Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Corel turns a big 10!
by Bert Schopf

Graphics: Either vector (geometrically-defined scalable) illustrations or bitmaps (pixel-based 
photorealistic images) 

Suite: A collection of tools to create and manipulate graphics 

Corel: Local software developer that's been refining these toys and tools for over 10 years 

Back in the day...

Back in the dark days of orange- or green-screen word processors and boring spreadsheets (late 80's-early 90's) I worked at OCRI* and ex-Mitel bigwig Mike Cowpland sent us a beta-copy of CorelDraw 1.0 for evaluation. Because I was responsible for churning out seminar programmes 
and newsletters, the set of 5.25" diskettes landed on my desk. 

Wow! You could actually draw stuff on a PC! This actually made working on computers kinda fun. Even back then, the capabilities were in the software to draw almost anything and do some very funky things to mundane text. 

Every year thereafter Corel offered upgrades and it was very encouraging to realize that the many suggestions to their free support hotline were seriously considered and (gasp!) implemented. Kudos to the teams of Corel engineers and developers over the past decade who have brought real drawing power to the PC. Over the years, Corel has improved their flagship drawing application and augmented it regularly with related applications (Photo-Paint, Ventura page layout, etc.) and an abundance of free quality clipart and fonts. 

The matured suite

Ten years later, Corel's graphics suite still offers superb value and more importantly, a powerful and flexible total graphics solution for novices and professional users. 

The core vector graphics app, CorelDraw 10, sees some new features and an improved interface. New features include sophisticated gradient transparencies, easy-to-change PerfectShapes, and most of the special effects tools are now live and interactive rather than palette controlled. I 
still find Draw has better capabilities than any of its competitors. 

Corel Photo-Paint remains on par with its biggest image editing competitor, Adobe Photoshop. Both are first-rate image retouching applications which support layers, multiple import/export filters and extensive colour, image and retouching tools. So, you could pay $900 for Photoshop or pay nothing for Corel Photo-Paint which is right there in the graphics suite. 

Both Draw and Paint let you create JavaScript rollovers and optimize Web graphics with side-by-side previews. Speaking of webstuff... 

R.A.V.E. is the new kid on the block at Corel; it lets you create sequential "movies" out of vector or bitmap objects and then save your files in popular web formats like Flash. With the ever-increasing demand for more sophisticated web graphics, this is a welcome addition and the fact that it has a familiar Corel feel is a bonus. 
 
When Corel presented this suite at the OPCUG General Meeting a few months ago, I was pleased with how easy it was to create an animation. My biggest difficulty was using the laptop touchpad - the software was easy to use and seemed logical. 

Rounding up the goodies in the box are several useful utilities and the traditional cornucopia of clip art and fonts. 
 

In general, the suite seems to be somewhat better integrated than previous collections and the performance seems a little snappier - must be all that rewritten code.

New features: 

Colour Management
 
Both CorelDraw and Photo-Paint programs share new colour management tools; a welcome addition although not everybody will feel a need to calibrate their system for rendering accurate colours. The CMS interface makes it easy to select the type of device you are using (proofer, offset printer, monitor, and scanner) and simply specify what the devices' brand name is. 

However, this falls apart if users don't have existing profiles for their equipment and have to settle for a "generic" device profile.

PerfectShapes

CorelDraw's best new feature is PerfectShapes which let users quickly draw 77 customizable shapes and by using the control glyphs further adjust the shapes while retaining their general form. The shapes are divided into five categories:  Basic, Arrow, Flowchart, Star, and Callout shapes. I particularly like the callout shapes for quick- drawing thought ballons, speech ballons and other comic- style callouts. 

PerfectShapes are fully editable as with most Draw objects; letting you change outline, fill, size, position, scale, rotation, etc. 

Pan Tool

The Pan Tool (part of the Zoom set) has improved functionality - as you pan around the page you can left- or right-click your mouse to zoom in or out. This beats using scrollbars any day and doubles as a zoom tool. 

R.A.V.E.

Corel R.A.V.E., comes equipped with the usual complement of animation functions - layers, timeline window, animation objects along a path, blending objects over time (tweening) and adding sound bites to movies. Finished documents may be exported to Flash (SWF), GIF, AVI (Video for Windows) or MOV (QuickTime) format. 

Corel Graphics Suite 10 recommended system:

Pentium 200
128Mb RAM
Windows 98/ME/NT4/2000
Internet access
Hard disk space required: ~ 300Mb 

Practical Application of Corel Graphics Suite 10: OPCUG logo animation project

To put the Corel Graphics Suite 10 through its paces, I thought it would be nice to manipulate the OPCUG logo in Draw and use the shapes to create an animation with R.A.V.E. Horizontally scaling the computer part of the logo should be a fair test of the animation. Maybe I'll add a little flash (pun intended) at the end too. 

I started by opening the OPCUG logo in CorelDraw 10. I converted all text to curves (to avoid font substitutions) and grouped the text objects. I also combined all the computer lines into one object. Draw 10 behaves much like its previous versions, yet the revised interface and better access to object properties makes it easier to work fast. I used the Transform Docker to perform incremental scaling to multiple copies of the graphic, which were OK to test, but unneccessary in the end because R.A.V.E. let me use the identical Transform tool. The computer logo was exported from Draw in Corel's native CMX format. 
 
Corel R.A.V.E., comes equipped with the usual complement of animation functions - layers, timeline window, animation objects along a path, blending objects over time (tweening) and adding sound bites to movies. Finished documents may be exported to Flash (SWF), GIF, AVI (Video for Windows) or MOV (QuickTime) format. 
I've uploaded the resultant Flash SWF file to Pub II if anyone would like to see it in motion. 

Note that if you have an older browser, you may want to either upgrade it or download a Flash plug-in for your existing setup.

Conclusions

I like the "big ten". It still represents a terrific value for anyone looking to get into computer graphics of any kind. The core apps (Draw, Paint, R.A.V.E.) are at the top of their class in the industry and the utilities are worth the price of the whole box. However, if you already have version 8 or 9 and a vector web animation app doesn't excite you, you may want to hold off the upgrade. 


Bottom Line:

Corel Draw 10 
Suite           US$549.99 
Upgrade     US$239.99 
Download   US$509.00 
From Corel Corporation:  http://www.corel.com/


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.