Software Reviews

Corel Graphics Suite 12 by Corel

Reviewed by Laurence Fenn

Having tried Corel Graphics Suite 11 a while ago, I was keen to see what improvements had been made to version 12. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed. To start with, the installation only takes 243Mb in total and the number of discs the product comes on has been reduced to one. You may think that this is not a problem, but I then realised that the reviewer's version I had did not included any of the extra clipart, true type fonts, or the training CD. Still, the requirement for the program is Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Tablet PC Edition; a Pentium II, 200 MHz or greater; 128 MB RAM (256 MB or more recommended); 250 MB hard disk space and a 1024 x 768 resolution monitor. As is the trend with new software these days, if you have Windows 95, 98 or Me you won't be able to use the program.

Of the five programs in the suite, only Corel Draw, Corel Photo-Paint and Corel R.A.V.E. have had any changes. CorelTRACE (which converts bitmaps to vector graphics) and Corel CAPTURE (a screen capture utility) remain the same. The main change to DRAW is the new Smart Drawing tool. With this option enabled, the software guesses the shape you are trying to create freehand, such as a circle, triangle or arrow, and automatically straightens it into lines and smooth curves. It works well in most cases, but for the best accuracy you have to draw slowly, or use the shape tools instead.

The first column is freehand, and the others are the same shapes with the Smart Drawing Tool

To help in your graphic design when you create new objects, you can choose to snap to existing objects at the edge, intersection, midpoint, tangent or perpendicular point. These snap points are all now highlighted as tooltips as you move your mouse over them. If you want to align objects that are not joined together, you can use the new Dynamic Guides. With these you can drag temporary guidelines from any existing snap point so that you can precisely move, align and draw objects relative to others. The constant feedback with snap points and dynamic guides flashing on and off as you move your mouse over the image can be confusing, but it does help you get things right first time as you draw.

The revamped Eyedropper tool can now be used to pick up properties, transformations and effects. It can also pick colours from any other application running, or your desktop.

The Virtual Segment Delete tool works across objects so that you can remove implied segments where the lines overlap. This can be helpful when you draw a shape and you want to remove the edges easily.

Another tool that has been enhanced is the Text tool. Type is displayed onscreen which means that you can now see text changes such as kerning and leading even when viewed at low zoom levels. You also get to choose the portion of the text object that you wish to align. For accuracy you will need to zoom in to see the exact changes, though.

DRAW has new Unicode support which means that you can now use up to 65,000 unique characters in your projects. If you use foreign languages like Japanese or Greek you have full access to the extended characters and symbols in the fonts.

Another feature that has been enhanced is the former Library palette now renamed the Symbol Manager. This is used for storing items that are regularly repeated in your drawings and has now been redesigned to make it possible to store symbols locally within each drawing and externally to be shared between drawings and users. It's also now easier to edit your symbols and to tell when you're working with them as the selection handles are now coloured blue. As well as being more convenient, symbol-based handling helps ensure consistency; enables single edits to update multiple objects and drawings and, when exporting to Flash SWF format, can cut file sizes dramatically.

You can now import HPGL 2, CGM 4 and Microsoft Visio 2000 and 2002 files and export to CGM 1 and 3 formats. DRAW is compatibility with the Corel DESIGNER DES format and has a more robust AutoCAD DXF/DWG support.

When exporting to AutoCAD DXF format, DRAW now retains line widths, line styles, text justification and positions. The suite also supports AutoCAD colour, dot-dash patterns and line weights on import. The Export to Microsoft Office or WordPerfect Office dialog offers the option of optimising a graphic for presentation, desktop, or commercial printing. Unfortunately, it still does not support digital camera RAW formats, but this is related to the bitmap program Photo-Paint.

The bitmap program has a new Touch-up Brush, which lets you interactively remove unwanted dust, scratches and tears by blending surrounding textures and colours. Similar to a red-eye corrector, the software analyses the surrounding data you are trying to fix and emulates it to allow you to rid subjects of blemishes easily. If you have used Photoshop's Healing brush, you'll know what this does, but it's no substitute for accurate cloning. For spot and blemishes on old scanned photos it works great, but with larger areas it seems to just blur the picture.

As I didn't have the full disc collection, I couldn't comment on the training CD, or whether the clipart and fonts have been improved or added to. There is a discount in the price if you upgrade, which is around £210, and is a saving on the full price of around £422. With the minor changes made to the suite, I doubt that users would want to upgrade, especially at the high price. Corel are making changes to its customer support program and now if you register you will receive technical support through unlimited free e-mail and a knowledge base warranty service. Free phone support is no longer available, and at the prices charged (varying from a price per minute or annual charge) I would hope users do not need to use it. Again, as I did not receive the complete boxed program I can't say if the printed manual contains enough information so you don't need to use phone support.