CorelDRAW Suite 11

Copyright © 2003 by Davis Multimedia, Intl. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in May 2003, Volume 28, No. 11 of The Engravers Journal.

    Well, it’s finally here. That’s right. Corel Corporation has finally released version 11 of its flagship program, CorelDRAW Suite. Its release date comes almost two years to the day from the release of version 10. As usual, I tried to order my copy on the day it was released. Unfortunately, for some reason I had to wait a week and a half for stock to come into the major Canadian software wholesaler before I got my copy (It looks like the big box stores are not carrying the program so you may need to order online — at least in Canada).
    So with bated breath I opened up my copy, popped it into my CD-ROM drive and installed the latest version on my computer.
I had read a few prerelease reviews, as well as Corel’s reviewers’ guide. I knew the major features that were included in this release. Now I was loading the software, patiently waiting to test it out. Would my two-year wait be worth the $249 (U.S.) I spent to get my upgrade?
    For those familiar with any of the Corel Suites you will know that the suite is made up of a number of programs. The CorelDRAW 11 Suite is no exception. Included in the suite are the following programs:
    1. CorelDRAW — A graphic design and page layout program.
    2. Corel PhotoPaint — An image editing and graphic program.
    3. Corel Rave — A program for creating Web graphics and vector animations. (Because this program has no use in our industry, I will leave it out of this review.)
    The CorelDRAW 11 Suite also comes with a number of supporting utilities. The more notable are:
        • Bitstream Font Navigator — Allows you to manage your fonts easily.
        • CorelTrace — Allows you to trace bitmaps to convert them into vector images.
        • Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications — Allows 3rd party developers to build custom applications for the CorelDRAW 11 Graphic Suite.
    In this review, I intend to go over the main features that have been released in this version. I will try to give you as many examples of the features as I can. At the end of the review I will provide some recommendations.
    So without further ado, let’s take the new version for a test drive!
Documentation
    Some of you may wonder why I am starting here. I would usually leave this section until the end. Considering that the CorelDRAW 10 Suite came with basically no documentation other than three meager notebooks, I was quite happy to see that Corel decided to include good sized manuals with this version. I like Corel’s manuals and they tend to be quite informative and helpful when you are trying to learn a new tool or function.
    They also updated the clip art CD with some new images.

 

FIGURE 1: Four files created in CorelDRAW. The files that use the "Symbols" function are slightly larger. FIGURE 2: A file created with symbols from the Symbols Library.

 

Import/Export Filters
    Corel, as has been customary in previous versions, has kept its myriad of import and export filters. Version 11 now comes with over 100 import and export filters. For those that bought version 10, version 11 includes the .plt filter in the standard install (When I install, I do a custom install and install all the filters.). Our main filters, the .plt, .dxf and .ai, all seem to work fine, except that Corel has yet to fix the simulated fill in the .plt filter that was broken in version 10. AutoCAD is supposed to be .dxf compatible.
Stability
    Ok. You have probably heard a lot about stability recently. Let’s get one thing straight here — a computer system’s stability is directly related to the ability of the Operating System to control the hardware and the software. Although bad programming can cause instability in an actual program, Corel is not a badly written program. Thus, stability is relegated to the Operating System. Win 98, compared to Windows 2000 and Windows XP, is like comparing a manual machine to a laser in a production environment — it was fine in its time but it’s time for it to retire. Win 98 does little to control hardware and software, which is the direct cause of system crashes or the familiar General Protection Faults. Corel (as well as most other companies) have recognized that everyone is moving, or should move, to Windows XP. Therefore, the company has written its software to run optimally under this OS. Windows XP is a lot better at providing a stable system to work on. Some people have reported issues running Corel 11 under Windows 98. For this reason I would keep my previous version of Corel on my computer if I were installing Corel 11 on a Windows 98 system. There is no problem running more that one version on your computer (I run three.).
    Corel claims that they have done extensive testing for bugs; and thus, this should be less of an issue than what we saw in previous versions.
CorelDRAW 11
    Symbols — One of the features that looked exciting to me was the symbols library function. This feature promised smaller file sizes, as well as an easier way to reuse existing objects. So I set out to check out how small the files are.

 

FIGURE 3: The "Roughen Brush" tool creates a ripple effect.
FIGURE 4: Corel 11 allows for three options when importing text.

 

    Before we talk about the symbol tool and file size, let’s look at how CorelDRAW does when it comes to keeping file sizes in check. Typically CorelDRAW has done an excellent job of keeping file sizes down. If you try to compress a file with a zip program, the size doesn’t change that much. Also if you have an image in Corel that you duplicate, the resulting file size is almost negligible. For example, let’s say I have a file with one photo in it. The file size is 410K. If I duplicate the color photo in the file, the file size becomes 411K. The difference between the two files is quite negligible. So CorelDRAW does a good job of keeping file sizes down when you duplicate objects.
    As mentioned earlier, the symbol function allows us to easily reuse objects in documents. When I first heard of this function, I imagined having a collection of my most commonly used images at my finger tips — sort of like using the symbols and special symbols docker. It is quite easy to create a symbol. Figure 1 lists four files that I created in CorelDRAW. The “single” files that were created contained eight images. The non-symbol file is the eight images just created in Corel. The symbol file is the same file with the same images in the file but they are in the symbols library. The second set of files marked “double” had each image duplicated four times. You will notice that the files that use the symbols are slightly bigger. The file size reduction only seems to come into effect if you export the file to a flash format (which we do not use in our industry).
    Aside from the file size issue, I like this feature because you can take all those images that you typically import into your jobs and keep a repository. When you need to retrieve one of these images, all you need to do is cut and paste the symbol into your new drawing. The only thing that I would like to see with this tool is that it be made accessible to other drawings, so that you just have to drag and drop the image into your drawing without opening the file that holds the symbol library. Right now you have to save a file that holds the symbols and open it every time you want to use a symbol. Figure 2 shows a file set up with the symbols I used. For those that use the symbol and special character docker it is now the “Insert Character” and can be found in the “Text” menu.

 

FIGURE 5: Special effects can be created by converting paragraph text to curves.

 

Smudge & Roughen Brushes
    These brushes are designed to allow you to quickly modify an existing shape. These tools are pressure sensitive and work best with a tablet.
    Smudge Brush — Applies to curved objects. This tool smudges the outline of an object.
    Roughen Brush — Also applies to curved objects. This tool creates a so-called “ripple” in the affected area of the curve that is selected. Roughen brush can easily create a motion blur effect. See Figure 3.
3-Point Drawing Tools
    CorelDRAW has included three new 3-point drawing tools. These tools allow you to accurately create, position and angle one of the three new tools with just two clicks. The three tools are:
        • 3-Point Ellipse tool
        • 3-Point Rectangle tool
        • 3-point Curve tool
    These three tools make drawing any of these predefined shapes considerably easier than before. They function more like similar tools found in CAD programs. This is a welcome addition.
     PolyLine Tool — The new PolyLine tool now combines the various modes of the freehand tool. You can now click and drag and alternate between curved and straight lines. This makes it a lot easier when you are tracing out a logo.
    Pen Tool — Not to be outdone by the PolyLine tool, Corel also added the Pen tool to its arsenal. This tool gives greater control over your drawing abilities. It is now a lot easier to create straight lines and curves.
Enhanced Text Features
    Formatting Options — One of the problems with importing text through the file import command or cutting and pasting is that you lose certain aspects of the original text. CorelDRAW 11 now gives us three options when we are importing text (see Figure 4). The first is to maintain the fonts and formatting of the original text. The second is to discard the fonts and keep formatting. Or third, you can discard all the font and formatting information. Figure 4 shows the dialogue box that comes up. If you find yourself having to bring customer-supplied formatted text into Corel, this can be an excellent feature that can save you time. The problem is, it didn’t always work when I tried it! I cut and pasted a drop case sentence from Microsoft Word and told Corel to maintain the fonts and formatting. However, CorelDRAW lost the drop case information. So be careful with this one.

 

FIGURE 6: A typical "red eye" photo.
FIGURE 7: The same photo, after the easy-to-use "Red Eye" tool in PhotoPaint 11 has been applied. Notice that the highlights in the eyes are still visible.


    Convert Paragraph Text to Curves — This is one of those features that a number of people have asked for. Although you can assign a number of formatting options to paragraph text, you can’t do some of the neat effects such as drop shadows. Now you can convert the paragraph text to curves so that you can use these special effects. All paragraph formatting, such as bullets and justification, is kept.
    Macro Support — As some other reviewers have noted, the use of macros in Corel is inconsistent at best. In my testing, I can attest that certain actions were not recognized by CorelDRAW and thus could not be played back. I like using macros, as they make certain repetitive tasks easier. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future service pack.
    Other Features — Other features that have been added are enhanced snapping, enhanced shaping, and even an enhanced means of closing lines — which helps a lot. Corel has also given us an enhanced align and distribute feature, as well as enhanced DXF/DWG support.
PhotoPaint
    Red Eye — One of the classic problems with photographing in dark areas is creating people or animals with the dreaded disease called “Red Eye.” Although it is not that hard to get rid of red eye, it still requires a number of steps. PhotoPaint 11 has added a new tool that almost instantly “gets the red out.” All you need to do is select the tool, change your brush size and then start clicking on the red eyes. The impressive feature with this tool is that the highlights in the eyes are not eliminated. Figures 6 and 7 are “before” and “after” shots. Notice that the highlights in the eyes are still in the “fixed” photograph in Figure 7.
    I have always advocated that learning this trick can help you increase your bottom line. Getting rid of red eye in a photograph should be a service that you offer. There is no reason why you can’t say to your customer that “for an extra 5 or 10 dollars, I can get rid of the red in the eyes of the people in the photo.” Not only will you make the photo look a lot better, but it will make your finished product look that much more appealing.
    Note: For those PhotoShop users who may be envious of this tool, Andromeda software has released a plug-in that instantly gets rid of the red.

 

FIGURE 8: The CutOut tool in action.
FIGURE 9: An image that was recombined to make one photo.

 

    CutOut — One of the harder techniques to learn in a bitmap editing program such as Corel PhotoPaint is extracting parts of images out of existing images. For example, you may have a customer who brings in a photo to be sublimated and is very unhappy with the background of the photograph. Being able to take the background out and leaving the rest of the image can be the difference between a happy customer and a not-so-happy customer. It can also offer you some added income by allowing you to charge more to extract the needed image. To make the extraction process easier, Corel PhotoPaint gives us the CutOut tool. For those of you who are familiar with PhotoShop’s extract command, you know that on certain images “extracting” can be quite easy.
    PhotoPaint’s new cutout tool is quite good — although it is still rudimentary. However, when it comes to extracting some of those photos that have a lot of wispy hair, programs such as Corel’s Knockout is the only way to go. I was quite impressed with this tool on certain photos, and certainly the addition of this tool to a sublimator’s arsenal is a must. I am sure that in future versions we will see this tool given more features. Figure 8 shows an image from Figure 7 cutout.
    Image Stitching — One of the problems when taking photographs is that you are usually restricted to the image that fits within your camera’s field of view. The only way to create a bigger picture is to take a series of photos and “stitch” them together. There are a number of programs on the market that give you this ability. Now this tool is available in PhotoPaint. Again, as with the CutOut tool, this tool lacks some of the “extra” features that you find in stand- alone programs, but on the photos that I experimented with, Corel did a good job of combining the separate photos into one larger photo. Figure 9 shows an image that was recombined to make one photo.
    Interactive Drop Shadow — Although it’s relatively easy to create drop shadows in CorelDRAW, Corel PhotoPaint has always done it better. In this version, Corel has added the ability for the user to add a “Gaussian Blur” to the shadow. This allows the user to adjust a shadow’s feathering that gives a more realistic look. If you want to make your images or your text stand out, this is the tool for you. Figure 10 shows the effect in action.
    Other features that have been added include a new spot filter effect. A new lighting effect tool allows you to control location, color, angle and aperture. A new bevel effect has been added, while a lens flare has been improved and dust and scratch removal effects have been enhanced, too. For anyone using this program for Web applications, there is now an enhanced Web optimizer as well as support for the JPEG 2000 specification and rollovers. For digital camera users, Corel PhotoPaint has included support for the EXIF file format. This format, which is used by a number of cameras, allows for additional information about a camera, such as camera settings, color space and more, to be saved with the file.
Conclusions
    Well, there you have it. Corel has given us a number of new tools, as well as making a number of existing ones better. For the most part, I am impressed with what Corel has supplied with this release. Certainly, CorelDRAW has given us some good design tools in this release. The add-ons in PhotoPaint certainly are impressive, especially for those of you who are doing sublimation.
    The problem, though, is that this program is designed for Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Considering that a lot of people are still running Windows 98 or Windows ME this presents a problem. To take advantage of this upgrade, these people require an expensive operating system upgrade. If the components in your computer are not compatible with XP or 2000 you will require new components, or maybe a new computer. To add another hurdle to this situation, there is a learning curve that must be overcome when switching operating systems. As I mentioned earlier, Windows 98 and Windows ME are not good operating systems when compared to Windows XP and Windows 2000. They offer little in the way of providing stability and they are horrible when it comes to security. The sooner we all leave this OS, the better we all will be.
    I have spoken to a number of people regarding this upgrade. I still feel that, for the most part, Corel refuses to acknowledge our industry. This is evident in the fact that we do not see a major tool being developed for our industry. How about text condensing or an easy multiple plate set up? If we got one of these features I am sure that there would be a lot more incentive for those who are running older versions and operating systems to upgrade. For those who already have version 10 or are running XP or Windows 2000, you have an easier decision as to what you want to do. As far as my situation goes, I am always the first in line to upgrade. So my life becomes a little easier.

FIGURE 10: The addition of the "Gaussian Blur" allows for adjustments in the shadow’s feathering.

 

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