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If you have an irregular vector object in Illustrator, you should be able to set the fill to none. That will make the interior of the object transparent. Is that what you want?
Pixlor, thanks for your reply. It's the space around the outside of an object that I'm trying to make transparent. Example: Draw a filled circle (in FW or IL) and you have a filled circle in a square bounding box. The four corners of the bounding box each will have a space -- from the corners of the bounding box to the edge of the circle. That's what I want to make transparent in IL (and which is easy to do in FW).
Vector images in Illustrator don't have filled areas in their bounding boxes. They're natively transparent there. The canvas color is usually always white. Export to web as a transparent gif and you'll see.
To my knowledge the only way to make a bitmap transparent in Illustrator is to draw and apply a mask for the bitmap. Would love a magic wand.