Corel Possesses Great Drawing Power

Thursday Feb 19th 2004 by Wayne Kawamoto
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Effectively putting digital pen to digital paper, CorelDRAW offers powerful tools for manipulating vector-based drawings, editing digital photos and creating animated graphics. It's a fantastic design tool for artists and graphics professionals.

While it's not for the graphically challenged, Corel's latest CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 offers a sophisticated suite of tools for artists and design professionals that is competition for its pricey rivals, Adobe's Illustrator and Photoshop.

Corel's suite consists of three great programs that encompass a variety of graphics capabilities. CorelDRAW 12 covers illustration, page layout and vector-based drawing; Corel PHOTO-PAINT 12 edits digital images and photos; and Corel R.A.V.E. 3 creates Web-based graphics. The enhancements in version 12, which have mostly been added to CorelDRAW, offer more precise controls and make the programs easier to use.

Lots to Draw On
The Smart Drawing tool, a new and highly touted feature, automatically recognizes basic hand-drawn shapes and replaces them with precise shapes and objects. As an example, I used the feature to draw rough freehand triangles and ovals, and the software recognized the shapes and created finished versions of both. This feature is particularly helpful when drawing flowcharts and organizational charts, and I liked the way that it recognized and drew my dotted circles.

While the Smart Drawing tool works well, its function is one that graphic pros already know how to accomplish using existing tools. Some designers, depending on what they do, may switch to the Smart Drawing tool, but I foresee the tool to be most valuable to those who are new to drawing programs.

I was more impressed with the new Dynamic Guides feature that provides temporary guides and offer precise control to create a shape, draw a line, or place an object exactly where you want it. When you turn on Dynamic Guides, the program displays temporary blue lines when your cursor travels over specific points on objects. These lines help you place (snap) objects in relation to each other. The real-time feedback appears as the cursor passes over nodes, intersections, midpoints, tangents, perpendicular points, edges, centers and more.

CorelDRAW Dynamic Guides

A new text feature lets you view and control detailed changes to type, including leading and kerning, regardless of your zoom level. You also get to choose the portion of the text object that you wish to align. New Unicode Support helps incorporate multiple languages into a design, no matter which language version of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 you use.

PHOTO-PAINT has gained an adequate new touch-up brush that removes defects (dust, scratches, wrinkles etc.) from digital images and lets you view the results in real time. This tool also performs common image/photo touch-ups by covering unwanted areas. Corel RAVE features a new symbol library that lets you store and call up frequently-used objects.

New export tools support Microsoft Office, as well as Corel's own WordPerfect Office. This necessary evil (from Corel's perspective) makes it easy to export graphics created in the suite into Microsoft-based text documents, presentations and spreadsheets without worrying about file formats. Using the tools, I was able to quickly transfer graphics into Word and PowerPoint.

CorelDRAW exports images to Microsoft Office

The suite retains support for Adobe formats, including EPS and PSD, and comes with SVG AutoCAD, Visio, and HPGL filters. When exporting to AutoCAD DXF format, CorelDRAW now retains line widths, line styles, text justification and positions. The suite also supports AutoCAD color, dot-dash patterns and line weights on import.

Go to Page 2: Test Drive >

Test Drive
I encountered no problems installing the program onto my test system and found the interface intuitive and easy to use. The interface is flexible and may be customized to suit your specific design needs. If you wish, for example, you may create separate workspaces as well as toolbars and palettes that relate to specific tasks, and save the configurations for later use. The documentation was well organized and helpful.

First-rate integration among the suite's programs lets you seamlessly work with the features of each. For example, when I used CorelDRAW to create a flier, I only had to click on an embedded bitmap image to bring up the editing tools in Corel PHOTO-PAINT in order to modify the digital picture. And when I returned to my flier, CorelDRAW displayed the final, adjusted digital image.

The program offers an assortment of handy templates, fonts and attractive clip art for use in designs, as well as educational materials, including a video training CD and tutorials. Powerful utilities include CorelTRACE, a tracing program that converts scanned or manually created bitmaps into vector images; Corel Capture, a screen capture program that converts images and onscreen video into files; Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications, an object-oriented programming language for creating macros that automate tasks and the Kodak Digital Science color management system.

Pricing and Availability
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 is available at the suggested retail price of $399 for the full product, $179 for the upgrade product, and $99 for the education version. Corel offers a free trial version that may be downloaded from the company's site.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 requires Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Tablet PC Edition; a Pentium II, 200 MHz or greater; 128 MB RAM (256 MB or more recommended); 250 MB hard disk space and a 1024 x 768 resolution monitor.

At press time, Corel was making changes to its customer support program that will take effect on March 1, 2004. Registered CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 customers receive Classic technical support that consists of unlimited free 24/7 e-mail and knowledge base warranty service. Corel will no longer offer free phone support to customers.

Phone-based technical support will be offered for a fee ($2 a minute, first three minutes free; $25 per incident; or $149 or $299 annually for unlimited support). Paid technical support calls are offered via a toll-free line. Premium support is a paid-for subscription-based or contractual high-level technical support offered to medium and large businesses.

Conclusions
When it comes to creating logos, advertisements, technical drawings and illustrations, as well as work with digital photographs and Web-based graphics, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 offers a wealth of design tools for designers and graphics professionals. Business-oriented users, on the other hand, will find Microsoft Publisher, and even more basic, Broderbund's PrintMaster, easier to use but with far less power. And if you're looking for a cost-effective alternative to Adobe's expensive offerings, you won't go wrong with CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12.

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Over the last ten years, Wayne Kawamoto has written over 800 articles, columns, and reviews about computers, new technologies, the Internet, and small businesses. Wayne has alos published three books about upgrading PCs, building office networks, and effectively using and troubleshooting notebook computers. He may be contacted through his Web site at www.waynewrite.com.

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