CorelDRAW! (graphics software) (evaluation)
by Robert Bixby
Ordinarily, I would be wary of recommending a graphics package that costs as much as CorelDRAW!. If it costs that much, it had better do it all. After working with CorelDRAW! intensively for about a year and with CorelDRAW! 2.0 virtually full-time since January in connection with a book project, I can tell you without hesitation or fear of contradiction that CorelDRAW! will do the job for you as far as graphics are concerned, almost without regard to the kind of job you need done. If you've outgrown Corel's list of options, you have simply outgrown the PC, and you should be shopping for a workstation.
I would've had a more difficult time making that recommendation prior to the emergence of the 2.0 version (which may be updated to a higher number by the time you see this, to account for minor bug fixes that are underway as of this writing). Although the earlier version was a noble effort and certainly a heavy hitter among graphics packages, there was nothing that sufficiently distinguished it from the pack of other CAD programs to make a specific recommendation. Each of the major players had a special trick or two, and there was as much compelling evidence that you should purchase one as another. Corel's programmers eliminated all the waffle room with version 2.0, beating the competition at its own game and leaving it in the dust. The cleaned-up version that will shortly emerge from the current upgrade process will be bulletproof.
I will attempt the daunting task of listing the reasons why you should invest $695 in a graphics program--and why you will count that investment as money well spent.
CorelDRAW! is easy to learn and use, as it always was. It features intuitive little pluses like a Repeat command in the File menu that allows you to reiterate an action, no matter how complex, with a single menu selection. It allows you to add perspective to your drawing automatically, to "extrude" a two-dimensional object into the third dimension, and to distort at will the envelope containing a drawn object as if it were printed on a sheet of rubber ol Silly Putty. CorelDRAW! has a complete blend option for the first time with version 2.0. It features a broad range of import and export features that will make it a ready partner for all your other graphics software. The CorelDRAW! fonts are famous for their variety and attractiveness, but they offer much more: These fine fonts can be exported in various forms for use with your other applications, provided that you have a font manager to work with Windows.
The Mosaic feature turns your CorelDRAW! on-disk graphics portfolio into an onscreen gallery of drawings that you can peruse at will, looking for the specific piece of art that you need at the moment. But even if you opt not to use Mosaic for whatever reason, the Open dialog box displays a thumbnail sketch of whatever file is selected in the list box, providing a similar if less dramatic, service in the basic software.
New in CorelDRAW! 2.0 are the vector and raster fill options. These options provide you with the ability, for example, to grab a section of a drawing on the screen and use it as a continuously tiling fill inside of another object. You can also import any bitmap (TIFF or PCX) drawing as a fill pattern. Once the fil has been imported, you can color it as you please, size it, edit it with Corel's pattern editor, and save it for future use in the gallery of raster fills or, if it's a vector fill, as a special kind of CorelDRAW! fill file.
One of the drawbacks of the earlier versions of the product was that you couldn't offset a fountain fill. A fountain fill was always squarely centered in the selection rectangle of an object, and the only way you could alter the way it filled was to combine the filled object with some irrelevant bit of data off in the direction of the desired offset. This minor irritant was removed in the 2.0 version with the addition of an offset option.
In many ways, CorelDRAW! was always just as good as its principal rivals, Micrografx Designer and Arts & Letters Graphic Editor, but it lacked the friendly fountains of Designer and the powerful blending options of Graphic Editor.
There are still areas that could use improvement. The powerful Corel TRACE, an associated program provided with CorelDRAW!, is functional enough when it comes to turning raster graphics into line art, but its options aren't particularly intuitive, and it seems slow, particularly when compared with the spritely performance of Designer. Corel also has an autotrace feature within the program. Someday it would be nice to have this autotrace made powerful enough to stand up next to Designer's so you wouldn't have to leave the program to perform your traces. Likewise, the font-export option is the envy of the industry, but for a novice at moving fonts around, it's not well documented (and the information in the Windows 3.0 manual is as good as nonexistent). The ability to alter fonts and use them as your own is another good reason to purchase CorelDRAW!, but you'll have to become a Windows expert before you'll discover how to use these fonts with other Windows programs.
But even with these minor problems, CorelDRAW! has more to recommend it than any other Windows graphics program.