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I am busy designing illustrations in Adobe Illustrator for a customer, and they have kindly asked me to save my illustrator files so it is compatible with all versions, and they don't run into any problems. I would just like to know which version I should save it as? The options are: CS6, CS5, CS4, CS3, CS2, CS, Illustrator 10, 9, 8, 3, and Japanese illustrator 3.

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  • When you get requirements, its your job to get them clarified. We can not solve this for you sine we do not know what problem your client is trying to solve with this. Ask them.
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 6:48

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Well there's no such thing as "compatible with all versions".

If you save to a legacy version, often artwork can be expanded/flatted or otherwise changed in order for it to be read by the legacy version. How much anything changes depends greatly upon the actual construction within Illustrator.

  • In many instances, the best balance between compatibility and construction retention is an Illustrator 8 EPS file. But, be aware, saving to AI8 will, in all probability alter the artwork - especially if you used things like transparency and blending modes.

  • For a direct Illustrator to Illustrator transfer, Illustrator CS6 will work better than the AI8 EPS. But, of course, this assumes users are using CS6 or newer. But, this avoids any "subscription-based" version, which is common.

  • A third option is merely a PDF. Since all PDFs can be opened in Illustrator, you may experience the optimum transfer by merely saving the AI file as a high quality PDF. Then whatever version of Illustrator is in use later, will read and adjust the PDF artwork as necessary. Saving as a PDF will often be as compatible as AI8 EPS, if not more so because PDF will retain much of the artwork construction as it is.

I'll stress again that "compatible with all versions" isn't "real-world" feasible. You must set a minimum. No one using a computer operating system released in the last 10 years can run any version of the application older than CS6. There's little point to saving to any legacy version other than CS6 if you are saving as an .ai file. However, some third-party software, such as embroidery or engraving applications, can only see EPS files. So, that's where AI8 EPS comes in.

Knowing the expected usage would assist in targeting the version appropriately, or you may consider merely saving as CS6, AI8 EPS, and high quality PDF, and a native file for whatever version of Ai you are using for each piece and providing 4 files for each illustration. After all saving as another version is a few seconds for you, but compatibility issues later may cost someone hours or days to get around.

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  • I agree. The biggest problem is that it does not even solve any of the issues about having native file formats can bring you. If I save as illustrator 8 ai file (which is annotated eps), ive probably lost any of the advantage of a modern illsutrator simply because the file does not support modern AI very well.
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 6:46
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This is an unusual situation. Typically, Illustrator is the "creators" domain and the "user" would be provided with a .pdf or a file type that is adaptable for their needs (resizing, etc.).

Maybe you are only doing some initial conceptual Illustrations that then someone else will need to rework and/or modify them further in Illustrator? It is hard to say without some more info as to the reason they are wanting the AI files.

AI files in the hands of a client can create nightmares when going to production. Not to mention that as the designer you should be the one working the original AI files (for yours and for their benefit).

All that being said, probably backward compatibility to CS6 is sufficient for most needs. It seems there is a great dividing line of people using the CC subscription versions and the people who did want to go there and are still using CS6. Anything earlier than that, in most cases, would have some limits functionally (again, depending on how your illustrations are constructed).

Depending on your Illustrations, there may be some "new" features of the CC versions that will not come through in the CS6 version- this would need to be checked before you provide the files.

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Read between the lines..

Your client probably just needs to be on the safe side without knowing what to ask for specifically. More so, when things are not made 100% clear, you should also play it "as-it-is" and just send whatever you think that's most likely to be needed.

Your client will probably never open these files and just wants a local backup to "not run into any problems". This, in most cases, means they need the files in case you terminate the contract and never speak to them again.

And no, they do not have separate computers in the office running every version or AI. They do not have a computer with a CS6 licence, another one with a CS5 licence, another with a CS4, CS3 and so on. You get the idea :)

I have seen a lot of these requests and in my experience this should be interpreted as sending everything in CS6 format. It is very unlikely anyone still actively designing today to be using any kind of Illustrator older than CS6.

So..

Send in CS6, and if they have anything to say about that, they will. Otherwise, it will just be done.

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  • Why not? I am designing in 5.5
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 7:31
  • I don't have statistics, but you must be among those few that still actively use anything pre-CS6. Even so, this is beyond the scope in question, as the OP's client is likely never opening the files and just asking for internal backup. And yes, CS6 is 100% the "safest bet", as also mentioned in the other answers.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 12:25
  • Yeah i get that, but i would know to specify version.
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 14:07

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