How to Open AI Files Without Illustrator

While Adobe Illustrator is a great vector graphics editor utilized by many artists, it saves files in a proprietary format. The AI file type that Adobe Illustrator uses to save projects generally requires Adobe Illustrator to open. Thankfully, there are many workarounds.

How to Open AI Files Without Illustrator

In this article, we’ll show you the various methods in how you can open an AI file without the use of Adobe Illustrator.

How to Open AI Files Without Illustrator on a PC

The most common platform you’ll encounter an AI file on is a PC, as graphics editors require a lot of processing power that mobile devices don’t have. Even if you don’t own Adobe Illustrator, there’s a very simple way of opening AI files. The steps are as follows:

  1. Open the folder where the AI file is located and right-click on the file.
  2. From the popup menu choose rename.
  3. Change the extension of the file from .ai to .pdf.
  4. A warning will pop up asking you to confirm the extension change. Choose yes.
  5. Open the file using any PDF viewer.

Alternatively, if you have an Adobe program installed like Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Photoshop, you can open AI files by doing the following:

  1. Open the folder where your AI file is located then right-click on it.
  2. From the popup menu choose Open With.
  3. If you don’t see Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Photoshop on the list, choose More Apps.
  4. Choose a program from the list. Note that you should uncheck the box to always use the program to open .ai files unless you want to associate the file to it. If you do so, all .ai files on your computer will automatically open using the program that you choose.
  5. Click on OK.
  6. The AI file should open using your selected program.

You can also assign a program to open all .ai files on your PC. This can be done by following this short guide:

  1. Open a folder containing any .ai file and right-click on it.
  2. From the popup menu choose Properties.
  3. On the line that says Opens with, click on Change.
  4. Choose a program from the list. If you can’t find the program that you want, click on More apps.
  5. Once you’ve chosen a program click on OK.
  6. Click on Apply.
  7. Now that this is set up, any .ai file that you open will automatically use your selected program.

It’s important to remember that if you change the program associated with .ai files, you’ll need to change this back if you decide to install Adobe Illustrator. If you don’t, Adobe Illustrator won’t automatically open .ai files by default.

How to Open AI Files Without Illustrator on an iPhone

You won’t find as many alternative methods for opening .ai files on an iPhone as it wasn’t designed for use on the platform. There’s a mobile version of Adobe Illustrator, but the application often lags because it takes up a lot of processing power.

As .ai files can be opened via pdf viewers, there are ways to bypass this limitation even without Illustrator installed. If your phone already has a PDF viewer, simply click on the .ai file, and select your PDF viewer. Alternatively, you can download Adobe Creative Cloud for a program that handles adobe files.

How to Open AI Files Without Illustrator on an Android

The process of opening .ai files is a lot simpler on Android as it requires only two apps: Adobe Acrobat reader and a mobile file browser like the ES File Explorer. Follow the easy steps listed below:

  1. Use your file explorer to navigate to the location of the .ai file.
  2. Tap on the file, and when a menu pops up choose OTHER.
  3. Select Adobe Acrobat Reader from the app list.
  4. The file should now open.

How to Open AI Files Without Illustrator on an iPad

Due to the similarities in operating systems between iPhones and iPads, the steps for opening .ai files on an iPad are the same as that on an iPhone. Refer to the instructions in the iPad section to open your .ai file on your iPad.

Opening AI files Online

Another option for users on desktop computers is to open .ai files online using AI viewers. Most of these programs are free and usually allow additional basic editing. Here are a few of these online sites and some quick instructions on how to use them:

AI Viewer

AI Viewer allows users to upload and view .ai files, resize images, and convert them to other file types. Editing options are limited to changing file orientation, while uploads are confined to 20 MB. You won’t be able to upload anything larger. To use AI Viewer, do the following:

  1. Open the AI Viewer website. If you’re on the home page, click on the “Online AI Viewer” button at the top of the screen.
  2. Click on “Select File.”
  3. Navigate to the folder that contains your .ai file, then click on Open.
  4. Your file should now load.
  5. From here you can convert the AI file to another file type, such as .jpg, .png, .gif, .bmp, and .tiff. The options will be underneath the image.


FViewer is a simple online AI file viewer. There is little else in the way of editing options, though you can view these files in high-definition mode. With no listed file size limit, FViewer may be the best choice for larger files. To use FViewer, you’ll need to:

  1. Open the FViewer website.
  2. Click on “Select a local file,” then navigate to your .ai image or drag and drop the image into the box. Wait for the file to finish uploading.
  3. To view a high-definition version of the file you uploaded, return to the AI File Viewer tab.
  4. Look for the Source Document tab, under options click on the dropdown arrow.
  5. Choose High Definition.
  6. On the side, click on View.
  7. Your image should now be shown in high-definition.

Expanded Usefulness

AI files are very handy as they hold a lot of information for editing an image. The downside to this is its proprietary nature, limiting its use to Adobe Illustrator. Knowing how to open AI files without Illustrator expands the usefulness of these files.

Do you know of other ways how to open AI files without relying on Adobe Illustrator? Feel free to share your tips in the comments section below.

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