Review: CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 - Page 2

By Jamie Bsales | Posted April 09, 2008

Jump Right In

While professional designers won’t be put off by the stark white canvas presented when you start a new blank document from scratch, most people will likely feel more comfortable selecting the “New from template” choice under the Quick Start tab. That dialog box presents a filter pane on the left that lets you view templates by type (business cards, flyers, ads, stationery, catalogs, posters/signs, newsletters and more) or by industry (hospitality, retail and services, such as landscaping).

Simply pick a template, type over the pre-existing text (or, for longer documents, cut-and-paste from a word processing file), change the images if need be and you’re in business. Naturally, you can make more granular changes, such as changing the template’s default color to your preferred color and changing the size and position of text boxes and images. If you’re not happy with a change, Undo is just a click away.

If you have existing documents you would like to work with, Graphics Suite X4 can import a wide range of file types; this version includes support for Adobe Creative Suite 3 files, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Word 2007 and PDFs with comments. If you are working with an imported document and don’t know the fonts that were used, Corel has partnered with Bitstream to incorporate that company’s WhatTheFont.com font-ID service into CorelDRAW.

Individual Enhancements

In addition to the streamlined workflow, a cleaner user interface and updated templates for the suite as a whole, each individual application in the bundle delivers incremental improvements.

For example, a new Table tool in CorelDRAW delivers stronger table support, letting you merge cells, add rows and perform other tweaks that should save you from having to re-work and re-import a table from Excel. There’s also live text formatting, which lets you move an image around a layout and see how the text wrap changes in real time, without having to drop the image and wait for the page to re-draw.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 screen shot
What’s wrong with this picture? Thanks to Photo-Paint’s Straighten Image tool, nothing!
(Click for larger image)
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The print-merge (commonly called mail-merge) capabilities in Graphics Suite X4 have also been improved. For example, to create business cards, you can automatically import each employee’s name, phone and e-mail information from a text file, CSV file, or any ODBC-compliant data source (essentially, any database). Select the “merge to new document” menu choice, and each card will be created in its own file.

For those working with images from higher-end digital cameras, Photo-Paint now supports more than 300 camera RAW formats. Moreover, the Camera RAW Lab delivers a split-screen view of the original image and the edited image as you apply changes. You can create “snapshots” as you go, then pick the edited photo you like best from the “filmstrip” view of thumbnails. We also love Photo-Paint’s Straighten Image tool, which provides a grid overlay to help you precisely rotate photos.

If you need to work remotely with colleagues or get projects approved by clients, you’ll really appreciate the CorelDRAW Concept Share online collaboration portal. It lets you load a project to the Web and invite others to see it and comment via markup tools. This way, you don’t have to try to send large files back and forth, and your intellectual property is protected, since you’re not parting with a live file. Your Graphics Suite X4 purchase includes two free workspaces (where you can load as many files as you like); other plans start at $19 per month.

All told, there’s a lot to like about CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4. You can keep things simple and just work from the templates or delve as deeply into the design process as your time and talent permits. And if you execute just one or two projects on your own, rather than outsourcing them, the program pays for itself.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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