Creating instanced copies of a group is a fantastic feature in many illustration or 3D softwares. Being able to instance content in groups and subgroups to easily change visuals across an entire document, or to create and iterate on complex patterns.
How is this still not a thing in Illustrator?
Or, is there, and it's just deeply hidden?
For reference, check out Sketchup's instancing features, which in itself just makes building complex combination geometry a delight.
It there a third party plugin or something similar that can achieve this today?
Hey! It's a bit hidden nowadays, but you can make instances using symbols. Open the Symbols panel (Window > Symbols), then drag your objects into the Symbols panel (see screenshot below). Then you can drag them back into your document to make instances.
And... you can also use the Symbol tools (now hidden by default inside the Edit Toolbar button).
Also take a look at this page:
I hope this helps!
It's not as smooth a feature as instancing in many other programs. I guess it's the best solution for now.
I do think Adobe should strengthen this functionality considerably.
They let us have 9-slice scaling though, I don't know if other programs do that.
What do you wish was improved?
Although 9-slice scaling is a good feature in itself it has nothing to do with instancing groups.
Group instancing is a corner stone in advanced component-based pattern- or just icon-reuse design. It let's the user build a toolbox of reusable and editable elements that can be combined or used across the entirety of a graphicsl design
"Group instancing is a corner stone in advanced component-based pattern- or just icon-reuse design. It let's the user build a toolbox of reusable and editable elements that can be combined or used across the entirety of a graphicsl design"
And which part of symbols keeps you from doing just that?
Or what kind of feature would you like in symbols to enhance them?
Perhaps you want to elaborate your statements. And if your desire is really to improve the app, then perhaps post to http://illustrator.uservoice.com
Thanks for the uservoice link Monika.
I've added the feature upgrade I'd like to see there now. Symbols works, but they are just a bit more clunky to use than I'd like for them to be.
Did you have a look at the Appearance panel? It lets you create very complex editable objects from simple shapes using effects.