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I have used Microsoft PowerPoint to make posters so far, and I am considering giving Adobe Illustrator a shot for my next poster. What features does Adobe Illustrator lack compared to Microsoft PowerPoint to make a poster?

For example, one cannot generate bulleted lists automatically in Adobe Illustrator.

(I am aware of the question Software to use for creating posters for academic conferences?.)

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    Interesting choice. Why Illustrator rather than InDesign? Would you be doing a lot of vector drawing? – 410 gone Jul 30 '15 at 17:58
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    Illustrator/Inkscape posters can turn out MUCH nicer than PowerPoint. I highly recommend making the switch, I have switched to Inkscape and I have not looked back once. I can't think of anything in PP that I miss. (Also: to learn, you can follow along with the links from this SciFund poster class, here. I actually took that class, highly recommend that as well :) ) – ff524 Jul 30 '15 at 18:26
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    I believe you could get better results with latex/beamer. – Alexandros Jul 30 '15 at 19:01
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    @Oswald you can't have any transitions in a poster... – ff524 Jul 30 '15 at 19:48
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    I wonder what kind of poster you would like to do and what format you content have. For example, if you are math-heavy or extensively using plugins from Office to visualize things, than you may have problems. – Greg Jul 31 '15 at 3:21
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I believe that Adobe Illustrator has many more features that MS PowerPoint for graphic design and image processing.

The key question is: what will you use those features to accomplish when creating your poster?

I created sever posters in MS PowerPoint and found that it had sufficient features and was easy to use. The only issues came when trying to print it out, because the output of Mac PowerPoint wasn't compatible with the Windows PowerPoint that the printer used.

In my view, extra-fancy graphic design will not result in better posters. Instead, what most posters need is bigger fonts, less text, bigger/simpler graphics and images, and headlines + call-outs that guide the viewer through the story. You can accomplish all these goals using PowerPoint.

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  • Thanks. I am aware that Adobe Illustrator has many features that Microsoft PowerPoint lack (but not necessarily to make a poster): in this question I would like to focus on the features that Adobe Illustrator lack compared the to Microsoft PowerPoint to make a poster, regardless of the fact that Microsoft PowerPoint may be good enough :) – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 30 '15 at 17:44
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    A big +1, great advice. I would like to emphasize BIGGER FONTS. Bigger fonts for conference presentations, bigger fonts for figures in journal articles, and bigger fonts for posters. Pretty much all three the norm (or default in much software) is too small IMO. – Andy W Jul 30 '15 at 23:25
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So I haven't kept up with how illustrator has changed over the years, but when I used it regularly (10+ years ago), I did primarily because of its ability to make vector based graphics. I think (any one can correct me if they know better) that Power point has this ability, but not nearly to the extent that illustrator does. In my opinion, illustrator and power point are fundamentally different in what their intended uses are. Even back when I used illustrator extensively, I never used it for layout and design. I would import graphics from Illustrator into adobe Pagemaker (which is very similar to power point, and imo more appropriate for poster making).

I think it would be fairly frustrating to make a scientific poster solely in Illustrator.

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Illustrator is nice for designing individual vector graphic elements (such as logos) but it is not for typesetting and page layouts. It will also probably be problematic when you try to combine graphics with paragraphs of text, like typical scientific poster. This is usually, what typesetting applications like InDesign do. InDesign can be used for a single page layout as well. On the other hand, if you do not know InDesign, it will probably be overkill to learn it for creating a single poster.

For scientific guys like me, with no artistic ability whatsoever, I found using latex / beamer with some existing poster templates the easier thing to do. It also has the advantage that you can copy text and formulas directly from your poster paper. So, I would strongly advice you to use beamer, since it is also what most scientific posters are usually done in CS conferences, judging from what I have seen in demo and poster sessions.

If you do not believe me, see this which is the most frequent poster design I have seen in conferences. It takes 2 minutes to do it in Beamer but it will take many days in either Illustrator or InDesign

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    I have used the beamerposter class extensively for scientific posters, as well as Illustrator. Beamerposter is quite limited in terms of flowing text from one box to another; flowing text around inset diagrams is a pain. Illustrator has no problem with paragraphs of text, as far as I have been able to determine. – Oswald Veblen Jul 30 '15 at 19:37
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My experience involves an unfortunate truth that I haven't seen mentioned in any of the other answers.

In many interactions with program managers here in the US, I need to create slides in PowerPoint because either 1) it is a required format for certain communications or 2) the program managers use PowerPoint to communicate elsewhere in the government and giving them PowerPoint slides makes it easier for them to include my work in their communications.

This, in turn, creates a significant network effect, because communication with program managers in proposals and reports often predates both papers, talks, and posters. PowerPoint thus has a major advantage over other software alternatives (including Adobe Illustrator), in that my graphics are already in PowerPoint and it's much easier to move them to different documents within the same program rather than shifting them between different programs.

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  • +1 that's the main drawback I have found so far in using Adobe Illustrator for posters vs. using PowerPoint. PowerPoint can take care of both slides and posters. – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 31 '15 at 1:47

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