If you create an EPS or PDF from an Illustrator file, everything is all glommed together in the resulting file: there’s no need to keep track of graphics and fonts — they’re automatically embedded. If you choose the “include linked files” option when saving an AI file, graphics are embedded.
While embedding graphics makes the file portable, it limits editability; you can’t extract the embedded graphics to restore them, as you can in InDesign. If you created the file, you probably still have the images lying around somewhere: you can edit the images, then replace the embedded images in the Illustrator file.
But what if your print service provider needs to color-correct an embedded graphic? You’ll have to hunt down the image and send it. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to package an Illustrator file like you can an InDesign file?
Well, with the spiffy Scoop plug-in, you can! (Oh, gee. That sounds like a cheesy late-night infomercial. Sorry.) Available from the Orwellian-named Worker72a, Scoop ($47) gathers up all placed artwork, as well as fonts. It’s just like the Package feature in InDesign, or Collect for Output in QuarkXPress. It’s reasonably priced and painless to use. It’s handy, too, when you need to archive an Illustrator job; you can quickly gather all the pieces without wondering if you got it all. Worker72a also offers a bunch of other nifty plug-ins for Illustrator; check ’em out.
As of this writing, Scoop is available for Illustrator up through CS3. I’ll let you know when it’s updated for CS4.
LATER NOTE: Scoop CS34 has been released; it works with both CS3 and CS4. See my updated post here.