January 26, 2014

Create custom toolbars in Illustrator CC

A click here, a mouse drag there—it adds up quickly. Now Illustrator lets you make your workspace more efficient by organizing your tools into custom panels:

I really like the ability to unbury certain tools (e.g. various shapes), especially as I’ve kinda never forgiven Illustrator for changing the way keyboard shortcuts work circa AI9. (In Photoshop, Shift+letter lets you cycle among tools that share that letter. In Illustrator, you can assign Shift+letter to a specific tool. Some people swear by one approach & some by the other.) I know, it’s been nearly 15 years, and I deeply need to get a life. (How am I not typing this from my parents’ basement?)

As for the inevitable, “So, where’s this feature in Photoshop?,” you can maybe blame me. I didn’t want to do just toolbar customization, or do it in just Photoshop. Rather I wanted to let people remix nearly any UI elements together (tools, menu items, etc.) and do so across apps. That’s where Adobe Configurator came from. Hundreds of thousands of people downloaded it, but only a few used it to create & share toolbars & other custom panels. Maybe I let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and I need to write up a post-mortem on that.

Posted by John Nack at 11:11 AM on January 26, 2014


  • John Stevenson — 11:57 AM on January 26, 2014

    John, I think that it’s possible to figure-out what the opening is for your post-mortem. In connection with this: http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2014/01/like-converting-flash-to-html-hang-your-shingle-here.html there is a flip-side – that Configurator has now definitely reached the end of its road. There is a recent message on that at the Adobe Labs. forum: http://forums.adobe.com/message/5946992#5946992
    I withdrew into my own basement so as to learn to use it in the v.2 and v.3 releases. But found that to be a very trying exercise. Particularly over the need to upgrade the already authored Extensions when CS5 graduated to CS6, and then again for CS6 to CC. And then yet again over the security certifications. I think (now, based upon a widened knowledge of the other applications) that it would indeed have been of most use for Illustrator, But the newest Configurator (v.4) applies to Photoshop and InDesign alone.
    Maybe it’s worth a trip back to the mancave to look at: http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/extensionbuilder3.html ..? But, so many of the Labs. efforts become abandoned …

  • PECourtejoie — 1:54 AM on January 27, 2014

    Yes, I think that one issue with Labs projects is their discoverability.
    Maybe if they were available from a panel, à la Exchange, it might help them be more widespread…

    There are different technologies that allows to create panels, as John stated, and maybe the limitations in Configurator pushed some to use ESB instead. Plus all the hurdles along the way.

    Sad. Especially looking at all the good stuff SBaril and others have done with it…

  • David Jensen — 3:16 AM on January 27, 2014

    I made panels with Configurator, but never shared them on the internet, though I’ve shared many scripts. I don’t know which combination of tools other people will want.

    This new feature in Illustrator would be great in PS if I could also make custom buttons and attach actions and scripts to them. I don’t need all the features in Configurator to be replaced.

  • imajez — 5:50 AM on January 31, 2014

    Wow, Illustrator has finally caught up with Corel Draw, which could allow you to customise this stuff 20 years ago.
    Unfortunately CorelDraw was sneered at and overlooked as it was a PC programme, therefore of no interest to ‘real’ designers who only used Macs. A shame as it was much, much easier to use and more powerful in many ways too.

    I spent many years feature requesting how Corel did things to be incorporated into PS and thankfully many of them did appear. Albeit, a long time later.

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