And yes, I do have it "visible" by the menu item...is there a trick to getting this extremely handy thing to show up when it's needed?
well, for some reason it is showing right now and I have several objects selected which use the same gradient.(edit) and there's a gradient annotator showing for each object.
I have always had trouble getting it to appear consistently.
What you see with multiple objects selected are more directional indicators, not the annotator. Note you can not click any of those "lines" and edit the gradient the way you can with the annotator. As soon as you click, you've got 1 object selected.
Perhaps Scott is correct but like me you might own and older Macpro than he does or you ae on the Windows platform bvut for me it works like it does in the video…
But it is possible you have more than one fill one being a gradient fill and one being a solid color and in the appearance panel you have the solid fill selected watch this video…
I'm on Windows and using CS5, works the same as Wade showed - but if not all gradients are the same the Gradient panel can't be used and it will show the question mark.
Also the Gradient tool will not show if a group is selected as indicated by the bigger square in the selection column of the layer's panel. If it is only one object in a group the Gradient tool will never show. It will show for object/s in a group if not all objects in the group are selected.
What emil says is correct and it sounds like from what the OP has stated it is very possible he is selecting a group and all he has to do is select only the objects in the group that have gradients and then the annotator will be visible.