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I create quite big illustrations with a lot of small complex symbols/icons in it, for example different kinds of servers etc. Some icons/symbols are used multiple times in one illustration. Would it improve the performance of illustrator if I convert those icons to illustrator-symbols and use those ones? From my point of view illustrator would only have to save the location of a reference to a symbol instead of all the details of the icon...

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I'd imagine so, but whether you'd notice the difference is another matter. Sounds like you should be using symbols anyway given your use case.

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In your case, possibly a little bit.

I use symbols extensively when creating layouts for GUI and I will convert bitmap screenshots and Illustrator objects to symbols for ease of updating dozens of instances. I find it does improve redraw a little for me, but not to the point where I would automatically turn every unique object to a symbol.

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