Whether you need graphics for your small business or you create art for other businesses, you'll need a graphics package to get the job done. In fact, you'll need several to handle the range of design chores—logos, newsletters, brochures, photos and art for those brochures—that need to get done. Or you could simply buy CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7. The bundle delivers all the tools you and your employees need to create everything from business cards to billboards featuring type, photos, clip art, original art, or a combination of all of the above.
Figure 1: CorelDraw X7 logically arranges easy-to-use tools.
Better still, you can actually buy the entire CorelDraw suite for a reasonable $499. That stands in stark contrast to Corel's leading competitor, which now makes its popular photo-editing, drawing, layout and other programs available on a subscription basis only. With that competitor's pricing model, you pay $19.95 per month for one program (or $49.95 per month for the entire suite of creativity applications) in perpetuity.
That makes CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 significantly cheaper in the long run, especially for business buyers content to use the software for two or three years before upgrading to the newest version. But if you prefer a pay-as-you-go model, Corel offers 30-day ($24.95) and 365-day ($198) subscription periods, which entitle you to all the online content and upgrades that occur during your active subscription period.
Serious Graphics Software for Small Businesses
Don't let the (relative) bargain price fool you: CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 delivers more than a half dozen major applications and related utilities, 10,000 ready-to-use clipart images, 2,000 high-resolution, royalty-free digital photos, 1,000 OpenType fonts, 350 professionally designed templates, 800 frames and background patterns, and more. If you register the program and enable the Standard Membership program, you can also download the Corel Website Creator design software.
Figure 2: CorelDraw X7 includes a wide range of professionally designed document templates, so you don't have to start from scratch.
Most importantly, CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 is not just for the digital arts majors among us. To be sure, in the hands of talented individuals there is virtually no limit to the digital masterpieces they can create with the suite, so if you have one of those people on staff, be prepared to be amazed.
But Corel has gone to great lengths to ensure that the suite's components are usable by what the company calls occasional graphics users: entrepreneurs and employees in small to medium-size businesses who need to create marketing and communications collateral in-house. The libraries of templates, stock photos and digital clipart give these business types a head start, letting them modify existing designs rather than staring at the dreaded blank canvas.
Graphics Software: The Sum of Many Parts
As always, the heart of the suite is the company's CorelDraw illustration and page-layout application, which is now in its 17th iteration. When creating business collateral you can start a layout from scratch, but even experienced designers will likely select from among the hundreds of ready-to-use templates accessible by selecting the New From Template choice in the File menu.
Figure 3: CorelDraw's Text Properties palette lets you alter the look of display type in dozens of ways.
The software organizes hundreds of templates by type (advertisements, brochures, business cards, business stationary, catalogs and so on) or sortable by industry (community, education, hospitality, recreation, retail, services, other). Or you can search for a given term, such as "sports club" or "landscaping," to find a template tailored for your business.
Once you choose your layout, you can modify the existing text, graphics and photos. CorelDraw X7 lets you create illustrations from scratch or modify the included digital art with a broad range of advanced tools and effects (invert colors, posterize, lens effects and many more). It you don't like a change, Undo is just a click away.
You can add additional images or text boxes to a layout, and the program's grids and other alignment tools help make sure that the elements align exactly. And if you think you're stuck with simple solid-color display type, think again. Not only can you choose the typeface, but the Text Properties tools lets you get creative with different "fills" for the letters: solid colors, gradations, texture patterns and more. Long story short: If your final document looks like the original template, you didn't have enough fun with the program.
The company's PowerTrace utility—embedded in CorelDraw—lets you easily and accurately convert bitmap images (an image composed of pixels, like a digital photo) into a vector graphic (a line-based drawing that can then be manipulated in CorelDraw). So if you grabbed a photo from the Web or scanned one into your PC, you can import it into CorelDraw, clean it up, and use it in your documents.
Of course, Corel Graphics Suite X7 also lets you work with photos natively with its Corel Photo-Paint X7, an image-editing program for retouching and enhancing photos. You can open an existing photo, grab one from the Clipboard, or acquire an image from an attached scanner. As mentioned, the bundle comes with thousands of stock photos, one of which will likely suite your purposes.
If you do need to tweak—or completely transform—an image, the program offers a full range of tools and effects for cleaning up existing digital photos. The Adjust menu offers dozens of options for changing the color, brightness, hue and other aspects of the photo. But we could spend hours cycling through the choices on the Effects menu just for kicks. There are hundreds of ways to turn a typical photo into a standout with 3D effects, art strokes (such as crayon, charcoal, cubist, Impressionist), blurs, color transformations (halftone, solarize and even psychedelic) and other effects.
Figure 4: The new Welcome screen gives quick access to the program's features, and it lets you select the user interface (Lite, Classic, Advanced) you prefer.
For more subtle changes, you can retouch photos using a variety of digital brushes, which are now conveniently grouped and categorized in one tool palette. And if you need just part of a photo, the handy Cutout Lab tool lets you precisely select the portion you want and discard the rest.
Corel's Connect X7 utility helps you find the image you want out of the thousands of pieces of content included in the suite. It's a full-screen browser that lets you scroll through or search the digital photos and art included in the software or that you found in the new online Content Exchange. You can also use the utility to find content on your computer or local network.
The suite includes another handy utility: the Corel Capture X7 tool lets you capture screenshots from your computer monitor with just a click. And since no modern marketing collateral would be complete without a smartphone tie-in, Corel has included the Barcode Wizard tool for creating barcodes and QR codes that you can place in documents.
Simplifying Graphics Software
Perhaps the biggest changes to Corel Graphics Suite X7 pertain to its usability. The version debuts a range of enhancements to make using the program easier. For starters, a redesigned Welcome Screen helps both newcomers and seasoned pros get started and find the task they need.
You can choose to keep the Welcome Screen open as one of the tabs in your workspace, or float it in a separate window. That workspaces concept is also new. A variety of tailor-made, workflow-specific workspaces, designed with the input of industry professional, help new users get accustomed to the suite more quickly by arranging tools and features for specific tasks, such as page layout or illustration. We also appreciate the new tabbed interface, which lets you have several projects open at once on separate tabs for easy navigation.
Figure 5: The Photo-Paint X7 image-editing program delivers a range of filters and effects, which lets you make the included stock photos look anything but ordinary.
You can also customize the user interface. If you typically need just the basics, or you're new to graphics software, choose the Lite option. It hides many of the more advanced features and lets you find what you need more quickly, without becoming overwhelmed.
The Classic option, for longtime CorelDraw users, reverts the UI to the familiar look of previous versions. There's also a new Font Playground dock that offers an easy way to give fonts a dry run before committing them to your artwork. If you need help along the way, the handy Hints dock provides context-sensitive instructions as you work. Corel also offers more than 5 hours of training videos that deliver hints, tips and tricks, and insights from product experts.
All told, CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 is the only graphics bundle your business will likely need. If you can't create the desired collateral with it, it can't be done. And the suite's templates and user interface make creating that collateral easy for graphics pros and business types alike.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.
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