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CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 11
Complete graphics editing and designing application suite.

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Tuesday, November 24, 2003; 11:00am EST

Corel has long stood for quality graphics software. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 11 is the latest version of their popular suite of creativity tools. Version 11 continues a long tradition of product refinement and improvement to keep it in the top ranks of its market segment.

For people unfamiliar with CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, it combines a number of powerful applications including CorelDRAW their artistic drawing and design program, Corel PHOTO-PAINT their digital image editing tool that is perfectly up to the job of high end web graphics development; Corel RAVE 2, the latest version of their vector based animation tool. Also inclusive of the package are hundreds (in excess of 900) great fonts to expand on that dismal collection included with your base operating system library; and an expansive collection of clip arts, royalty free stock photos and utilities to help you out such as duplex printing; font management; image tracer; texture designer / editor; and much more.

In this review we will focus primarily on the PHOTO-PAINT component of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 11 as a majority of our readers will be more focused on the web design functionality of the suite. The product is a snap to install, and of the 4 included CD-ROM's, one is for the applications. We recommend installing any service packs available.

Load time on our text box (Dell Dimension XPS; Pentium 4 3GHz; 1GB memory; SATA hard drive; Windows XP Pro) was excellent for such a large program. Upon loading, the interface is immediately friendly - icons are easy to read, there is a large default workspace and the dropdown menus also use icons to illustrate functions of filters, effects and tools. It definitely doesn't stop there, you can then customize it to your exact liking, brining in tabbing dockers, adding multiple pallets, adding and removing tools and choosing what status bars are or aren't along the bottom. You can even make the floating dockers transparent for when the workspace starts to get cluttered with various images. It is quite simply an excellent "working environment" that is well suited to both novices and people that spend the better part of their day working on graphics.

Once you dive a bit further, you will be very pleased by the number of editing tools, drawing tools, effects (over 100) and image manipulations tools you have at your disposal, all with a low learning curve and intuitive execution. All of them make it a one-stop-shop for photo retouching and editing or designing of web graphics. You can also run batches to cut down on the time taken to do changes to large volumes of graphics like resizing, compression and more. Tools such as the Drop Down Shadow tool and the Interactive Object Transparency Tool are incredibly easy to use to produce excellent effects. We did note however that certain combinations of factors caused some of the effects tools and text editing tool to "crash" the program. Generally it is a stable program, but there are the occasional bugs that crop up. When this occurs, its built in crash management functionality allows you to quit, save your work and quit or continue working.

The ability to edit the palette is for the most part well executed allowing you to import from a wide range of popular preset palettes such as Trumatch and Pantone. Or create your own palette from scratch selecting the colours you want, even grabbing here and there from other palettes. Colour Management makes it incredibly easy to adjust the colour palette for screen, print or web optimization. Version 11 adds red eye removal, symbols support and image slicing and roll over effect tools. The new and improved cut / paste / copy tool changes colour of unselected area rather than sometimes distracting dotted lines outlining the selected area. It does take a bit of getting used to the selecting and deselecting with the new method compared to prior versions.

We believe the environment in Corel PHOTO-PAINT and for that matter all the applications in the suite, have a better, faster, learning curve than its primary competition Adobe Photoshop 7, and we found many of the tools shared between the two products, easier to use and equally robust in Corel's offering. The consistent use of real time interactivity in all of CorelDRAW Graphic Suite's tools and effects incredibly convenient.

Software and hardware requirements are well inline with what is on offer and both the Windows and Mac are contained in the same retail box: Windows users require Windows 98 and above; Pentium II 200MHz processor or greater; 128MB of memory; 200MB drive space. The program produced blistering performance on our test box. Mac users require Mac OS 10.1 and above; a Power Mac G3 or above; 128MB of memory and 250MB drive space.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 11 has a recommended retail price of $799CAD, an upgrade price of $299CAD and a very reasonably priced full academic version is also available from authorized academic and school stores. Users of Corel Graphics Suite 10 should consider the upgrade, although there are few major changes, there are many refinements, better file browsing and saving, and significantly improved program stability. Users of Version 9 and below are highly recommended to upgrade. First time buyers of such a graphics package will be wondering whether to buy Corel's or Adobe's offering. When you combine the lower cost, friendlier interface, and better learning curve of Corel, it would be the recommended choice for a majority of users.

PROS - Interface; customizability of working environment; previewing of all effects, filters, tools and compression; palette customizability; dockers flexibility; low system requirements; competitive price.

CONS - Bugs related to some editing, effects and text tools; better text pathway tools would be nice.

About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.


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