the CAD Tools plug-in constantly – we design envronmental graphics. It used to be (CS3) that the CAD Tools transform pallette recognized the zero position of the illustrator ruler, which was hugely useful as regards positioning items relative to one another. NOw, with rulers tied to the artboard, this function is gone. The CAD Tools folks know about it, but it won’t be fixed until CS6 comes out, meaning we have to upgrade our entire office again.

    • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 2:08 AM on December 15, 2011  

      Hello Paul,

      I haven’t used CAD Tools plugin and would not be able to comment on that. If you’re looking for copy-pasting of content based on ruler co-ordinates (Paste in Front / Back), this did stop in CS5. At the same time two new functionality (Paste in All Artboards and Paste in Place) were introduced. See if these help the workflow.


  • By VoltisArt - 4:25 PM on February 3, 2012  

    Paste in Place…I’ve been waiting since the first time I touched Illustrator for that. Thank you for pointing it out, Neeraj, (first full day on CS5 for me). Just switched the keyboard shortcut with my former nemesis…”Paste in the middle of the window — wherever that happens to be.”

  • By Michael D - 1:42 PM on February 14, 2012  

    Let me get this straight: Users asked for muliple pages like we had in FreeHand and we got muliple art boards. Now we get rulers that are reversed and tied to those art boards? This is not about resistance to change: Illusterator is the most “mathematical” design application that Adobe offers and it had *correct* ruler orientation. Why did you choose to break it rather than fix the others?

  • By joe - 10:25 AM on February 24, 2012  

    how can i undo the perspective grid if i accidentally selected it- i ruined a drawing bc i accidentally hit the button -AGAIN

  • By Jonathan Yao - 2:34 AM on May 13, 2013  

    Just like what my MATH teacher thought us, the 1st quadrant must always be positive, anything going left or down from 0 is always negative, why would you wanna change that? makes me wonder why did i study MATH when you will invent your own coordinates, i prefer the old way, going up and going left is always positive. I don’t want to change my old artworks, ADOBE people should have thought about this before they change it.

  • By Jonathan Yao - 2:37 AM on May 13, 2013  

    it is okay for you to change as long there is an option to retain the old setting of the XY coordinates.

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