For the record, I love to draw. I
have always loved to draw. And when I decided to learn how to draw on a computer,
I bought a PC and a copy of CorelDRAW 2. In hindsight, if I had a clue as to what
I was doing, I probably would have purchased a Mac IIci or IIfx and a copy of either
Adobe Illustrator or Aldus Freehand, but then I would have missed out on one of my
all-time favorite drawing programs, CorelDRAW. That was a long time ago. I parted
ways with CorelDRAW after a falling out with version 3, and over the years I've flirted
with Canvas and Freehand (when it was still published by Aldus) before finally settling
into a stable, long-term relationship with Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator and I have
created a lot of nice pictures together, but to tell the truth, in the back of my
mind, I still remember my first love and wondered "What if . . . ". Consequently,
when the opportunity presented itself to review the Corel Graphics Suite, it felt
like the guilty pleasure of seeing an old flame at a high school reunion. That said,
lets get on with the review . . .
The host machine for this visit is a 500Mhz G3 Firewire Powerbook, with 384 MB RAM,
running MacOS 10.1. Not exactly a powerhouse, but it's not a dog, and has always
served me well.
The subject is CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 11. The suite includes CorelDRAW 11, Corel
Photo-Paint 11, CorelTrace 11, and Corel R.A.V.E. 2. The product names are fairly
descriptive of their function; CorelDRAW is a vector based drawing tool, Photo-Paint
is a raster image editing tool, and CorelTrace is, well, a tracing utility. Corel
R.A.V.E is the only product in the suite without a peek-a-boo handle, so for now
let me just say that it's a vector tool for creating animated graphics for the web.
The price of admission is a very reasonable $429.00 for the full version. Upgrading
from a competitive product will only set you back $389.00, while the cost to upgrade
from a previous version is a mere $199.00. If you're flinching at the price, or more
importantly, your spouse (or boss . . . if there's a difference) is flinching, remind
them that this is a serious tool set, and to get the same functionality from Adobe,
you would have to purchase Illustrator, $399.00, and Photoshop, $609.00. That's a
savings of $579.00.
My first impression upon launching the program is that the work space is definitely
an exercise in minimalism. Like a bachelor's apartment with nothing but white walls,
a card table, and a single folding chair, the blank work space is furnished with
a single floating toolbox, a color palette, and lots and lots of empty white space.
For those who've grown accustomed to Adobe Illustrator, with its armada of floating
palettes, this is a bit of culture shock; I wasn't sure where to begin. With a little
bit of experimenting, I discovered that the Toolbox Palette has tear-off tool sets;
a feature which I absolutely love. If you're not careful, this can quickly add to
work space clutter, but I find that it's terribly handy for quickly switching between
tools. With a little more poking, I discovered that floating palette containing the
color picker would also hold other menu items such as the Object Manager and the
Shaper Tool. I was quickly tailoring the workspace to match the way I work.
In addition to those two lonely palettes, I should also mention the Toolbox Toolbar
conveniently docked to the bottom of the application menu (similar to Photoshop).
I mention this as an afterthought because I often forget that it's there. The Toolbox
Toolbar offers a veritable cornucopia of configuration settings for each of the
tools in the Toolbox. It is very unobtrusive, which is probably why it's so easy
to overlook, and it makes tweaking the settings of your tools on the fly a snap.
The document model for CorelDRAW is actually quite complex. CorelDRAW supports multiple
pages, and each page can have multiple layers. In addition to traditional pages and
layers, CorelDRAW also defines "master" pages and "master" layers.
Master pages, and subsequently master layers, contain items that will be shared across
all pages such as guidelines or the grid. Master layers can also hold text or graphics
that need to be displayed across all pages. Layers and pages are controlled through
the Object Manager.
The fancy palettes, spiffy toolbars, and sophisticated document model are all well
and good, but it's the tools in the Toolbox that make everything happen. I have always
liked CorelDRAW's drawing interface. I easily spend 80-percent of my time using the
Pen and Shape tools. Throw in the Blend Tool and I'm off to the races; everything
else is gravy. And CorelDRAW 11 is fat with gravy. Of course it has all of the standard
tools: a Pen Tool; a Polyline Tool; a Rectangle, an Elipse, and Polygon tool; as
well as fill buckets, eye droppers, and zoom tools. It also has some oddball tools
(for a vector drawing program anyway) like the the eraser, which will carve swaths
out of the side of your objects; the Smudge and Roughen brushes which will deform
the nice, pretty lines and curves of your vector shapes; and the Interactive Distortion
Tool, which warps your carefully crafted shapes in ways that I can't begin to imagine
what I'd use it for, but found myself grinning from ear-to-ear none-the-less. The
Extrusion Tool is nice, and the perspective function, which is a menu item and not
really a tool, is possibly the best I've ever used. Finally, the Interactive Connector
Tool is a blessing for anyone who has ever created a flowchart. This is by no means
a comprehensive list of the tools in the Toolbox; just some of the more colorful
Once your objects have been crafted, the menus offer a lot of power for manipulating
them. Objects can be cloned. This differs from copying in that when a change is made
to the master item, the clones are updated as well. Objects can also be transformed.
Transforming is a fancy way of saying scaled, skewed, moved, or rotated. Through
the transformation menu, all transformations can be made relative to nine control
points that describe each objects bounding box. Perhaps most importantly, objects
can be aligned to the center of the page with a touch of a button . . . HALLELUJAH!
Objects can be aligned relative to each other and the page. Objects can also be distributed
in the same manner. Another favorite menu item is the Shaper menu. Through the Shaper,
objects can be used to cut shapes into other objects.
The last menu item I want to mention is the Find Objects Wizard. Now frankly, I don't
like wizards; they're like sales associates that won't leave you alone, or want to
follow you out to your car with your grocery cart. That said, it does seem to be
very powerful, offering the ability to find objects based on type (curves, rectangles,
text, etc.), fills, outlines (strokes), or special effect. Previously saved searches
can also be loaded and used.
Sooner or later
you'll likely need to incorporate text into your drawing (okay, probably sooner rather
than later). I've always considered text to be a necessary evil and consequently,
I don't appreciate the text handling abilities of CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator the way
that I should. Nevertheless, CorelDRAW's text abilities are considerable.
Right off the bat CorelDRAW distinguishes itself by being
able to flow text across multiple pages. This is no big deal for applications like
Quark or InDesign, but it's a function that Illustrator cannot touch. CorelDRAW
can flow text along a path. While that is standard stuff, it goes further in that
is can flow text around other objects on the page.
There is also a Format Text menu that gives the you a tremendous amount of control
over the text. With it you can control the character settings, the paragraph settings,
the tabs, the columns, and special effects.
Finally, I love the way that the Toolbox Toolbar previews the typeface when you hover
over the font in the selection menu. I don't understand why Adobe doesn't do this
Once your drawing or design is finished, CorelDRAW offers a variety of output formats
to support your needs. From the File menu, you can publish directly to the web or
to PDF, or you can prepare you artwork for delivery to a service bureau. The latter
is done through the use of a "Prepare for Service Bureau Wizard". This
wizard will either gather all files associated with your document, or load a profile
provided by your service bureau. Through the Export menu, you can output to a number
of file formats including EPS, SVG, and CGM, as well as raster formats like PSD,
JPEG, TGA, and PNG.
However, as they say on TV, we don't live anywhere near perfection, and neither does
CorelDRAW. The color palettes are slow and awkward to work with. Select a color,
count to five, and the color selection will change. If you want to outline an object
with a different color from its fill, that's another five seconds. And, since CorelDRAW
doesn't retain the settings of the last item created, you'll be changing and selecting
colors a lot. The
Color Palette isn't the only menu item that's sluggish, although it is the worst.
All menu and toolbar selections have a noticible latency before activation; long
enough to make you wonder if you've clicked the button. This grows tiresome very
quickly. It is possible that a faster system would make the response time more liveable;
but since I don't experience the delays using Illustrator, the onus, in my mind,
is on Corel to improve the efficiency of their application. If CorelDRAW
runs faster on a dual processor G4, then so will Adobe Illustrator.
Another shortcoming is a total lack of automation support. There is no support for
supports VBA scripting so it may be fair to infer that Macintosh scripting will be
included in future releases, but let's face it, this is version 11, and frankly,
for a professional tool, there's just no excuse for this. I can think of a few "wizards"
that I'd happily sacrifice for speedier menus and some level of automation.
Corel Photo-Paint shares the same user interface as it's partner, CorelDRAW. It launches
with its floating Toolbox and Toolbox Toolbar, but with its Objects manager in the
other floating palette instead of the Color Picker. One interesting feature, when
opening a new file, Photo-Paint offers the user the option of creating a single framed,
flat file, or of creating a multi-frame file for animation. Adobe Photoshop offloads
this function to it's sister program, ImageReady.
There are few surprises in the toolbox. One of the few is the Interactive Drop Shadow
Tool. Another is the Interactive Transparency Tool. Simple tools, that can be easily
duplicated in other programs, that are just made easier here.
The menus are pretty standard fare as well. The one notable exception is the lense
tool. The lens tool acts as a special effects filter that alters the way the image
below it appears to the viewer without actually altering the image itself; just as
if it were a real lens. One word of warning though. The lens filter is a resource
hog; it will drag the appication's performance down to a complete halt. Make a pass
on a layer below the lens with a brush and then go get a cup of coffee. Maybe by
the time you get back, your brushstroke will be rendered; it just depends on how
far you are from the coffee pot. If you're working with the lenses, do yourself a
favor and make them invisible while you're editing the underlying image. That way,
they won't be trying to calculate whether or not they have to filter your brush strokes
A nice feature in Photo-Paint, and CorelDRAW for that matter, is that you can drag
objects from one application directly into the work space of the other. This makes
it easy to draw things using the vector tools where you have more control and then
pull them over to the paint program to apply raster effects. The door swings both
ways; you can also drag raster objects from Photo-Paint and drop them directly into
Another nice feature is support for batch processing. Photo-Paint will batch process
files to change file types. Files can be selected individually, or as a group, from
a single or multiple directories. That's it. It makes it simple for selecting files
And now for the
other shoe to drop; Corel Photo-Paint is not a speed demon, which is not to say that
it's unusable, not by any stretch, but it is noticibly slower than Photoshop, even
with the lenses turned off.
a small, simple program that crystalizes all of the problems I've had writing this
review; I can't stop playing with it long enough to actually write about it. As
the name implies, this is a trace utility; and a fairly straightforward, easy-to-use
one at that. Personally, I've never had much use for tracing programs. This is
partly due to the unsatisfactory results I've received in the past, and partly because
it takes all of the fun out of the work (I like to draw, remember?). But this one
This application shares the bare-bones default view of it's brother applications,
but goes one step further in that it doesn't even open to a blank document; just
the single floating Toolbox and the Toolbox Toolbar under the menus. At this point,
you can open up your favorite raster image (I've been using a JPEG of my childhood
action hero, 8th Man) and let the fun begin.
Now you may ask, "What could be fun about a tracing tool?", I know I did.
I'll tell you: mosaics, hatches, and woodcuts. CorelTrace has the requisite Outline,
Centerline, and Combination tools, but it can also go a step further and apply effects
to the output. Using the Toolbox Toolbar to vary the settings can provide a vast
array of variation in the output, and if you're not careful, can be quite addictive.
If you're using this in the office, be careful that your coworkers don't catch you
giggling like an idiot.
I've always felt that tracing tools were only useful if someone sends you a bad FAX
of a corporate logo, and you have to clean it up and use it in a flyer before you
can go to lunch. CorelTrace has changed my mind about that. I'm not sure yet what
I'd use it for, but I had so much fun playing with it, I'm pretty sure I'm going
to try to find something.
As I mentioned earlier, R.A.V.E. is a vector based animation tool for generating
web content; in my mind, that means an alternative to Flash. In fact, its file export
formats consist of: Flash, Animated GIF, and Quicktime. I confess that this is an
area that I know nothing about, but it comes with the package, so there is additional
functionality (and perhaps additional savings). I did notice that it coult not open
a Flash 6 file.
Graphics Suite is a very capable package; it's made even more so by its value. By
value, I mean the relationship between its functionality and price; and this Graphics
Suite has functionality out the wazoo. Will it woo me away from Illustrator and
Photoshop? No. In the office, I often need to manipulate hundreds of files at a
time. Maybe the job is reseting the BoundingBox info on one or a dozen EPS files,
or maybe it's saving every page of a PDF file to EPS. Illustrator will let me do
this; if not directly through its built-in tools, then indirectly through its scripting
interface. CorelDRAW will not. But when it comes
to making beautiful artwork, the Corel Graphics Suite easily covers 95% of the functionality
I need, and covers it very, very well. So perhaps a better question is whether I
would consider adding this suite to my toolbox; and the answer to that questions
is a very definite yes.
- Fun to use
- Rich, well balanced, comprehensive
- Clean, functional user interface
- Awkward color menu
- Little to no automation support
4 out of 5 Mice