Actions are a set of commands or a series of events that you can record and playback in the Actions panel. Actions are great for complex or repetitive tasks. I use the Actions all the time, especially when working with icon sets or buttons, like in the previous tutorial. If you are familiar at all with the Actions panel in Photoshop, you will have no problem with the Actions in Illustrator.
I am working in Adobe Illustrator CS3. I’m note sure when Actions became a feature of Illustrator. For some reason I am thinking it was CS2, but that is probably wrong. I couldn’t find the answer anywhere so if someone knows, please share.
When you open the Actions panel you will see a list of predefined Actions. Look through them, there are some useful ones. One I like is the Reflect action. To activate the action, press play. You can also set a Function key to play the Action, this comes in handy. To set the Function key, double-click on an Action. Here you can set/change the Function key, put it in a folder, and rename. Some of the Actions require you to have objects selected.
For a new Action, I suggest you click the New Set icon to create a new set (this keeps your new Actions separate from Illustrator’s). Within the new set, you create a New Action (also an icon at the bottom of the panel). When you press the New Action icon, it begins recording. Now you can go through your events and commands. In the example I provide, I select the two objects, Intersect them, Expand the shape, make the new shape a Linear gradient, change the color of the gradient, and then press stop. Wow, that is quite a bit of steps to do for the rest of the icons! However, I can select the next objects in my icon set, press play (or a Function key, if you have one set) and it does it form me! The Actions function has a tremendous amount potential, I would love to hear what others have done with it!