I recently received this question:
“In Illustrator, is there a way to take off the default setting of “Lock Guides”? I’d also like to display rulers automatically. I know it doesn’t take long to unlock guides or display rulers, but it would be nice to make these the default settings.”
There is a way to control some aspects of Illustrator, and while it may seem a bit long-winded, it’s actually a pretty simple undertaking. You may decide it’s just saner to change such things when you open a new file, but if you’re curious …
Illustrator uses startup files to “wake up,” one for CMYK documents, one for RGB, and in later versions, one for Web, and so on. Notice that when you start a new document, you’re always asked which flavor you want. When you make your choice, Illustrator uses the appropriate file as a reference. These startup files are really just Illustrator documents that Illustrator “consults” as it creates your new blank document. Change the behavior of a startup file, and all the files based on that startup file will behave the same.
To do this, you must first find those little startup rascals, which can be a challenge: different versions of Illustrator call the startup files by different names, and store them in different locations.
Mac: Applications/Adobe Illustrator CS2/Plug-ins
Windows: Programs\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS2\Plug-ins
There are only two startup files, called “Adobe Illustrator Startup_CMYK.ai” and “Adobe Illustrator Startup_RGB.ai”.
In Illustrator CS3 and CS4, the startup files are called “New Document Profiles,” and there are additional options. In CS3 and CS4, the files are:
Mobile and Devices.ai
Video and Film.ai
To find the startup files in CS3 and CS4, follow these directions:
Mac: [user]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator CS3/New Document Profiles/
Windows: Documents and Settings\(User)\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS3 Settings\New Document Profiles\
Mac: [user]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator CS4/en_US/New Document Profiles/
Windows: Documents and Settings\(User)\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS4 Settings\en_US\New Document Profiles\
Once you locate the startup file, make a duplicate of the file in another directory for safety. Open the original file, and make the desired changes; for example, to always have unlocked guides as the default behavior, choose Guides > Unlock Guides. If you’d like to always see rulers, choose View>Rulers. You can also add Swatches. But you can’t control everything: some changes — such as stroke weight and font choice — aren’t retained.
Save and close the file; you don’t have to relaunch Illustrator. Now, when you make a new file based on the modified startup file, it will reflect your new settings. And if you don’t like the results, just drag the untouched duplicate file back where you found it, and you’re back to the factory settings.