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So, I've been doing a lot of text work lately which requires expanding the active text layers into paths so I can adjust things with more precision. Now, I'm wondering if there's any actual difference between the two functions that do this, namely "Expand", or the "Create Outlines".

I've tested them both and they seem to do exactly the same thing, but what I'm wondering is if they perhaps have some hidden difference where one might be used over the other in certain situations. Why else would there be two tools that do the same thing?

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Nope. No difference. Expanding a text object creates outlines of the text.

It is not unheard of to have multiple methods of accomplishing the same thing.

Create Outlines only works on text objects. But Expand will work on many other objects (and create outlines at the same time). For example, text which has an Envelope Distort on it -- Create Outlines doesn't work, but Expand does. If you select a live text object, and an Envelope Distorted Text object at the same time, Create Outlines will only change the live text leaving the Envelope untouched. Expand alters both objects.

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