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The basics

  1. Download CORE.
  2. Download and install Xcode (for Mac) and/or Microsoft Visual Studio (for Windows).
  3. Build the sample plug-in(s) of your choice.
  4. Duplicate and modify the Skeleton plug-in to start your own.


Illustrator and macOS have been around for many years, so system compatibility can get confusing; however, this list and an open-source shell script will fix you right up.

Xcode 10 or above is required to develop Illustrator plug-ins for macOS using CORE. We have tested full compatibility up to Xcode 14.3.1.

To be able to compile against all versions of CORE, your Xcode app will need to be modified for legacy support. We recommend downloading Xcode 14.3.1, 13.4.1, 12.4.0, 11.7.0, and 10.3.0. Otherwise, you will only be able to compile against the version of CORE corresponding to the macOS SDK versions listed above.

All the Xcode modifications are straightforward and are fully automated by this XcodeLegacy script on github. Simply download it (or checkout its git repository) and follow the instructions - you can specify certain options when running the XcodeLegacy command to only add macOS 10.14 through 10.15 to Xcode 12-14, if you'd rather not download Xcode versions below 10.3.0 as well.

It is worth noting that only the older macOS SDKs are required to develop for older versions of Illustrator (not e.g. the older compilers or linkers); if you'd like to manually modify Xcode 12-14 to compile for all versions of Illustrator, simply extract the MacOSX10.14.sdk, MacOSX10.15.sdk, and MacOSX11.x.sdk folders from each older version of Xcode and copy them into the Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/MacOSX.platform/Developer/SDKs folder of Xcode 12-14, and modify the associated Info.plist file there to remove the "MinimumSDKVersion" entry.


Microsoft Visual Studio 2022 or above is required to develop Illustrator plug-ins for Windows using CORE.

Hot Door uses Microsoft Visual Studio 2022 and has not tested later versions.

No modifications or additional downloads are needed to develop plug-ins for Illustrator 2021 through 2024 (25-28).

CORE sample plug-ins

CORE contains four sample plug-ins: Annotate, Panel, Skeleton, and Tool.

The Annotate sample implements a simple rectangle drawing tool, which annotates its geometry during dragging.

The Skeleton sample simply acts as an empty plugin that performs no function, but which Illustrator recognizes and loads successfully. This is to provide a good foundation on which to start building your own plugin (see below).

The Tool plug-in implements a gear drawing tool. This demonstrates the creation of tools, modal dialogs with UI elements, preferences, and Illustrator art drawing.

The Panel plug-in demonstrates the creation of panels with UI elements, notifiers, timers, and Illustrator art object iteration.

CORE Skeleton plug-in

The easiest way to get your plug-in started using CORE is to duplicate and modify the Skeleton plug-in as a starting point.

  1. Create a new project folder and copy the contents of the Skeleton folder to the new project folder.
  2. Create a Libraries folder (anywhere is fine) and copy hdi_core into it. You do not need to copy the Samples or Documentation folders.
  3. Open the project file in Xcode or Visual Studio.
  4. Delete the hdi_core folder from the Libraries group and add the new hdi_core folder that you just placed into your Libraries folder.

You have two choices at this point: either start working with Skeleton as-is and add your own code, or follow these instructions to eliminate all traces of "Skeleton" and "skel" from your project.