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CorelDRAW 9 proves its legendary graphics power

{ BY JONATHAN YOUNG } On the eve of its tenth anniversary, Corel Corporation has launched the latest version of its award-winning graphics and image-editing suite: CorelDRAW 9. With all the new tools and tricks, CorelDRAW delivers performance and productivity enhancements, excellent compatibility features, unique creation tools and exceptional value. Established users will relish the new version; new users will wonder how they've survived without it. "The graphics application and supporting utilities offered in the CorelDRAW 9 Graphics Suite deliver the latest in design technology, including productivity enhancing features, interactive tools and support for internet publishing," says Dr. Michael Cowpland, President and Chief Executive Officer of Corel Corporation. "Both new and existing users will find CorelDRAW 9 to be valuable to the design process as well as overall productivity."

CorelDRAW asserts it is more than an illustration program -- it's a "graphics suite." Besides the CorelDRAW application, you also receive Corel PHOTO-PAINT, a comprehensive photo editing, image composition and painting application. Add on Bitstream Font Navigator, CorelTRACE, Corel Texture, Corel Capture and Canto Cumulus Desktop, and the result is a nice design collection.

Bright Ideas got a preview of CorelDRAW 9 and although we don't have enough pages to review everything the program can do, here are some highlights of what Corel calls "the world's number one PC graphics suite."

working environment

When you go back to the drawing board, you'll find CorelDRAW 9 has a new board to draw on.

"The transition between 8 and 9 was somewhat painless," says Susan Dunsworth, President of San Diego's CorelDRAW users group, "with the exception of moving a few menu items. But those were not too radically different." Susan has been using CorelDRAW since Version 2 and was probably one of the first people to buy the newest version.

Multiple Pages, Plus Formats -- Unlike other drawing programs, CorelDRAW supports multiple pages. We still wouldn't suggest building a book or magazine in CorelDRAW, but it makes small- and medium-size projects much easier to handle. Wait, that's not all. "We've gone way beyond multiple page layout in CorelDRAW 9," says Heather McAfee, CorelDRAW 9 Product Specialist. "You can also do multiple page formats." Not only can you have several pages, but also each page can be a different size. Heather uses a corporate identity package as an example; all the pieces -- from business card to letterhead -- can be in one document.

Import/Export Capabilities -- Sticking to its strict compatibility standards, CorelDRAW 9 features amazing import functions. The new program supports 71 import filters and 41 export filters. For example, you can place an Adobe Photoshop file in a CorelDRAW 9 document and retain all the Photoshop layers. You can even place several pictures simultaneously, regardless of their formats. CorelDRAW 9 also features 41 export filters. "The export feature has been massaged into a truly great tool," Susan says.

Link Manager -- Before, all imported images were incorporated into CorelDRAW's files. This seems appropriate with all the editing you can do to a photograph; however, it also adds file memory and bogs down the finished document. "Now you can leave those image files outside and bring in only a preview," Heather explains. The new Link Manager keeps track of all these files.

Color Palettes -- "Color consistency is really important to designers," Heather says, so CorelDRAW 9 includes more than 110 color palettes, with seven new Pantone systems. "You can even have multiple color palettes open," she says.

Property Bars, Dockers and Roll-ups -- "The property bar was developed in CorelDRAW 7," Heather says. "It was so popular that it was developed in other programs," including Corel's popular WordPerfect application. When you select a tool, the Property Bar changes to show the tricks you can do with that tool. Also, all the CorelDRAW Roll-ups have been changed to Dockers.

With the revised environment, Susan does have one problem. "I now find I am in desperate need of a larger monitor," she says. Susan jokes that when she opens all the windows, her image area is tiny on her monitor.

drawing tools

CorelDRAW comes with the standard set of drawing tools, such as ellipse, rectangle, fills and rules, zoom, pen, text and so on. "There's not a radical difference, but there have been a lot of little refinements to the tools," Susan says. "These are subtle differences that make the practical tools easier to use."

The newer version also features an extensive list of new gadgets, from simple additions to extremely cool design tools. Here is a list of what to expect from the newest version.

Interactive Mesh Fill -- Way cool! Probably not on the top of Corel's list of tricks, but we really like it. A creative artistic feature, you can create smooth color transitions in any direction without having to create hundreds of objects with blends and contours. Sounds complicated? Well, you have to see this feature to fully understand and admire it.

Shape Tool -- Simplify your object with this powerful feature. Use the Enhanced None Reduction with the Shape Tool to reduce the number of nodes on an object. It's more than just deleting nodes, which you would have to do manually one at a time; you can select the desired reduction percentage and the paths remain the same, just redrawn by CorelDRAW with fewer points.

Irregular Marquee Selections -- Almost all programs let you select multiple objects, but the selection marquee is always rectangular. CorelDRAW introduces an irregular selection, making it easy to select notes in complex line segments.

Multiple Undo -- If at first you don't succeed, undo. CorelDRAW 9 lets you undo 999,999 times. Yes, there are six nines there. "I do not challenge you to use all those undos," Heather jokes.

Other Tools -- An added eyedropper, new eraser nib shapes, live positioning and sizing convert objects to outlines, updated PowerClip functions, live onscreen previews, transparencies and drop shadows. Enhanced features include connector line tools, rotation functionality, zoom (up to 400,000 percent), contours, hot keys and more.

printing features

CorelDRAW's printing features are impressive. The new system takes a lot of guesswork out, and cuts down on surprises at the print shop.

Preview Dialog -- A preview box almost seems redundant for a WYSIWYG drawing program. This one works because it lets you preview all the customizable print settings.

Imposition Tools -- The Imposition Layout tools combine the Signature Layout and N-up Format capabilities from CorelDRAW 8 into a single, powerful feature. These tools are capable of advanced signature layouts, including customized signatures, advanced binding options, page rotation, fold marks, gutters and more. You can copy a small file several times on a large page, or even combine multiple files on a single page using Imposition Layout.

Preflight Warnings -- Once the Print engine has analyzed a document, a list of potential problems is displayed on the preflight tab. "Service bureaus have been very impressed with this preflight feature," Heather says.

Preparation Wizard -- Tagging along with the Preflight Warnings is the Prepare for Service Bureau wizard. It can automatically gather all files associated with a document -- both linked images and fonts.

Easier to Use -- New options have been added, and a few rearranged to make it easier to print your documents. You have much more control over how the file prints.

PDF -- Corel has incorporated the Adobe PDF file system into CorelDRAW 9. Options in print to PDF include advanced text and font handling, downsampling and compression options, job ticketing capabilities, bookmark and hyperlink options, and color management options. In more simple terms, you have more control over how your final PDF file is created.

Publishing Online -- CorelDRAW 9 is jumping on the Web bandwagon with new Internet features. You can establish links (even image maps), use Cascading Style Sheets for your text, create multiple pages, convert images, work with Web colors and more.

Although it has been slow to gain acceptance in the graphic arts industry, the business world has been enjoying the benefits of CorelDRAW for years. That's probably because CorelDRAW started as a PC program. Regardless of your computer system, you should get a copy of CorelDRAW 9 and, as Heather says, see "what made CorelDRAW famous."

Susan is certainly having fun with CorelDRAW 9. Her latest project: finding all the hidden eggs. "I haven't found where they've hidden them yet," she says, "but I will find out."

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