By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Wednesday, July 18, 2007; 4:00pm EST
Corel has long been a leader in the graphics suite market, and their latest release, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 is sure to solidify their position at the top. X3 continues the tradition of the pervious releases by building on the solid foundation of an application suite used by millions over the years. This release features not only refinements, but all-new time saving features and changes to help expedite designer's production timelines.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 comes complete with CorelDRAW X3 the vector based illustration program; PowerTrace (which is now incorporated into CorelDRAW for ease of use) for bitmap to vector conversion; Photo-Paint X3 for bitmap editing and production; 1,000 fonts and fonts manager; 10,000 clipart images; and 1 hour of training videos from Linda. A copy of Bitstream Font Navigator is included to assist in loading the included fonts to your workstation.
Corel claims more than 40 new features and over 400 enhancements to this version of CorelDRAW and one way to get to know these new features is by their nifty "Highlight What's New" option. Every program should have this, it allows you to select a previous version of the program ? and then it will highlight all the menu items in the drop downs that did not exist in that version, compared to X3. Making it easy for you to see the new things you can take advantage of.
One area of definite improvement is in application performance. Load times are faster than previous versions, and especially faster than its competition - which seems to get slower and slower with every new release. The program feels more responsive and tasks are performed generally much quicker than before.
CorelDRAW X3 from an interface point of view is similar to Version 12, the previous version. We truly liked how some of the tools and new labs incorporated numerous ways you could view originals and compare them to the adjustments being made within that tool. This includes live image adjusting; side-by-side original and adjusted image editing; snapshots of various adjustment versions; scaling of the images and more. It is clear the developers thought through carefully what designers needed to make their life easier, and implemented it! Our hats off to you!
We are particularly impressed with the new Cutout Lab and Image Adjustment Lab. The Cutout Lab uses a lite version of the powerful Corel KnockOut engine to allow for expedited cutting of intricate detail and difficult to cut images. A classic example of this is trying to cut a person's head from a background? Usually cutting hair from a detailed background is a nightmare, but with the new Cutout Lab it's a snap! Similarly, the Image Adjustment lab takes the work out of making common image adjustments such as tint, saturation and brightness by bringing all these tools into one single space workspace so you can adjust in combination and compare against the original in the numerous ways discussed earlier. One feature we would like to see added in future versions is the retention of original bitmaps so that objects can be rescaled without loss of image quality.
Font handling has been improved to display font names in their style for easier browsing of your font library. It also provides drop downs to display available font style variations such as bolded or italicized and displays the font with those properties. Another innovation is the ability to fit text to path in CorelDRAW; it is truly the most intuitive implementation of this type of feature we have ever used. Unfortunately Corel Photo-Paint did not get the same treatment and still depends on an older method of fitting text to paths. Having more control over such things as font sharpness would have been another nice addition.
In addition to its already incredible array of file formats CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 can import and export, it now supports secure PDF exporting; perfect for distribution of paid or confidential content. Increased compatibility has also been added for Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Microsoft Office and JPEG. Additionally, the newly included Pixmantec RawShooter helps to streamline RAW file conversion.
If you are new to the CorelDRAW suite, you're in very good hands. Comprehensive in-program Help Topics; Tutorials; a new context sensitive Hints feature; an Insights from the Experts section; over 100 design templates to help you get started; a paper copy of the CorelDRAW Handbook, and even training videos. It just doesn't get much better then that in terms of helping users get acquainted with a program.
We did encounter a small number of minor bugs, such as sliders that sometimes were difficult to adjust to exact numbers, "dials" that would sometimes not rotate properly to adjust beveling, and some text drop shadow issues that caused distortions unless you reposition the text. The application sometimes hesitated when loading some image files or when displaying your font library for the first time after loading. While all these are minor, they will hopefully be addressed in a future patch or service pack. New effects and textures would have also been nice to see; many of the effects and paint textures are several versions old and their dated look would not be practical for use in modern business or web applications.
Overall, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 really does offer a tremendous amount of graphics power, offering a complete solution for all of your image needs. We liked the thoughtfulness that went into many of the new enhancements, and would definitely say this is more of a major upgrade than just an incremental upgrade.
System requirements include a Windows Vista, XP (with service pack 2) or 2000 based system with a minimum of a Pentium 3 1.4GHz processor, 256MB of memory, and 60MB of available hard drive space. The application ran incredibly smoothly on our test box (Pentium 4 3.6GHz, 1GB memory, ATI X800 running at 1920x1200 resolution). This product utilizes a product-key copy protection system which communicates with a centralized server for activation of your license.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 is available from major electronics and computer retailers, as well as from the Corel web site as a shippable product or immediate download. The full product retails for a very reasonable $399USD, $179 for the upgrade, and $99 for the academic license. Check for often promotions that include bundled add-in software for free when purchasing from their web site. Product support includes unlimited web-based support and one courtesy telephone support incident. Additional priority support incidents can be purchased for $25 each. The Corel web site offers patches and service packs as downloads, comprehensive knowledge base and discussion forum. This product is available immediately.
PROS - Optimized faster performance; cut-out lab speeds up cut out work tremendously; image adjustment lab brings together commonly used image adjustment tools for easy editing; great enhancements for comparing image adjustments such as adjustment versioning and side-by-side comparing; incredible assortment of help options; complete all-in-one graphics solution at a very reasonable price.
CONS - Small handful of minor bugs; would have liked new realistic textures and effects; lacks ability to better define font sharpness; ability to scale bitmaps while retaining detail would have been 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.
http://www. viscaconsulting. com/