Review: CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4

Hiring a professional designer to design your business cards, brochures, marketing collateral and Web graphics is the right choice for many business owners—as long as you don’t mind parting with a certain amount of control and cash. But if you have a little time to dedicate to those tasks and $429 to spare, the new CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 is worth a look.

The package delivers the Corel Photo-Paint photo editor, CorelDRAW layout and illustration package, the Corel PowerTRACE program for converting bitmap files into editable graphics files and an advanced screen-capture utility (Corel Capture). Beyond the programs themselves, the real attraction is the clip-art (10,000 images), royalty-free photos (1,000), fonts (1,000) and the wealth of professionally designed templates to use as a starting point.

CorelDRAW is now in its 14th incarnation, and Graphics Suite X4 has a loyal following and a wide target audience, ranging from students to professional designers. But its real strength is as an affordable option for business owners who juggle graphics-creation tasks along with many other responsibilities.

If you spend a couple hours each week laying out brochures, creating ads or planning marketing collateral, Graphics Suite X4 is for you. Sure, professional artists are unlikely to be swayed from Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. But considering those apps are extremely hard to master and cost $649 and $599, respectively, Graphics Suite X4 is better suited to the rest of us.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 screen shot
Graphics Suite X4 provides a host of professionally designed, industry-specific templates to get you started (and note the handy Hints pane on the right).
(Click for larger image)

Fully Documented

All the modules in Graphics Suite X4 load easily from a single DVD (a welcome change from the CD shuffle of the previous version). It comes with plenty of in-program help, including a 10-minute tutorial accessible from the program’s clean new welcome screen and 2.5 hours of video training on the DVD (accessible via the Learning Tools menu).

You also get plenty of tips and tricks, and design notes that show the nitty-gritty details (fonts, colors and so on) of a project template. Graphics Suite customers who upgrade will appreciate the “What’s New” video tour of the programs’ new features as well as the choice under the Help menu that highlights new and changed features (back to version 9).

We’re also happy to see an actual printed User Guide (all 480 pages of it!) to use as a reference while you work, plus the Digital Content Manual that has thumbnails of the clip-art and photos contained on the DVD. Corel has also reprised the Insights from the Experts book from the suite’s previous version; in it professional designers show how they created each featured design.

With Graphics Suite X4, Corel has concentrated on a three-step workflow to keep projects moving: find assets (from previous projects, scanned images, clip art and photos), design and layout (most people will opt to start with one of the package’s excellent templates), and output and collaboration (readying a project for print or the Web, or sharing it with colleagues and clients). The modernized interface has a decidedly Vista-like look, though Graphics Suite X4 works fine under Windows XP SP2 as well (there is no Mac version).

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