Adobe has revealed an aggressive Spring launch schedule, releasing updates to Illustrator, InDesign and GoLive. The releases follow the company’s bold move into the Web animation field with its LiveMotion announcement last month. Illustrator 9.0 promises to deliver a suite of Web-design tools and – most importantly – has finally added unlimited transparency support and export to the Macromedia Flash format. Web-specific tools headline the upgrade, which will ship in May. Illustrator can export to Flash (SWF) format, adds a Save for Web window that includes image previewing and a Web-safe RGB workflow, with on-the-fly RGB mode changes. A pixel preview mode will debut, letting designers see how vector art will look when rasterized in a Web browser. Other Web tools include glow effects and instant drop shadows and – unique to Illustrator – Live Shapes, which automatically resize shapes to text and other objects when, for example, text is shortened. Yet it is the addition of transparency controls and layer effects that will gain most attention. Transparency – a major advantage of rival Macromedia’s FreeHand – lets designers create fades, ghosted effects and soft shadows. Adobe has upped the ante over FreeHand, with Illustrator supporting unlimited transparency controls and text effects – with it able to apply settings to individual characters. Other transparency effects include blending mode support, which lets users create special effects by combining blending modes with opacity settings and support for Photoshop transparency, letting designers turn Photoshop layers into Illustrator layer or objects, while maintaining each layer’s transparency and masks. Other features include live feathering and previews of overprinting capabilities. Object and layer effects also debut – with Adobe touting it as a unique feature only found in Illustrator 9.0. The feature lets you apply live object and layer effects that change the appearance of objects, groups and layers without changing the underlying paths and text. Adobe says the feature will let users create special effects with raster-based filters, and then have the ability to edit the underlying object without damaging the filter effect. Taking a leaf from Photoshop, layers will be viewable in a Layers palette, says Adobe, with improved organization controls for nested layers. Illustrator 9.0 will also add a Lasso tool, Simplify path function and improved colour management into the release. Adobe Illustrator 9.0 will ship for Mac OS and Windows, and costs £250 plus VAT.