Corel 5 gives users more-- but is it more than they want?

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, August 1994

It is said that Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor
in the early years of the century, was once asked "What is it that
American workers want?" His reply was a simple one word: "More".

With the continued growth in features and modules of their flagship,
Corel Draw, it seems that Ottawa's Corel Corporation is trying their
best to give Windows users just that.

When it started life in 1988, Corel Draw was just a draw or
illustration program, giving Windows users access to the sort
of software that had become common to Mac users of Adobe Illustrator
or Aldus Freehand. But it seemed to grow and grow, adding
features to the core program, but also adding modules, all to the end
of becoming a complete graphics and publishing solution in a single

Along the way, they pioneered distribution on CD-ROM, providing huge
amounts of fonts and clipart as a bonus to CD-ROM users.

This hasn't been without criticism. At first, modules lacked a common
interface, and were added with little attempt at integration. Users of
high-end photo enhancement programs complained about being forced to pay for
modules like Corel PhotoPaint that duplicated programs that they already
owned. While Corel provided lots of fonts, initially quality was so-
so... some text fonts even lacked common characters such as

And worst of all, some releases were notoriously buggy. Version 3.0
and 4.0 had to be followed up with expensive replacements... version 3.
0a and b, and the alphabet soup of 4.0a, b, and c. Many users felt
that Corel was not adequately beta-testing its releases, making their
customers pay for that dubious priviledge. To its credit,
Corel sent the newest version out at its own expense, to any
registered user who asked.

At first, you could count on a new release of Corel Draw every two
years or so. But since version 3.0, new releases have emerged at the
rate of one a year. And on the heels of Corel's recent purchase of Ventura
Publisher, we get Corel Draw version 5.0.

Just to confuse users, Corel plans to continue to market both of the
two previous versions, with 3.0 priced as an entry-level product, 4.0
occupying a middle-tier, and the new 5.0 at the top. A complicated
matrix of upgrade pricing is in place for users wanting to move from
one or another of the older versions to this new product. And full
list price for the new version is getting pricy-- $945 (CDN) for CD-ROM
only, and a staggering $1195 for the box that includes floppy disks
along with the CD-ROMs.

So what's in the new box? Again, more... though with one critical
piece missing. Despite rumours, Ventura Publishing is not included. It
was meant to be... it's listed as a (greyed-out) option in the SetUp
program, and rates over 300 pages in the documentation. Instead, there'
s a coupon to get it when it's available, in updated form as Corel
Ventura 5.0.

Even without Ventura, there are 16 floppy disks, and two CD-ROMs. A
full install takes as much as 50 megs of drive space. Corel
recommends a 486 with 8 megs of ram as the minimum platform... a
recognition that the program can be unacceptably slow on anything less

Across the board, users get a better integrated interface, with all
products using the fly-out tools first pioneered in the Draw program.
Roll-ups, new in version 4, are more widely integrated. OLE 2 support is
more cleanly handled than in the last release, with increased use of
drag-and-drop. Like the Microsoft Office suite, icons have pop-up
labels identifying them, and dialogue boxes feature tabbed pages.

The CD-ROMs include utilities, and even more fonts and clipart images
than in previous versions: over 825 professionally designed fonts, 22,
000 clipart pictures, 100 photos. An introductory version of Ares
FontMinder, to help keep a large font collection under control (with a
special price to upgrade to the full version). Unfortunately, the
clipart guide remains nearly as confusing to me as the previous
version... sure all those pictures are better organized, but they're
still identified by cryptic filenames, that often leave me guessing
who's the intended subject (especially for the pages of American

As befits the high-end price, the new version of the draw program
provides features demanded by professional graphics workers, such as:

-- real EPS support, provided by a built-in postscript interpreter.

-- transparancy.

-- the ability to paste objects within objects without first making a

-- a macro-recorder.

-- Panose (c) font substitution.

-- greater precision and resizing objects.

-- and, yes, even more enhancements.

Corel PhotoPaint has added some of the best features of both PhotoShop and Fractal
Design Painter. There is support for PhotoShop plug-ins, such as Kai's
Power Tools. CMYK editing for improved colour output. Independent,
floating objects. Pointallist and Impressionist filters. Custom

Corel Move, the animation module, has gained the ability to morph...
the popular special effect of blending two pictures together, turning,
for example, a dog into a cat, or a Honda Civic into a Porsche.

Corel Chart has added new charting types, and a wealth of new
spreadsheeting functions. A new module, Corel Query, allows for direct
import of database tables for use in Chart or Ventura (when available).

Other modules, including the Corel Show presentation graphics program,
Corel Trace, for converting bitmaps to vector art, and Mosaic, the
clipart manager (not to be confused with the popular Internet access
program of the same name), are still included, with minor
enhancements. There's even an Acrobat reader, to deal with Adobe's
wannabe standard for document exchange.

When Ventura 5 ships, Corel claims it will sport a new interface, more
in keeping with both Windows and Corel standards than previous
versions, including (like the other modules,) rollups and tabbed
dialogue boxes. OLE 2 drag and drop, along with standard Windows text
editing conventions.

Like PageMaker, there will be a built-in story editor. Wrap-around irregular shapes.
Rotation of both text and graphics in 0.1 degree increments. Colour
prepress support. Improved font management.

Overall, a continuation of Ventura's long-document support is promised, while
adding ease of use and short-document improvements.

While Corel admits that these features make a lot of demands on your
hardware, they swear that one of their design goals for version 5 was
to optimize the code. The result-- even though it's a larger program,
many features, such as text handling, do run faster. It's too early to
tell whether this will be a cleaner release than the last two, but
Corel claims that they (finally) implimented extensive beta-testing...
this time before releasing the product.

Corel has announced plans to market Ventura 5.0 (when released) and
PhotoPaint 5.0 as separate products, as well as offering them bundled into the
Corel Draw 5.0 box. As well, they will continue to market Ventura 4.2,
the current release.

Still, they seem to expect that users who want the improvements in
their Draw program are going to drop their current high-end DTP
programs, and happily move over to Ventura 5.0 (when it becomes
available). Or at least, happily pay for a DTP program, whether or not
they intend to use it.

They're marketing version 5 as a sort of Swiss Army Knife for graphics
professionals with long-document needs, while aiming version 4 at
users with more modest DTP desires. Finally, version 3 is the low-
priced entry version.

But while you'll be able to buy Ventura 5 or PhotoPaint 5 as
standalone products, to get the improved Draw program, you have to
purchase the whole package... whether you need PhotoPaint or Ventura
or not.

With many graphics professionals firmly wedded to PhotoShop or its
competitors, and to other DTP software such as Quark XPress or
PageMaker, and with Corel 5's new high price (presumably to pay
for the added value of Ventura), I suspect many users may
prefer to purchase the surgeon's scalpel of a dedicated illustration program, rather than Corel's Swiss
Army Knife.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from  fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan