What an amazing program! I just installed CS3 and so far I love it!
I use Illustrator for one of my client's who wants all pre-press created in Illustrator. I updated to CS3 because of the superior foreign font handling. Most of my label design work is non-English and the earlier versions of Illustrator displays a question mark when it doesn't recognize a letter, which was causing way too much swearing and yelling on my part.
Anyway--I've been playing with the program and checking out new features and improvements. One new feature is called 'live trace'. I cannot believe it- what used to take hours now takes mere minutes. I think my amazement is increased because I've gone from version 10 to CS3, skipping 2 full versions. And the changes are significant.
Here is an example:
On the left is a photo, a raster image placed into Illustrator. (I removed the background in PhotoShop prior to placing in Illustrator). The middle image was done in Illustrator using the "live trace with 5 colors" - meaning with the click of the mouse, the image is converted to a vector image with 5 colors. All can be edited- the image is now a vector image. The B&W image is also a vector image, made with one click and using "live trace with inked drawing".
Side note- this porcelain Buddha was purchased by my father in Japan during WWII. He was a Lt. Commander in the Navy on the USS Karnes and had a port visit one early Sunday morning in a tiny Japanese village. The little village was all closed up, but one store owner saw the US Navy men walking around and he opened up his shop for business- soon the entire village opened up their stores- all hoping the Americans would spend money in their shops. My dad bought this Buddha that morning and brought it home with him. For years Buddah stood in our living room. Now he stands in my sister's house.