By Jim Bray
The CorelDraw suite has been around almost as long as the PC, give
or take several years. Over that time it has evolved from a good graphics
design product to a real tour de force for creating graphics, manipulating
bitmaps, laying out pages and creating animation for the Web.
Ive been using the suite since version 3, which came on
floppy disks. Ive watched it mature, and become more powerful and ever
easier to use . Some versions have been better than others, but each has added,
if nothing else, plenty of interesting new functionality.
Such is the case with Version 12, a very powerful and flexible
12 seems a more evolutionary than revolutionary product, and that
works for me; every time they come up with a new version Im sure there
are no new features left to design in, and every time they prove me wrong to
Im not a trained designer or page layout artist, but over
the years using Corels product (and, I must admit, others) it has allowed
me to produce professional product far superior that what I could do with
pencil and paper. Thanks to CorelDraw, I now have some clients who hire me for
my graphic design skills (I know, they must be desperate!) even though Im
primarily a writer. So while the talent may have been there all along, it took
Corel, coupled with my computer skills, that allowed them to grow and flourish
- and become profitable.
Anyway, the suite consists of the main applications CorelDRAW and
Photo-Paint, with CorelR.A.V.E. and numerous sub apps and utilities
included in the price as well.
DRAW, whose major competitor is Adobe Illustrator (reviewed
here as part of the Adobe Creative
Suite), is a vector graphic design and page layout application that puts a
nearly frightening amount of power at your mouse or graphics tablet. This is
where you create your graphics from scratch (or from templates or from existing
graphics) and it comes with a huge number of object creation tools, effects,
comprehensive and powerful text editing-and-handling capabilities, and
high-quality output features whether youre printing to a consumer quality
inkjet printer or sending the file to one of the big print houses downtown.
And of course theyve managed to find a bunch of new stuff to
load into the program. The new wrinkle that I found the most interesting is the
smart design tools, which can take a klutz like me and actually help me draw a
circle, triangle, parallelogram or whatever, freehand (as opposed to using a
circle tool, etc.). I kid you not; want to draw a circle in a particular place
on your page? Just click on the smart drawing tool icon on the toolbar and draw
away and once youve done the software takes your pidgin
circle and turns it into a perfect circle.
Within reason. I managed to find the limits of the smart drawing
merely by being extremely "unsmart" in my original drawing, which indicates
that while the new smart feature may indeed by smart, you can confuse it if
youre dumb enough.
DRAW is meant for creating graphics, logos, layouts, and the
like, for print and for the Web. But what many people may not realize is that
its a darn fine page layout tool in its own right. While it isnt
the page layout application of choice for many (if only because many print
houses are more capable of taking, say, QuarkXpress or
InDesign files than CorelDRAW), each
version has offered better text handling capabilities until now it can easily
be used to create attractive print presentations or text-based documents as
I often use DRAW to design a publication, and depending on the
capabilities of the print house thatll be doing the job, I may then go
back and re-lay it out in something like Quark. But I prefer using Draw to do
the actual design because it lets you do everything at once, on the one screen
in the one application.
And with Draw you can print a file directly to PDF, which is
Version 12 of Draw also includes enhanced font control and better
compatibility and a tweaked Snap to Objects feature.
File compatibility is supposed to be better now, too, for such
files as .svg, AutoCAD, HPGL, Photoshop and Illustrator and Acrobat. It was
already pretty good with the Adobe files, though, I must admit.
Theyve also included Dynamic Guides which, when activated,
shows temporary guides on the screen which you can use for a particular part of
your drawing without affecting the guides youre using elsewhere. You can
pull these guides from the object snap points of your drawing; you can also
snap objects to nodes, intersections, midpoints, edges, lines, and more.
A new import cursor lets you place objects relative to guides
and/or snap points, with a tool tip appearing giving the width and height of
the imported object or file (and the advice to press enter to
center the file on your page). And if you want, you can click and drag the
imported file to a new size and the software will automatically place it in
your document the way you want. This is really slick!
I also loved the intelligent eyedropper tool, which lets you grab
colors or other parameters from an object (including a graphic on a website or
your Windows desktop) and paste it into your drawing. I wish Id had this
one a couple of design jobs ago
You also get a virtual segment delete tool that helps
you clean up lines or curves, across objects, removing unwanted pieces between
intersections or endpoints.
And a new set of align and distribute tools for text lets you
line up copy with anothers first or last line baseline or the bounding
box. A nice bit of flexibility. And you can embed fonts in a document to ensure
someone else can open it and see it as you meant it to be seen.
One thing thats kind of neat is that when you first fire up
Draw 12, it looks over your PC to see if you have V11 installed and, if you do,
it offers to use the customized workspace you may have set up in the earlier
version, which saves you from reinventing the wheel again.
PHOTO-PAINT competes head to head with Adobe Photoshop (and about
a zillion lesser applications). Its a powerful bitmap editing application
that, among many other capabilities, lets you manipulate and retouch
photographs quickly and easily, and with amazing flexibility. This is the
application you use when you want to take an existing photograph and make it a
little more, shall we say, newsworthy.
New in Photo-Paint this time around is a touchup brush that lets
you get rid of blemishes on a photo (zits on a face, for example, since
were speaking about blemishes) and look at the results in real time. It
works quite well, though I only had a chance to mess with it on a limited basis
The third major app is R.A.V.E. (for Real Animated Vector
Effects). R.A.V.E. 3 is Corels answer to Macromedia Flash and is for
creating Web graphics and Flash animations which is just what the world
Anyway, the new R.A.V.E. comes with new symbols and a symbol
manager docker and you can link to symbols youve already used to make for
a quicker and easier workflow.
It also includes Pantone Euro palettes and an enhanced Object
Data Manager that lets you select an object and tag the data you want to
associate with it.
The suite is now optimized for Windows XP, so itll adopt
your desktop themes, support multiple users and the like. I could care less
about this, but others may like it.
And you can now install multiple languages on one system.
The box also includes Bitstream Font Navigator font management
software, Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications 6.3 and a really handy
utility called CorelTRACE 12, which lets you convert bitmaps to vector images.
It can end up creating a vector graphic with a humongous file size if you don't
go back and fix it by hand, but its wonderful being able to take a bitmap
and actually be able to edit it as if it were created in CorelDraw.
Corel CAPTURE 12 is a handy utility that lets you capture
on-screen images (I often use it to grab pictures of applications in action
that Im reviewing). Rounding things out, Kodak Digital Science color
management system is, according to Corel, the industry standard and you
also get Quicktime player 6.0.
The manual is pretty good, as is the online help though I
had trouble finding some of the new features in the help section. On the other
hand, the box also includes 10 tutorials that can help get beginners up and
running and theyve even thrown in an interactive, CD-ROM-based video
Digital content includes 10,000 pieces of clipart, 1000 TrueType
and Type 1 fonts as well as 1000 photos and other objects.
The suite has always offered excellent customization and
cross-application consistency and functionality, and version 12 continues this
tradition, only more so.
Corel was one of the first companies in my experience to offer
context-sensitive toolbars, which is a fabulous idea. This isnt new for
Version 12, but its still worth mentioning. Context sensitive toolbars
change right before your eyes depending on what youre doing. For example
if you click on the text tool or a drawing tool, the supporting toolbars change
to reflect the task at hand rather than making you open up separate toolbars or
access floating windows. This makes it quicker and easier to learn and use the
Likewise Corels Real Time Preview lets you look
at changes or effects youre about to unleash on your work before you
actually unleash them, and thats great.
This is just a quick overview of the new features, of course. On
the whole, CorelDRAW continues to be a powerful and flexible graphics solution
that only gets better with age.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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