I use the Layers Panel all the time. The panel helps me navigate complicated illustrations and helps me find, select, and arrange objects. The Layers Panel is surprising customizable, adjusting to how you work. Creating large thumbnails adds to the functionality of the Layers Panel. Moreover, you can get rid of the thumbnails, or even keep thumbnails on the top layer only!
Do you want some free vectors? I recently created a set of vector spring flowers for You the Designer. While you download the vectors, check out some of the other great posts! When you look at the files, you will see some of the techniques used from my tutorial Shiny Buttons Without Blends or Transparencies. These flowers are a great example of applying the tutorial’s simple techniques.
Even though I love Illustrator, I use the other Adobe products frequently. I use Photoshop all the time with elements I have created in Illustrator. Having the correct color and swatches is essential and I always found it frustrating getting all the correct colors into other CS3 programs. Finally I learned a fast and consistent way to exchange swatches from Illustrator to the other CS3 programs.
Sometimes I get very lazy, especially illustrating. I don’t want to draw things a couple of times to see if I like it. This happens all the time with the Star Tool. I usually have to draw the shape a few times to see how many points I like and see if the radius is the right size . Not any more! You just drag out the star shape, press a couple of buttons and you have a burst just the way you like it!