By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Friday, March 5, 2004; 4:00pm EST
Corel's latest release of their CorelDRAW Graphics Suite product further refines the major improvements that were found in the previous Version 11 release. Version 11 was critical in improvement to the interface, feature set and overall application stability. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 takes this sound foundation and adds a number of convenience and design time saving features.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 is distributed on four CD's, which contain the install files, a vast font library counted in the hundreds, clip art, sample photos, and 120 minutes of training video. Installation is a breeze, and future updates are performed through the inclusion of a scheduled updater within the application. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is now specifically optimized to take advantage of Windows XP.
The single install takes care of installing the complete suite of applications and tools including CorelDRAW 12, Corel Photo-Paint 12, RAVE 3 and a number of small tools such as an image tracer, image capturer, fonts manager and printing duplexer.
CorelDRAW is an artistic design and publishing tool used for everything from designing letterheads to marketing materials; RAVE is a vector based illustration and animation tool that exports to the popular Macromedia Flash format used the world over; and finally Photo-Paint is a complete image editing tool used for photo editing and web graphics design. Needless to say, this suite really packs a lot into a relatively inexpensive price when you consider all of your business and personal graphics needs will be taken care with a single package. Price wise it competes favorably to its direct competitors that offer less bang for the buck.
This review will primarily focus on the Photo-Paint application as a majority of our readers will most likely want this suite for its web design capabilities.
Loading Photo-Paint is generally as quick as previous versions, if not marginally slower on first time runs than subsequent runs during that same use of the computer. Its interface design is virtually identical to the previous Version 11 interface. For users new to Photo-Paint, standard drop down menus and tool icons line the top of the interface, editing tools are to the left, palette and dockers to the right of the screen and program status lining the bottom. The beauty of the product is its incredibly flexible interface that allows you to change each and every element of how it is arranged. Version 12 extends this with XML-based workspace support. As every career designer knows, having an environment exactly how you want it is critical - Corel delivers this right down to the pixel.
New to its lengthy list of tools and features for Version 12 is a touch up brush that makes quick work of cleaning up defects in images at the level of restoration you choose. The decision to make this a dedicated tool is commendable, and makes sense for users regularly cleaning up images and photographs after they are taken.
Importing and exporting of file formats have also been improved in this version. You can now load and save in literally every possible format you could imagine. You are now able to export to Microsoft Office format in addition to the typical formats such as JPG, GIF, JPG2000, PNG, BMP, TIF and PDF. Import and export Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop; open AutoCAD files; open and work with QuickTime movie files; the list goes on and on. This is great for multiplatform graphics houses that need to interchange graphics files of varying formats regularly. Digital camera users in particular will appreciate the ability to maintain and view EXIF data stored in their image files.
When saving your work to a compressed format, your control over compression, transparency and other factors is very well executed. A side-by-side original and "zoomable" preview gives you live feedback on image quality resulting from the selected compression ratio, and any selected transparency colour. Unicode support is also new, increasing portability of your completed work, and allowing multiple languages on your workstation.
The image adjustment tools and effects really are a joy to work with, giving instant feedback on the changes being made to the image. Slider controls, manual number entry and other means are effectively used to make it very easy to make precise changes to your image. A bulk of the effects and adjustment tools available are highly flexible and can be customized to exactly the way you want them to behave. Palette management has remained the same as prior versions, and offers excellent control over your colour usage. Text support is typically a pleasure to use and allows direct typing onto the image. Text rendering appears to be slightly cleaner in this version. Wanting better text-path support in this version is our only gripe about the text handling.
Image slicing, which was introduced in the previous version, is a timesaving way of dividing images into segments and saving those segments individually for use in web pages. We found the implementation of the actual slicing tool in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 to be well implemented. However, we would have liked to have more control over the saving process, by selecting our own exact compression ratios and other criteria - rather than selecting from a list of preset configurations. The red-eye removal tool works sufficiently providing care is taken to avoid surrounding areas of the eye.
As with previous versions of the software, although vastly improved, it still has a small number of bugs that crop up on occasion, specifically around specific image adjustment and text features. Keeping in mind however, that these bugs rarely occur and only under very particular circumstances. Users of versions 10 and below will find the stability of Version 12 to be a quantum leap better.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 is now exclusively for the Windows platform, and no longer offers Mac support. The recommended hardware requirements include Windows 2000 or XP operating system; Pentium II 200MHz processor or greater (we would recommend a base Pentium 4 to be truly productive, as with any high-end graphics tools); 256MB memory (again, 512MB or 1GB would be recommended for regular users; 250MB drive space and 1024x768 screen resolution. We were pleasantly surprised to discover all this added functionality comes at a cheaper price - in the order of $270.00CND less than the previous version. The recommended retail price for the full license is $399USD / $529CND; upgrade license is $179USD / $249CND.
We recommend users of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 10 and older versions to consider upgrading, while users of version 11 may find it difficult to justify the upgrade cost unless specific features are of importance to them. We have always recommended users of competing graphics packages to evaluate Corel as an upgrade, this version is certainly no exception. Users deciding on their first graphics package are very much recommended to place Corel at the top of their short list. Overall CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 offers a pleasant collection of enhancements to an already excellent graphics suite.
PROS - Clean, highly customizable workspace; dedicated touch-up brush; highly competitive low price; excellent image adjustment and effects tools with instant feedback; incredible file format handling.
CONS - Still a small number of bugs; better text-path handling 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/