Corel Draw update adds sophistication
with CDs full of bells, whistles and clip art - Feb 3 1998

Think of graphics on a computer and you probably think of a Macintosh. But for those of you working with graphics on Windows PCs, you probably think of Corel Draw.

While this suite of graphics applications was not the first such package for Windows (Micrografx In-a-Vision, now marketed as Designer, was actually released several months prior to the original Windows), the various versions of Corel Draw have dominated the market category -- now ac-
counting for around 80 per cent of sales -- for the last 10 years.

With its just-released version 8.0 (about $700, or $350 to upgrade from earlier versions), Ottawa-based Corel has loaded a lot into the box. There are three major applications: illustration program Corel Draw itself, PhotoPaint for photo enhancement and working with bitmapped graphics and CorelDream for 3D modelling. Also included are utilities for scanning, font management, optical character recognition, screen captures and more, plus tens of thousands of cartoon-like clip-art images, photos, textures and templates, and a library of 1,000 fonts. Three jam-packed CDs worth. Inevit-
ably, this results in a product that wants a lot of computer, and insists on a lot of your drive space (as much as 220MB or so). Luckily, RAM and hard drive prices are at record lows, so many users will find it easier than ever to provide for the care and feeding of this package.

The design goal of this version was "interactive." The word crops up again and again in the names of new and improved tools such as Interactive Distortion and Interactive Extrude, programs that make it easier than ever to apply special effects by seeing their changes in real time. Object management and selection is also improved -- repeated Alt-clicking, for example, quickly gets to those buried objects. It's also easier to work with colour palettes, which is especially useful when working with artwork potentially including thousands or even millions of colours. Tool bars, hot keys and more can be easily customized, allowing different users to maintain personalized "workspaces."

The interface goes against the current fashion for 3D toolbars and buttons by featuring a new "flat" look. A proper-
ties bar (introduced in version 7) changes depending on what you're working on. This helps minimize some of the clutter of multiple toolboxes.

The new version also supports the new Adobe Illustrator 7 file format, and can import 3D Internet VRML and QuickDraw 3D files into both Corel Draw and Photo-
Paint. Files can be ex-
ported as Web-standard HTML, automatically eliminating features not supported by Internet browsers.

Well-designed, comprehensive full-colour manuals support the main Corel Draw and PhotoPaint programs. The CorelDream 3D program, however, gets left out. A separate volume includes thumbnails of all of the many fonts, symbols, clip art and photo images, though I was disappointed that the company still identifies the pictures with old, pre-Win95 eight-letter file names, which often makes it a guessing game trying to identify the subject of a caricature. (Who is that N_b_s woman on page 318, for example?)

As well, there is a slim, but useful Commercial Printing Guide, aiming to help users working with colour, scanning and preparing output for film or for high-resolution image setting. In the past, Corel had developed something of a bad reputation with many professional service bureaus. This version seems to do a better job producing output that will print properly on high-resolution devices.

While Corel claims more than 100 new features, improvements over the previous version are modest. But the many users of earlier versions will find it an appealing upgrade.

In the past, Corel continued to market its previous versions at increasingly discounted prices. Faced with the spiralling costs of simultaneously supporting as many as five different versions, the company has decided to stop selling any previous versions except version 5.0, the final Windows 3.1 edition. (Like versions 6 and 7, the new version 8 can only be used by Windows 95/NT users.)

As well, the company sells version 6 for the Macintosh, but has promised the new version 8 for that platform later this spring. There's also an edition optimized for the minority of users running NT on Digital's powerful Alpha processor.

Corel has, certainly, sold lots of copies of Corel Draw, but the program has never been fully accepted by the graphics community.

Local author Steve Bain has written books on both the Corel product and the competing Adobe Illustrator. He comments that with the new version, Corel "appears more sophisticated than ever, but still hasn't taken its product to the level of Illustrator. Instead, Corel has preferred to offer more features than its competition." Next week, we'll look at its competition -- the industry standard Illustrator and PhotoShop, both from Adobe.*

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