You need to deeply specify your requirements in order to get a serious answer.
I think that you need to more fully define your needs as Kurt mentions.
For most everything I do that using Illy is not a requirement, I far prefer Xara Designer Pro. Some things I can only do in Illustrator without work-arounds in XDP, and yet some work I can do in Serif DrawPlus form start to finish.
Without me defining what those things are, the above is worthless to you.
Take care, Mike
I don't think you will actually find any package that is per se "better" than AI. As the others said, it specifically depends on what kind of workflows you have. E.g. for dealing with CAD drawings, having a program like ViaCAD may be more efficient than having AI, CorelDraw, Xara al lat the sam time 'cos chances are it handles DWGs and DXFs better tha nany of those... Really depends.
Me, I'm wondering if is a more efficient software than AI. In my office we have the CS5.1 Version and with large files is out of memory, I'm currently testing the 64bit version of AI CS6, and even the application doesn't crash with the files I had troubles, the performance is still really slow, I can't work comfortably with bigger files. If I'm working on a Intel Xeon 2,67GHz with 4 cores, and 14GB of Ram I think at least I can have a decent performance with large files... but Illustrator doesn't handle them with efficiency. Even the CS6 comes with 64bit version, is still working really slow, each version is getting heavier and heavier, doesn't matter how powerful your workstation can be...
I see JET and others here...criticize (justifiably) it for not being as good as other vector tools.
I can't speak for "and others", but since I'm the only one you mention by name:
If you've already deemed the criticism justifiable, then you must already know what that criticism says. When I criticize Illustrator, I don't just say "Illustrator is crap" and leave it at that, unsupported. I'm careful to explain myself with facts pertinent to the context of the discussion. I actually own and know how to use the other programs to which I compare. I've often posted lists of comparitive features.
I've always used my real name here and sign all my posts with my initials. So finding my comments is not difficult.
I know there are competitors, Inkscape is free, others less costly than Illy; and seemingly better/easier/faster to use...at least for some things. So my question: What is better than Illustrator (I'm using CS5) and why? What can they do better than Ai?
Didn't you just answer your own question? Other than the broadly general things you just mentioned, what program do you want to compare, and for doing what? Surely you're not asking someone to do an exhaustive feature-by-feature comparison between Illustrator and all similar programs in this one thread?
All you've said about what you use Illustrator for is that your use is nominal, occasional, unsophisticated, and non-commerical. Mine isn't. Commerical graphics has been my livelihood for over 40 years. Vector-based illustration is both a speciality and a passion.
I...knowAi is the "de-facto std"
"Defacto standard" is self-fulfilling. It's effectively equivalent to saying "More people use Illustrator because more people use Illustrator."
So what? More people ride Vespa scooters than KTM motorcycles. But which one would you call "professional quality"? You can use either one to pick up a gallon of orange juice at the corner store. But if you enter an enduro, the KTM will get the job done with alot less stress.
The myth is that most software buyers choose the best. That's as naive as the faith that most voters do.
Illustrator has been slothfully resting on its "defacto standard" haunches since the dark ages (AKA the 80s). "Defacto standard" be hanged.
I do have occasional issues with Illy with tools and UI....just not as easy or robust as it could/should be...cumbersome at times.
Okay. What issues? State something specific and users actually familiar with other programs can compare.
This is the 21st century. There's really little new under the sun here. A 2D drawing program is just an interface pasted on top of mostly the same old geometric functionality. The competitive advantage goes to the offering that best (easy) and most fully (robust) empowers the user. The multiplication of easy and robust yields elegance. That's a term I've never applied to Illustrator. Illustrator is one of the oldest of the bunch, lounging under the sun for so long it's at risk of skin cancer. Yet it still fails to provide basic functionality users of other drawing programs have taken for granted for decades.
Examples that may be germane to your casual, non-commerical use? Try these things in Illustrator:
- Star Tool: Draw a star. Now change the number of points it has.
- Arc Tool: Draw 36 degrees of a circular arc.
- Label that star with a dimension.
- Distribute a group of different objects along a curve.
- Uniformly space Blend steps along a non-uniform curve.
- Attach a Blend to a closed path and have the first/last instances properly positioned.
- Knife Tool: Cut across an open unfilled path.
- Connect a text label to an object that stays connected when you move it.
- Paste a simple graphic into a text string so that it flows with the text.
- Perform a Find/Replace on carriage returns.
- Round Corners: Apply it to an accute or obtuse angle and have it actually yield the radius you specify.
- Crop a raster image.
- Rotate something. Go back later and find out what its rotation angle is.
- Pathfinders: Use them without wrecking existing fills/strokes.
I could go on (and have). How long a list do you want? All the features/functions associated with the above basic operations (and many more) are substandard, half-baked, or even non-existent in Illustrator. This is "professional"-grade software? No, it's largely consumerish rubbish sold at exhorbitant prices just because it's the "defacto standard."
Is it worth having a second program and learning...
Obviously, it is to me (and a third, and a fourth, and...). As I've said many times in this forum, I don't know how anyone can legitimately claim to compare two programs if they've only got workaday familiarity with one.
As with any other endeavor, the more drawing programs you're comfortable with, the less arduous it is to pick up another, because you tend to pick up on the underlying principles involved, as opposed to just becomming habituated to a particular program's command locations and procedures by rote.
But you've been using AI for "many years" and find it to be "OK". So if you're happy with it, use it.
I have a cheap, consumerish Ryobi table saw and it's "OK." But I didn't pay a professional-grade price for it, either. And I'm sure not going to write glorious reviews on it, call it "professional," and get all fearfully brand-loyal defensive about it if someone dares suggest I might ought to learn to use a different one. My use of it, like yours, is merely occasional. But I also presently need to build a TV cabinet, and I'm dreading it. If I were to open a cabinet shop, I'd be much more discriminating, and would do my own homework to make an informed decision.
Or replacing Illy with something?
One doesn't have to "replace." There's nothing any more wrong with using more than one 2D drawing program than there is with using more than one 3D modeling program, or raster imaging program, or page layout program, or word processor, or video edting program, or....
Pro's/Con's that would make one make the effort to try/use something else?
That depends on what one is doing with it. Not knowing that, I can again only offer generalities that matter to me: If you've only ever used one program of a particulat kind, you're rather in the dark regarding functionality that you may be missing that may be important to you. (Second-degree ignorance: You don't know what you don't know.) If you're mission-dependent upon that one program, you're also kind of captive to the whims and agenda of its vendor.
That very well may not matter to you, given your nominal, occasional, unsophisticated, and non-commerical use. And if so, that's fine.
I don't even know what out there is better than Illy. I've searched www and got a few hints but nothing very significant.
But you just said you've been reading a bunch of posts here which mention other programs.
Am I wasting my time looking?
Only you can answer that about your time. Time is all any of us have.
Your feedback welcomed to help me decide whether to explore/trial other programs.
No offense, but frankly it sounds like you're just not motivated enough to do your own homework. If you are sufficiently motivated, visit the websites of other drawing program vendors. Read the features lists. Dowload the demos, read the documentation, and try them out. Visit the programs' user forums. Or, if it's really not that important to you, don't.
If you've got questions about specific functionality and/or specific programs, be more specific about what you do (or want to do).