ISSUE 588: Zisman- Jan 30 2001

The high-tech office


Enhancements make Corel good value for OK product

Ottawa's Corel Corp. is the closest thing Canada has to a company trying to be Microsoft. Corel founder and until recently CEO Michael Cowpland challenged the big guysby buying Wordperfect and pitting it against Office and in pushing Linux as an alternative toWindows.

But, ironically, Corel's core product doesn't challenge Microsoft at all. Instead, Corel Draw has, foryears, gone up against the graphics leader, Adobe's Illustrator and Photoshopprograms.

Corel Draw is now 12 years old, with an all-new Version 10 (about $800) that the company calls itsbiggest upgrade ever. It continues in its long-standing tradition of cramming more stuff into the boxthan anyone else. Three CDs, hundreds of fonts, thousands of clip-art images and photos, and a pile ofutilities. Despite including all that stuff, Corel has cleaned up and trimmed down. While the goodiesare there if you want them, installation is surprisingly slim, smooth and tidy.

While competitor Adobe bundles each of its products separately, Corel has, for years, offered agraphics suite. The main Corel Draw program is an illustration program la AdobeIllustrator. Photopaint, not coincidentally, sports a name reminiscent of Adobe Photoshop. And with alot of the excitement in the graphics world focused around animation software such asMacromedia Flash, it should be no surprise that new to Corel Draw 10 is Flash-like Corel RAVE.

Version 10 offers lots of changes to the Draw program, starting with a new, more customizableinterface. A Navigator window makes it easy to find your way around a large image. One of my favouriteadditions is the Perfect Shape tool. A subtle reminder that Corel also markets Wordperfect, it makesit easy to make stars, captions, organization chart shapes, arrows and the like. I also like the easyway that you can duplicate a colour used somewhere in a drawing and drag it to apply it to any otherobject.

Real Time Preview helps you see what will happen when you experiment with sometimes complex options.And, like Photoshop, there's now a History list, letting you step back to a better past. (No, it can'tbe applied to relationships or the stock market.)

Corel Draw can be used to produce complete Web pages or page layouts, but you'll be better off with adedicated Web or page design program. You can use Corel Draw for these but, then again, you canuse a large screwdriver to hammer in a nail, too.

Many of the enhancements such as Real Time Preview, Web image optimizing and better colour managementappear in the Photopaint module as well as the Draw module. In Photopaint, moving around a largegraphic, panning and zooming in real time is now easier; text looks smoother, even in small sizes; anddrop-shadows are created more easily and with more control. However, a red-eye removal tool, standardwith most home photo software, doesn't work as advertised. Corel promises a downloadable improvedversion.

RAVE (Real Animated Vector Effects) is the new module, allowing users to create animations and savethem in Macromedia Flash, animated GIF or Windows Video AVI formats. It's not as powerful as Flash,but is easier to use, particularly if you're familiar with Corel-style interfaces. Saved files don'tcompress as well as those made with Flash, however, which will be a problem on the Web, where filesize matters.

I am disappointed that Corel has joined the herd in downsizing documentation, both in print and on thedisk. Hardly anyone actually reads software manuals, but I've always found them somehow reassuring.

Version 10 is currently only available for PCs; a Mac version is reportedly in the works. As well,Corel tends to continue to sell its older versions at reduced prices. None of the suite modulesoutperform the Adobe counterparts, but since you can buy the whole Corel bundle for about the price ofone Adobe product, it re-mains a great value.

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