What is the best program to use as a graphic designer?
There is no general best program. Every job has different requirements, and each designer has different preferences. Illustrator is great for logos, but Photoshop is great for image manipulation and single page layout, and InDesign can handle entire books, while Dreamweaver pulls files together into websites. There is a lot of overlap and interdependence, but each program is unique and irreplaceable. The best way to go about choosing the correct program is to look at what your project requires, what files you are provided, and what it's final output will be, and which one you prefer.
I have to create 100 name tags from a Photoshop layout. Is there a way to do this without typing each name into photoshop and saving each name?
Yes it is. The process in called a date merge, and can combine Photoshop files with documents such as Excel spreadsheets and Notepad lists. The first step would be to design them as normal, using a text field as a place holder for anything that will get changed. It is helpful to type into the text field what it will be, such as name. Make sure you have the space available for the longest name on your list. When the design is done and you are ready to input the correct names, select the layer with the text field and use the menus at the top to navigate to Image> Variables> Define... From here you will see a dialog box where you will want to select Text Replacement. The name refers to the first item in the document you are linking to. For instance, if in your spreadsheet your column is titled First Name, followed by the individuals names, your name First Names. Once you define what you are replacing with what, you would need to import your spreadsheet. To do this, use File> Import> Variable Data Sets... Browse and select the file you want to link to. The rest of the options in this dialog depend on the format of the list you are linking to. From here press OK, and you can proceed to export Data Sets as Files how you choose. This will save a lot of time typing and saving individual names.
What are the applications of Illustrator, and why is it important?
Illustrator is a program that works with vector art. Vector art is parallel to raster art, which is the domain of Photoshop. The biggest and most important distinction between the two is how they process the image you see on your screen. Vector artwork is created with Bézier Curves, which rely on mathematical equations to scale infinitely with no loss in quality. On the other side, raster artwork works with pixels. Pixels have a fixed size, and so when scaled larger become blurry. This makes vector artwork, and Illustrator, necessary for applications that will change size, such as logo design. Vector artwork is also necessary for projects when the final output requires cutting, such as laser engraving or vinyl plotting. Because of the fact that vector format relies on mathematical formulas, vector files are typically smaller than their raster equivalent, making it more efficient for storage space and transfers.