open adobe illustrator files with adobe reader

Do you get artwork for design review in Adobe Illustrator format? Don’t own a copy of Illustrator either? This tip came in really handy: you can open up .ai files using Adobe Reader. It will show layers and let you switch visibility of each one too. Very nice. I’m using Reader version 8.1 for Mac.

Maybe if I owned Flash CS3 this wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s nice to know that Reader does the trick nicely. Of course that will be a different story once I need to open the graphics as opposed to just looking at them…

Tip thanks to


Apparently this works with illustrator files saved in CS3 format. Today when I opened ai files in Reader, the layers weren’t visible anymore (in fact, a bunch of the content was not displayed). But then importing into Flash 8 worked fine, so…

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5 Responses to open adobe illustrator files with adobe reader

  1. David Lowinger says:

    I have read that you can open adobe illustrator files (.ai) with adobe reader. I have tried to open some and they will not open, I get this message: “Adobe Reader copuld not open ‘” because it is either not a supported file type or because the file has been damaged (for example, it was sent as an email attachment and wasn’t correctly decoded”. Could you please tell me what am I doing wrong?

  2. noah little says:

    Hi David. I wonder if there’s an issue with the version of Adobe Reader you’re using? Also, the Adobe Illustrator file has to be saved for a certain version format.

    It seemed to play a role with the files that I was dealing with (see update above).

    Good luck!

  3. Freelancelot says:

    Always check on “Create PDF Compatible FIle” when saving your “.ai” file for those you want to open in Reader later. If you don’t do this step, Ai will not embed the pdf data and Reader won’t see it either and give you an error. I’ve been doing this little trick since Illustrator 10.0. As far as I can remember, Reader versions 5 thru 9 can open these ai’s because the files are really a full-featured pdf wrapped in an ai container.

    The newer the .ai version and reader application version, the more features will be available (i.e. layer options, etc). The really cool thing is when I give my logo customers their final ai files after the job is completed & paid, they can open these even in the PC version of Reader. Way cool. They just can’t edit them without Ai/Flash/Freehand. Also, keep in mind that the computer you are viewing it on has to have the fonts installed. So your client’s machine may not read text properly unless you outline all the fonts before saving their copy.

    Rock on!


  4. noah little says:

    Thanks for the tip, Freelancelot. 🙂

  5. Alana says:

    You saved me. Thank you so very, very much!

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