Adobe Illustrator is a professional drawing and design application that saves drawings in a vector graphic format with the ai file extension. This means that any file with the .ai extension is native to Adobe Illustrator.
For this reason, you can open this type of file in almost any Adobe application — including Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, and Flash, but it can be tricky to open AI files if you don’t have Illustrator. So, in this article, we’ll show you how o open an ai file without Adobe Illustrator.
How to open AI file without Illustrator software
There are many programs that can open AI files, but you cannot edit them. The default AI file storage settings in Illustrator allow saving files with embedded PDF content. This means users can view them in most applications that support PDF viewing.
- In Windows, you need to change the extension to PDF by selecting the file and pressing F2 , then adding .pdf to the end of the file name and confirming the change when notified. Now double-click the file and it will open in the default PDF viewer.
- On a Mac, you can view the AI file in Preview without any changes.
- You can also download AI files to Google Drive and see them there.
Open AI file in Photoshop or GIMP
If you need to combine the AI image into work without editing it directly, you can use Photoshop or GIMP software for free. For example, in the case of a logo created in Illustrator and want to add a designed poster in Photoshop.
When opening images in these applications, it is imported as PDF. You will see the Import dialog box and accept the default proposal. One thing to note is that you should import large images if you don’t want to lose the features of vector graphics and then zoom out if you want.
When finished, you can copy and paste the image into the existing layer or add additional layers to this file, then choose to save it in another format.
If the above options do not work, it is possible that the default settings have been changed when saving the original file. If so, try changing the file type to EPS (other vector image format). Also, try converting the image to another format.
How To Edit AI Files Without Illustrator
When you download an Illustrator template or get sent an AI file that you need to edit, things get trickier. There aren’t many mainstream apps that can edit AI files natively; you normally have to convert it to a different format first.
Convert AI To SVG Or EPS Online
If you are going to convert the file yourself, you should convert it to SVG. This is an open format with wide support, although it’s designed primarily for web use. If you’re working in print, try EPS instead.
To convert your image:
- Go to cloudconvert.com.
- Click Select Files and choose the file from your hard drive.
- Next, click Select Format and choose either SVG or EPS, listed under Vector.
- Select Start Conversion, and wait.
- When it’s done, click Download to save your newly converted file.
Problems With Editing Converted AI Files
Whenever you try to edit AI files without Illustrator, there are a few potential problems you need to be aware of.
- Conversions are not always 100 percent accurate. This is especially true when the original file used features or effects unique to Illustrator.
- You’ll often lose layer information. This can make complex files difficult to navigate since all the elements will no longer be labelled.
- You often cannot save or export your edited file in the AI format (and Illustrator can’t read the proprietary format of your editing app either). Save in a format like SVG or EPS for widest compatibility.
Whether or not you need to convert your file first depends on what software you’re using. Here are the best apps for editing Adobe Illustrator (AI) files.
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Best Apps for Editing Adobe Illustrator (AI) Files
Gravit Designer is a great free Illustrator alternative. It’s a cloud-based app that runs on Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS, or directly in your browser so you can open and edit AI files online.
To work with AI files you need to convert them to the SVG format first, as outlined above. Once that’s done, simply drag the file into the Gravit Designer window to open it.
As is often the case, all parts of the image are grouped into a single layer, but they can be edited individually.
The app has a very modern and user-friendly interface. Although there’s plenty of power beneath the hood, it makes working with vector art very accessible. It’s especially good for things like logos, icons, and symbols.
Download: Gravit Designer (Free).
The most well-known free Illustrator alternative is the open-source Inkscape. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
You can open AI files directly in Inkscape. It doesn’t support drag-and-drop, so you need to go to File > Open and then select the document from your hard drive.
The file is then imported as a PDF. Like Photoshop, you have to click through some Import settings first—you can accept the defaults here—but unlike Photoshop, the resulting image is fully editable.
All the parts of the image are grouped together. The easiest way to select a specific element is to hit F2 to activate the “Edit nodes” tool, then hover over the image until the part you want is highlighted. Then click to select it.
You can’t save edited images in AI format. SVG and EPS are supported as alternatives.
Download: Inkscape (Free)
Sketch is a Mac-only design suite and it’s one of the best vector software for Mac designers on a budget. If you’re looking to open and edit AI files on a Mac, it’s a viable choice.
The program has limited native support for Illustrator files. You can open them as you would any other file, but they will only be displayed as a single flattened layer. This is the equivalent of opening it in Photoshop, which means the image is not editable.
Some users have reported success in changing the file extension from AI to PDF. Select the file on your computer and add .pdf to the end of the filename. Drag it into Sketch to get an editable image. Your results here may depend on the complexity of the file, however.
A more foolproof solution is to convert the file to the SVG format using CloudConvert. Since you cannot save files in the AI format this also represents the best way of ensuring your edited file can be reopened in Illustrator in the future.
Download: Sketch (Free trial available)
Affinity Designer is a commercial graphic design package available for Windows and Mac. We rate it as the best Adobe Illustrator alternative. It’s aimed at the same pro users, but is subscription-free—it’ll cost you less than three months of an equivalent Adobe sub.
The program can open AI files as long as they have been saved with PDF content (the default in Illustrator). This means you lose the layer information, as usual, and cannot save the file in its original format.
If you want to be able to open your edited image in Illustrator again, you need to save it in PDF, SVG, or EPS format.
Affinity Designer is a powerful and popular piece of software with an impressive feature list. It could be a good option for anyone looking to transition away from Illustrator.
Download: Affinity Designer (Free trial available)
CorelDRAW is a graphic design program for Windows. The Home & Student Suite is affordably priced for mainstream users, while there are more deluxe offerings for pros. Either way, you get AI support.
The software works with native AI files made with Illustrator versions up to and including CS6, or with PDF-enabled files made in more recent versions.
You need to import the files by going to File > Import, then clicking through the Import settings (which you’ll only see for the PDF-based files).
The main option to consider here is whether to have the text rendered as text (which makes it editable but may lose some effects), or as curves. This will be a more accurate conversion, but the text won’t be editable.
When you have finished editing the Illustrator file you can export it back to the AI format. However, if you’ve used any features unique to CorelDRAW, these won’t be supported in Illustrator.
Corel also makes Paint Shop Pro, the Photoshop alternative. This app can open and save AI files natively but is generally less suitable for vector graphics work.
Download: CorelDRAW (Free trial available).
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