Corel released a version X5 of its popular graphics design suite today. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 includes all the best from previous versions and adds several new tools, features, and user resources to the mix. It remains one of the most user-friendly applications in its category on the market.
I had the pleasure of using a prerelease edition of the software suite, and wrote a review of the previous version, X4, last year. Corel focused on a few key areas with X5—powerful and fast tools, higher accuracy in finding use assets, the ability to output to any media, and multicore support.
The latest version is much more complete and finely tuned than previous releases. It has several new additions, yet retains the ease of use that made CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 a true pleasure to use.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 still comes with CorelDRAW for vector art and layout, Photo-PAINT for image editing and bitmap art, PowerTRACE for converting bitmap images to vector, and Corel CAPTURE for taking screen shots. New to the suite is SWiSH miniMax2 for Flash animations, CorelCONNECT to help a user find images and graphics to use in their designs, and several other tools, including PhotoZoom Pro 2 and Microsoft Visual Studio for Applications 2.0.
Corel takes a different approach to the design field than its competitor, Adobe. The Graphics Suite can be thought of as a combination of InDesign, Photoshop, Fireworks, and Illustrator—and with the latest release, even features found in Flash. It even has some tools for working with Web sites.
While Adobe’s products are tailored for creative professionals, however, Corel targets the group in the middle such as freelancers, fashion designers, and hobbyists. It is for those who may not be professionals in the design field, yet who use the related technology in their daily work. Adobe’s products are still top of the line in terms of functions and tools, yet can take quite a bit of time to learn.
The application is also one of the best deals on the market in terms of design suites. The entire software bundle sells for close to the same price as a single application from Adobe’s CS4 product line.
Where Corel’s design products shine is in streamlined workflow and an easy to use and learn interface. Corel includes nearly all the resources a user needs to get started in the field, from stock images to tutorials and guides of nearly every shape and form.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 is currently only available for the PC, and according to representatives from Corel, there are currently no plans for a Mac version. I personally ran the application on a Windows Vista virtual machine inside the Mac OS, however, and it worked well.
Ease of Use
The user-friendly interface remains one of the most attractive features of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5. In addition to being rather easy to use, several other tools are present to help beginners learn the application. There are more than two hours of video training included, tool tips appear when a user hovers the mouse pointer over an item, and still present are the side bar tutorials that teach a user how to use a tool when it is selected.
Rather than shipping to stores in a traditional box, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 comes inside a nearly 400-page hardcover guidebook. In addition to working as a full training resource, the book also includes new insights from design experts, an inspiration gallery, as well as several tips and techniques.
CorelCONNECT is one of the new additions in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5. The application speeds up the process of finding images and content, and integrates directly with CorelDRAW and Photo-PAINT. A user can specify what kind of material they are looking for, and CorelCONNECT will search the computer for it. Any images or objects it finds can then be dragged and dropped to a toolbar and can then be sent directly to CorelDRAW and Photo-PAINT. It also syncs directly between both applications, so if an object is added or removed, it will occur elsewhere.
This helps quite a bit with improving the workflow. A user can find an image in CorelCONNECT, have it appear directly in Photo-PAINT where it can be edited, and then have the edited image appear directly in CorelDRAW.
A key point of CorelCONNECT is to replace the book found in previous releases that included images of all the clip art, images, and materials that are bundled with the software. Corel figured it would be easier to digitize the process, and it was a great move on their part. Each of the thousands of clip art, images, and other materials included in X5 have keywords, so a user can search for Òtree,Ó for example, and it will pull up all images and objects with that keyword. It can also be specified if the image being searched for is a folder, vector, bitmap, font, or other type.
On that note, X5 comes with tons of new stock resources. It has up to 10,000 clip art images, thousands of stock photos, and more than a thousand fonts. It has 350 design templates, including close to 50 percent that are brand new and some others that are pulled from older releases. It also includes 2,000 vehicle templates, including several of the newer car models, for users who design decals for vehicles.
The value of the extra content alone more than covers the cost of the application.
PowerTRACE has received some great improvements—mostly in the quality of the images. The application inside CorelDRAW allows users to convert bitmap images into vector images. The benefit of a vector image over, say, a scanned drawing is that vector can be infinitely enlarged since it does not use pixels. An image originally the size of a pencil can be blown up as large as a building.
In X5, PowerTRACE is much more accurate in terms of color, much more fine in its ability to pick up on details, and much sharper, which helps keep images looking clean. It also keeps its old features, such as the ability to remove specific colors, merge colors, and so on. I found it to be much more accurate than the previous version.
The addition of SWiSH miniMAX2 is also a great move on Corel’s part and allows users to create Flash animations for Web sites. Although the third-party application is a bit behind Adobe Flash in terms of what it can do, it still has its place in the design world and is popular for its ease of use. Users who do not particularly have much knowledge in Flash should be able to create what they need in the application, thanks to several tools and prerendered features. Creating a button, for example, or a feature to fade text in and out, is as simple as clicking the option on the menu.
PhotoPAINT, where users can edit images and work with bitmap graphics, has only received a few new additions, although several of the tools mentioned above do apply to it. One of the key additions is better synchronization with CorelDRAW. If a user wants to edit an image, it will jump directly to PhotoPAINT, and once the image has been saved and closed, it will update in CorelDRAW. It also has a better objects docker that works more efficiently in groups. It also still has support for RAW images and adds support for several new camera models.
I was also glad to see that CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 still includes one of my personal favorites—Concept Share. This allows users to upload their designs and images to a Web-based workspace, and a friend or client can then view the image and tag comments and suggestions to specific areas of it. This is a great tool for freelancers and professionals alike, since it allows them to get quick suggestions on their work before they move forward.
There are several new drawing tools. The new B-Spline tool is similar to a vector pen and allows users to create point-by-point drawings that can be edited as the user goes. The new Intelligent Lines allow lines to lock onto objects and other lines, and allow the user to drag and move it while the line sticks to its root object. There is also a new list of brushes that automatically create strokes that resemble paint brushes, or various images.
Rounded corners have received a bit of work also. When a user rounds out the corners of boxes or other objects, they can now enlarge or shrink the image without losing the accurate measurements—an important feature for users who work with precise measurements, such as billboard designers or even those working in areas of print design.
There are also new improvements to the mesh tool, which allows the user to create realistic shading gradients for objects while working in vector. It makes a wireframe where a user can see their basic design, and the newest edition has better support for transparencies.
Attention to Color
The main application, CorelDRAW has also received quite a bit of work, and colors are a key component of the new additions. Color management, in particular, has been completely redone in X5. The tools for selecting colors, and using colors that match properly on a color wheel, have been fine tuned for both professionals and novice users. This helps users select professional-looking colors for their images and both automatic and manual features are included for doing so.
Color proofing for print has also been redone a bit. Users can instantly proof colors in CorelDRAW X5 and it will show on screen how the colors will look in print using different color formats. The user can also export a soft proof that will let them preview how the image will look once printed, before they go and pay for an expensive print.
A new document palette shows every color used in the current design. Each time a user adds a new color to their design, it will appear in the palette. The user can also save the palette to use in other designs. Designers are aware of the value of this—keeping colors in sync and using only a handful of them are often key components to good design. The ability to save the palettes also comes in handy if a user does a second design for the same company, since they can quickly use all the same colors.
The ability to output to any media is a key component in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5. In addition to using various image files, the user can also create HTML for Web sites, as well as Web graphics that support transparency. There is also support for Adobe CS4 and PDF file formats.
Web site: www.corel.com