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CorelDRAW! 8

CorelDRAW! 8

Ah, the Suite life…

By Jim Bray

Corel Corporation’s annual upgrade to its flagship DRAW! Suite is full of subtle and not-so-subtle enhancements aimed at pleasing the graphics professional.

CorelDRAW! 8 (for Windows 95/NT and Power Macintosh) is a lovely product that includes the DRAW 8 vector illustration program, Corel Photo-Paint 8 bitmap editing program, and CorelDREAM 8 3D rendering app. And, as is usual with Corel, there’s enough other stuff in the box to choke a horse, including supplementary applications like Corel Capture, Texture, Scan, OCR Trace, and even a bar code wizard.

Throw in about 40,000 clipart images and symbols, 1000 photos, another 1000 fonts, and a batch of "floating objects" and templates, and you have a really suite deal.

CorelDRAW 7 was a delight, with its interactive toolbars and beefed up text handing capabilities, but 8 is even better – and I think it’s faster, though I haven’t sat by my monitor with a stop watch

The first thing I noticed upon installation (and my relatively full install required a whopping 340 megabytes of hard disk space!) was the smooth look of the toolbars, à la Office 97 and WordPerfect 8. More important is the new support for the wheel on Microsoft’s Intellimouse, though I was disappointed to find that it will only zoom or pan, whereas I’d have preferred to scroll up and down like with other applications. Still, it’s much better than no support at all and, to be fair, the more I use it the more happy I became with what it does.

As always, the more robust your computer is the happier CorelDRAW is, and a Pentium 133 with at least 32 Mb of RAM are the recommended baselines. That’s what I used, and it worked fine, though it did slow down when things got hot and heavy, graphically speaking.

CorelDRAW! 8DRAWing conclusions…

Like the rest of the suite, CorelDRAW is a fully 32-bit extravaganza that not only lets you create and edit vector graphics, but which is a darn good page layout application, too. In fact, if you own this suite, and your favourite printing house supports it, you can pretty well throw away your DTP program and do your newsletters, brochures, or whatever, right in DRAW.

DRAW is more customizable than ever, though the interface is so good the only thing I changed on it was to add the zoom toolbar to the default display.

And I was delighted to discover that the "duplicate" command is now much more intelligent. Whereas duplicating an object in earlier versions merely created another one near the original, the new feature learns from where you position the first duplicate and continues that trend in subsequent copies. I used this when creating gridlines for a table; after I dragged the first duplicate to its position, the next duplicates appeared exactly where I wanted them without me having to drag them anywhere.

Imagine – an intelligent computer program that actually makes life easier!

DRAW’s interactive controls are extremely handy, too. With them, you can mess around with an object’s parameters right from the object on the page, via little sliders and/or dragging and dropping with the mouse. It’s a nice way to add drop shadows to objects, distort them or give them a special fill.

And a little more of PhotoPaint seems to have leaked over into DRAW, undoubtedly by osmosis. For instance, you can do quite a bit of messing around with the parameters of imported bitmaps without having to load PhotoPaint, which is a real bonus considering the resources these apps use.

These are just a few of the many thoughtful little touches that contribute to DRAW 8 being a real pleasure to use.

Photo-Paint 8 screenPictures Perfect

Photo-Paint 8 speeds up your retouching by offering MMX support and a new, low-res image editing feature that writes a script as you edit a "dumbed down" version of your bitmap – then plays it back and copies your edits back onto a high res image.

The interactive toolbars and property bars work really well here, too, though I thought it was a bit of an oversight for Corel not to have put "undo" and "redo" buttons on the main toolbar. They’re the buttons I used the most!

And while there are dozens of new features and enhanced old features, the thing that struck me most was the thoughtful way you can now preview images before you save them. For example, when converting a Photo-Paint image to a JPEG, you now get a dialogue box that not only shows you how the image will look when converted – and gives you a number of settings you can adjust – but also how much space the file will take up. Nice.

Dream Works

Corel Dream 3D isn’t something I use much, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a nifty application. It’s a good way to create 3D objects for use in logos, on web sites, or wherever else you might need them.

The Eighth Incarnation gives you new VRML and 3DMF support for those with a hankering for creating Virtual Reality, and a new Scene Wizard helps with the creation of your vision via a series of templates.

You can also create and manage objects with new "object links" and deformation tools – and you can make the background reflect on the object, which is kind of neat.

There’s more lighting control now, too, and Corel has added a "cloudy fog atmosphere" setting.

My biggest problem is thinking in 3D on a 2D computer screen, but after a while it gets a lot easier.

Strangely, there’s no printed manual for Dream 8 (you get books for DRAW and Photo-Paint) so getting up and running may not be the easiest thing for first time users, though the "scene wizard" can help a lot.

Suite Tooth

CorelDRAW 8 is more powerful than ever, which says a lot, but that power may be lost on non-power users. It has other advantages you’ll quickly learn to love, however, because it’s more intuitive and intelligent than before, and it makes tasks easier and quicker to accomplish.

Corel is aiming DRAW at graphics professionals (read "people who know what they’re doing"), and that’s great. It’s definitely a high end piece of technology.

Still, despite the fact that I have no formal graphic design training, CorelDRAW! 8 allowed me to stretch my limited abilities to new heights merely by putting tools and features right under my nose – where I’d trip over them. This encouraged experimentation and caused me to use features that I had never discovered before, either because they weren’t there or because I’m too stubborn to open the manual unless it’s an emergency.

So if you’re an honest to goodness designer, you’ll probably find a lot to love in DRAW! 8. If you aren’t, you’re in for an eye opening experience.

And once again I’m left wondering what new things they’ll dream up for Version 9.


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January 31, 2006