Adobe Illustrator navigation tools as well as the Navigator panel.

Navigator Panel
Navigator Panel
Navigator tools
Navigator tools

Illustrator navigation tools. Hand Tool

The tool that is used very often is the Hand Tool (whose keyboard shortcut is H, but in case you only want to switch to this tool for a second and return to the active one you worked with, you will use the Space key). Hand Tools is located in the Toolbox and looks like an outstretched hand, as you use it to “grab” a document and move it within the screen. The importance of this tool is confirmed by the fact that its keyboard shortcut got the largest button on the keyboard for the Space shortcut. The moment you magnify a document over 100%, you will be forced to use this tool in favor of better navigation.

While holding Space, click the cursor anywhere inside the document, without releasing the Space key, move (drag) the cursor in the desired direction while holding the left key. In case you do not see some parts of the document, you can drag them this way within the overview part on the desktop.

Illustrator navigation tools. Zoom Tool

Next to the Hand Tool is the Zoom Tool (Z), which has a magnifying glass icon

To execute the Zoom In command, select the Zoom Tool, and then click inside the document. This command will result in enlarging the document on the monitor, without making any changes to the document itself. As you can see, the cursor now looks like a magnifying glass with a plus sign inside. The place where you hold the magnifying glass cursor, when you zoom in on a document, is the place that will be magnified in the new view as central to the desktop.

To execute the Zoom Out command, hold down Alt, and then click inside the document. This command will result in reducing the document on the monitor, without making any changes to the document itself. The moment you hold down the Alt key, the cursor no longer has a plus in it, but a minus. The place where you hold the magnifying glass cursor when you zoom out is the place that will be central in the new thumbnail within the desktop.

You can do all this even if any other tool is selected. If you right-click within the desktop, an options menu will open, where Zoom In and Zoom Out are offered. The best and easiest way is to learn their keyboard shortcuts, as they will make it much easier for you to work in Illustrator:

  • Crtl + – magnifies the current screen display (hold down Ctrl and the + key).
  • Crtl – will minimize the current screen display (hold down Ctrl and the – key).
  • Ctrl + 0 – Fit Artboard in Window enlarges / reduces the active page until it fits all the way to the desktop.
  • Alt + Ctrl + 0 – Fit All in Window enlarges / reduces all pages until they fit all the way to the desktop.
  • Ctrl + 1 – enlarges / reduces the active page to a scale of 1: 1, ie. Actual Size.

By pressing the Tab key, in any Mode, you can temporarily hide the panels from the screen and thus allow yourself more space to work, while pressing the Tab key returns them again.

Everything we did with these two tools, we can do from the Navigator panel. You launch it with the Window> Navigator command, and it will appear as a separate panel within the desktop, which you can now attach to a panel group on the right, or simply use it instantly, and then minimize it to an icon or turn it off.

The Red Rectangle indicates the part of the page that is enlarged
The Red Rectangle indicates the part of the page that is enlarged

Most of the space in the panel is a window that shows a thumbnail version of the currently active document.

If the size of your document is large, during 1: 1 magnification (Actual Size), ie when the document is at 100% of its size, we will not be able to see it in its entirety within the screen.

Illustrator navigation tools. The size of 100% is the Actual Size of a document. In Illustrator, documents can be zoomed to larger sizes to make changes easier.

The red box (View Box) in the Navigator panel preview window shows which part of the document is currently visible on the screen within the desktop. If you want to display another part of the document:

  • position the cursor inside the Navigator panel and the cursor will turn from the arrow to the Hand Tool view, move the red box (View Box), the visible part of the document area, to the part of the image you want to display.

In the lower part of the panel on the left side, there is a text field, which is used to display the percentage of enlargement or reduction of the currently active document in relation to its actual size – Zoom Level. You can enter the desired numeric value in it and thus more precisely adjust the magnification level of the document you need.

Next to it is a slider. Dragging the slider to the left will result in the Zoom Out command, i.e. you will have the impression that the document is moving away, while dragging the slider to the right will result in the Zoom In command, ie. as if a document were approaching.

If you want to change the color of the View Box from red, click the cursor on the panel options button (Panel Options …) and a window will appear in front of you:

Panel Option

In the options of this panel, in addition to the Panel Options… option, there is also the View Artboard Content Only option. If you check this option, not all pages of the active document will be displayed in the Navigator panel, but only the currently active page.

Illustrator navigation tools. We have already learned that we can do a certain type of document navigation from the Artboards panel. If we double-click on the page name in it, we will activate it and enlarge it to the Fit Artboard in Window option.

At the bottom of the desktop, there are additional options that make it easier to navigate within the document.

Illustrator navigation tools

Starting from the left, we see the sides:

  • Current Zoom Level of the document, ie. active pages. If you click on the triangle on the right, a drop-down menu will open in which you can select the offered values for the magnification level:
Illustrator navigation tools
Zoom Level menu
  • This is followed by the Artboard Navigation window, which displays the sequence number and name of the active page. By clicking on the drop-down triangle on the right, you can select another page as the active one to be displayed in the Fit Artboard to Window option. With the two arrows on the right side of this window, you can go to the first page (First) or the previous (Previous), while with the help of the arrows behind you can go to the next page (Next) or the last in the document (Last), and thus enlarge the newly displayed does not fit all on the desktop:
Illustrator navigation tools
Artboard Navigation
  • At the end there is certain information about the document that can be selected from the drop-down menu in the Show submenu:
Illustrator navigation tools
The Show submenu gives you the option to select the information to be displayed in that section

Method of reviewing documents

While working on a particular document in Illustrator, you can choose different ways to view the objects contained in it. The standard one, and the one you will use most often, is Preview Mode, which allows you to make changes within the document that gives the final look, ie how the document will look printed or on the screen.

Another way to view your document and objects on pages is Outline Mode. When active, Illustrator hides all the colors and effects of objects in your document and displays the geometric shapes of all objects. Although it consists only of black lines (vector paths) that represent the contours of objects within the document, this way of viewing will be useful for aligning, easier selection and editing of some hidden objects, etc. Change the view mode with the command View> Preview / Outline (depending on which is currently active) or the fastest keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Y.

Illustrator navigation tools

Overprint and Pixel Preview

In case you are creating a graphic that you intended to print, Illustrator offers you a special Preview Mode called Overprint Preview. You can access it with the View> Overprint Preview command or the Alt + Shift + Ctrl + Y keyboard shortcut. This way you can see the best view of how your graphics will be printed.

When you create graphics that you have intended for the web, Illustrator offers you another Preview Mode called Pixel Preview, which you launch in View> Pixel Preview or with the keyboard shortcut Alt + Ctrl + Y. As we have already mentioned, unlike Photoshop, which is a raster program, Illustrator is based on vectors. It is very important for web designers to review the image they are preparing for the web in this Mode in order to see the jagged edges in case the graphics are converted from vector to raster. Accordingly, this Mode essentially displays vector graphics in a raster made up of pixels. To understand this best, enlarge the document to the maximum and switch between Preview Mode and Pixel Preview Mode using keyboard shortcuts. You will see that a “network” is created during Pixel Preview Mode. These are the pixels that form the image when it comes to raster graphics, so your vector graphics will be displayed when you save it as a raster document.

Rulers & Guides

You can use the View> Rulers> Show Rulers command or the Ctrl + R keyboard shortcut to add vertical and horizontal Rulers, which measure the X and Y coordinates of the active document. By right-clicking on it, we can select the units in which we want it to be displayed. Each page in the document, according to the Illustrator standard, has its own ruler and its own X and Y coordinates that the vertical and horizontal rulers measure. You can best see this by going from one page to another, the ruler measures its width and length from a point in the upper left corner that will have a value of X and Y coordinates 0 (zero). If you want this ruler to measure the entire document, ie to have only one ruler for each page (one horizontal and one vertical), activate it with the command View> Rulers> Change To Global Rulers or with the keyboard shortcut Alt + Ctrl + R.

Illustrator navigation tools

By default, the ruler displays the sizes in the active units that you set when you created the document, but you can change that by right-clicking the ruler. A pop-up menu will open with the units offered, and you can select the active one with one click.

Illustrator navigation tools. When the ruler is visible, left-click on it and drag the Guide to the desktop. The guide is visible on the screen, but only as an aid, which means that it would not be visible on a saved print document or web. These guides are very useful for aligning objects on the pages of a document, especially because they have “magnets” (this option is called Snap) that help a particular object you move “stick” to the guide you placed. You can adjust or move the already created guide with Selection or Direct Selection tools (tools in the form of black and white arrows at the top of the Toolbo used for selecting and moving vector objects), lock it with the command View> Guides> Lock Guides, hide and make visible again View> Guides> Hide Guides, and finally delete them with the View> Guides> Clear Guides command. When you select one of the existing guides by clicking on it with the Selection Tool, it will be displayed in a slightly darker color than the others.

Illustrator navigation tools

You can adjust the color and style of the guide in the window you open with the command Edit> Preferances> Guides and Grid …

Illustrator navigation tools
Guides and Grids section in the Preferences panel

Smart Guides

Illustrator navigation tools. Unlike regular guides that you set yourself to where you want, smart guides (which are included in Illustrator immediately by default) Illustrator itself includes for you to help especially when aligning objects in pages. They are activated when Smart Guides is checked in the View drop-down menu. If not, click View> Smart Guides or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + U. Now, as you move a specific object across the desktop, various smart guides appear to assist you as you work in Preview or Outline Mode. The Edit> Preferances> Smart Guides … command opens a window where you can adjust when you want all the smart guides to assist you and which Alignment Guides help you align the objects you draw or move relative to some others by recognizing their center or edges:

Illustrator navigation tools
The pink guides are Smart Guides, as well as a field showing the displacement values
  • Object Highlighting – identifies and shows the contours of the objects you are hovering over.
  • Transform Tools – names for the transformation that is currently performed on the object, such as Rotate (rotation around its axis) or Scale (resize).
  • Construction Guides – appear when you create a new object following the angles of similar objects or given angles. You can set up to six different identification angles for this option.
  • Anchor / Path Labels – identifies and shows the text name of the parts of the object you move the mouse over (Path – path, Anchor – safety point, Handle – curved handle) * All this will be clearer when you go through the drawing lesson with Pen.
  • Measurement Label – identifies the dimension of the object as you make or resize it. They also show the exact coordinates of the Anchor Point if the Anchor / Path Labels option is on.

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