Basics for Beginner in AI.

I am completely new to AI and vector graphics.  I downloaded trial version of AI CS3 and downloaded some sample vector images that I would like to play around with and manipulate to get an understanding of the software.  Coming from limited knowledge of Photoshop, this software is somewhat intimidating yet familiar at the same time.

How can I select a certain area of an image to cut?
Is there a way to look at "layers" like in Photoshop?

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The key to illustrator is understanding Bezier curves. Here are some tutorials you should try:

Illustrator has Layers, just like photoshop, but that doesn't mean the sample art was created with layers.
Selecting a vector in Illustrator is a little different than in Photoshop.  You will notice that you have two different arrows:  the Selection Tool (black arrow), and the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow).  You can manipulate objects with either one, but they work slightly different depending on certain factors.

The black arrow will let you select an entire object with one click, or by click-dragging over that object.

The white arrow will let you select certain parts of an object (anchor point, segment).

If you were to draw a square and chose the black arrow, it would select the entire shape and you could adjust the size.  However, if you switched to the white arrow, you could select a certain anchor and drag it around to change that one point.

Play around with Shift and Alt clicking as well to get different results.
already well explained answers :)
just wanna add my two cents;

there is no easy way to atually "cut" an image or object in illustrator as we do in photoshop, for images, we use clip masking method for showing a certain part of the image, and for vector objects, we have to play around with the anchor points to get in the desired shape as fuzzboxer explained above

also the Layers palette can be viewed by going to Windows>Layers or hitting F7
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I think its also necessary to point out that if you want to make a cut in the middle of a vector, you have to actually use the scissors tool which not only 'cuts' the line, but adds two end points. Again, doing a few tutorials will help immensly.
I highly recommend Illustrator Technique's video tutorials:

Another great collection of Illustrator tutorials:
vsllcAuthor Commented:
Thanks.  Helpful tips and great links to tutorials.
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