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ISSUE 513: The high tech office- Aug 24 1999


Corel's flagship upgrade marks tenth birthday

In almost perfect symmetry, Ottawa-based Corel's flagship product, Corel Draw is celebrating its tenth birthday with 10 million customers and the release of version 9. (Well, I did say almost perfect symmetry.)

Corel 9 remains targeted at ad-
vanced business graphics users and design pros working on Windows-based machines (there's a Mac version as well, but that's still in version 8).

As with previous versions, it's a hefty package, shipping on three CDs along with a trio of hefty manuals, including a printed library of a massive collection of fonts and clipart.

Fans of the three-dimensional design application, CorelDream 3D won't find it, but the new version still includes upgraded editions of its core illustration and bit-mapped photo-editing programs, Corel Draw and Photo-Paint programs. Also carried over from previous versions are the Capture and Trace utilities designed to take digital snapshots of the computer screen and convert bitmapped pictures into Draw-style illustrations. A new addition is Cumulus, a media management system, useful in cataloguing collections of photos, drawings and other media types.

While the dedicated three-dimensional application is now history, the main Corel Draw program has in-
creased 3D capabilities, including seven effects to give your pictures the illusion of depth. These are combined with dozens of other effects and filters which can be combined for almost infinite variations. An interactive preview function, along with sophisticated undo/redo capabilities, allows users to experiment with tweaking their drawings. A new Artistic Pen tool makes it easier than ever to create realistic-looking lines and shapes.

Graphics can be published in Adobe PDF format thereby preserving their appearance when displayed on the Web or distributed to systems that lack a copy of Corel Draw. Web links can be added to graphics, and text can be converted to HTML. Graphics pros will appreciate improved EPS capabilities and enhanced colour management, sore points with users of earlier versions.

The user interface is somewhat changed. The roll-up palettes to access various features are gone and replaced by more in-your-face dockers on the right of the screen. The programs now support Visual Basic for Applications macros.

Photo-Paint 9 now offers support for a wider range of digital cameras. There's better control of zoom levels and a new interface for many of the tools. Corel has continued its policy
of integrating features between the Draw and Photo-Paint programs, sharing effects and filters, colour palettes and more, while saving on disk space. Many Photo-Paint effects can be accessed from within Corel Draw, simplifying editing bitmaps within that program.

There remain some quirks, however. As with version 8, the new version wants users to use the Import command rather than the more standard File/Open command to work on an existing image.

Users may have a confusing time trying to work with the included utilities. Trace and Capture can be started up from the main toolbar's application launcher, but Cumulus isn't. And the application launcher's very existence is missing in the otherwise-generous printed documentation and online help -- and the Help system manages to totally ignore the existence of the Cumulus and Capture utilities.

Despite these relatively minor quibbles, Corel Draw continues to offer a lot of value for the price ($945 for new users, $299 for upgrades). While competitor Adobe's product line remains the favourite of graphics professionals, Adobe users need to purchase two packages, Illustrator and PhotoShop, each at about the same cost as the single Corel product. And even buying both, Adobe users miss out on the huge font and clipart collections bundled by Corel.

Corel's new version is worth the upgrade, particularly for users wanting to make use of its new electronic publishing features. While the new version offers more to graphics pros than ever, I suspect that Adobe will continue to maintain its hold on their hearts, minds and wallets, but Corel will continue to find favour with the millions of (primarily Windows-based) users looking for serious graphics capabilities in a more affordable package.

Aspiring Corel Draw users may want to pick up a copy of the CorelDraw Art and Artistry book and CD-ROM set ($69.99 from Osborne McGraw Hill). The new eighth edition is based on the illustrations submitted to the 1997 version of Corel's annual World Design competition. The CD includes 1,000 submissions, along with a 30-day trial version of Corel Draw 8. The book takes a look at the winners, including step-by-step descriptions of how many were created. A Tips and Tricks section walks readers through the steps needed to achieve common effects. A final sec-
tion showcases the contest entrants, all in art-book-quality full-colour.

The book is a nice merger of a coffee table art book and a computer manual, while in-
cluding all the artwork on CD (along with the trial version of Corel Draw) makes it possible to break up the pictures into their component parts to see how they work. *

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