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CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4
Complete graphics editing and designing application suite.

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Thursday, April 24, 2008; 6:00pm EST

While there may be a plethora of graphics editing software out there, only a small few would fit into the upper class professional use category. Of this elite group of feature rich graphics software, Corel has long been a main contender with its CorelDRAW Graphics Suite package. With consistent releases of new versions sporting new features and an evolving look and feel that keeps pace with the times, we were keen to see what the latest version, X4 would bring to the table.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the suite, it combines the power of the CorelDRAW vector illustration program, PHOTO-PAINT image editing program for web graphics editing and photo related work, and PowerTRACE along with a great collection of other utilities and content to form an all-in-one graphics workshop that can keep even the most seasoned professional pleased. Whether you’re working in print or on the web it is a suitable environment for both intermediate and professional graphic design work.

New to X4 is a tweaked interface, enhanced color matching, improved included content, live text formatting, RAW format support, image straightening, histogram feedback, higher precision tone curve, the ability to export secured PDF documents and more. The interface improvements mostly affect icon design and minor menu changes. While the changes work to modernize the look of the application, some of the icons at times can be slightly confusing or too closely related to other icons. We were impressed with the improved Vista integration as this permitted scalable File operation windows so that a larger number of thumbnails could be browsed at a time, which is great when searching through stock libraries. Generally you will find working in the refreshed X4 environment to be pleasantly effortless and highly usable.

A key improvement in X4 is in the area of text formatting where great changes over previous versions make applying styles and having more control when doing so a huge bonus. Seeing the changes in your graphics live as you apply them is a significant time saver. Text formatting docker takes fine tuning your text to an even higher level of detail than before. The only thing on our wish list would be for customized anti-aliasing.

As with prior versions, the Cut-Out Lab and Image Adjustments Lab have proven to be fantastic tools. The Cut Out Lab makes quick work of cutting images in even the most complicated situations (think hair against a waterfall background). The Adjustments Lab gives you a stunning toolbox of goodies such as Hue, Contrast, Brightness and so on that you can use and apply all at the same time for one stop image manipulation. Both tools offer an amazing array of previewing, live and history views so that you can compare changes across multiple variations if so desired, or compare changes within the very image you’re working with by dividing the image into original and newly adjusted segments.

New to X4 is an image straightening tool for when you scan documents or images into the application. And in a word, it’s incredible. Skeptical at first, due to so many other promises from other programs that were broken, we were amazed at how well it worked. Instead of the assumed outcome of an image that was either too aliased or too anti-aliased, straitened images came out perfect every time without fail. If you scan a lot of photography or images – this feature’s for you.

What about users that will be pulling in photos from their digital cameras? CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 now has native RAW camera support allowing direct access from your digital camera. And Corel continues to excel in being able to open and save in just about any format imaginable including Photoshop for when working with others using that format.

As usual the suite helps get new users going with hours of training videos; a comprehensive help system; a library of professionally designed templates and clip arts; over 1,000 stock images are included and intuitive application design that lends itself to faster learning. Also as usual expect a huge assortment of over 1,000 OpenType fonts to help diversify your font library, although we wished the installation process of getting those fonts onto your computer to be a little clearer and seamless.

Ultimately, how is X4 to use on a day to day basis? It’s a joy! It’s fast and responsive, rich with features that designers and editors can make good use of, and overall a friendly environment to get stuff done. Our only issues were around large file handling which sometimes brought Photo-Paint to a crawl or crash our test system (we were experimenting with mammoth poster sized images at high DPI and resolution); and the somewhat ancient set of image Effects that could use some modernizing. That’s a pretty short list, and nothing that should hold you back from seriously considering CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 for your graphics needs. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is always one of those programs that puts a smile on our faces when we get to see the latest version, and X4 is no exception.

So what do you need to get Corel Graphics Suite X4 on your computer? Minimum requirements include Windows XP or Vista 32-bit or 64-bit, 512MB memory (although we would recommend a least 2GB on a Vista system due to the nature of the operating system), 430MB drive space and a Pentium III 800MHz processor (again, reality dictates something with a bit more grunt such as a high-end Pentium 4 or modern dual core processor). It is available now from major computing and electronics retailers and the Corel online store for $429 full version or $199 for the upgrade.

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.
info@viscaconsulting.com
http://www.viscaconsulting.com/

 

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