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Corel Draw 8
by Bob Corr

CorelDRAW 8 is arguably the most significant, all inclusive, featured packed graphic arts program available to the PC user. Having worked with several other similar programs in both Mac and Windows platforms, I was very impressed with CorelDRAW 8 from start to finish.

I started with the custom install because I wanted everything at my finger tips. My Pentium has plenty of disk space and 64 meg of RAM -- my goal was to use it all. However, CorelDRAW 8 will run on a mere 16 meg of RAM (32 recommended). The program installed with the options I selected without any problems. The minimum installation requires 80 meg of disk space. With my options, I used 282 meg of hard drive. CorelDRAW 8, and it's companion programs Photo-Paint and Dream 3D (included) all installed from one CD. Included with the program suite is four substantial manuals and two additional CDs. The first CD is loaded down with 40,000 beautiful clipart images on just about any subject you can imagine. A variety of full color photos is also included. Full color thumbnail photos of all the clipart, and clear examples of the more than 1,000 fonts are included in a fully indexed manual. The last CD is a nice collection of objects, brush textures, photo edges, images, fonts and tiles all needed to make your work professional quality.

Corel did not include the customary "quick start guide" that has become so common with modern software programs. Although I was up and running very quickly, the CorelDRAW 8 manual of 800 pages can seem a little intimidating at first. A small quick start guide or tutorial would have been nice. The first steps are very intuitive, and I quickly felt as though I knew what I was doing. As with other Corel products, there are many ways to accomplish most desired tasks. It has a very friendly user interface that made me feel as though I had used the program before. I quickly realized it was less clumsy to use than the Mac versions of Photoshop and Illustrator I had previous experience with.
It is important to understand one fundamental difference between CorelDRAW 8 and other popular graphics programs like Photoshop. CorelDRAW 8 creates vector based images. Most other professional grade programs create bitmap images. A vector based program creates images as mathematically defined vectors. Which is to say, a series of positions plotted on a grid (your screen or page) and then connected with lines. Something like a highly sophisticated "connect the dots" puzzle, sans dots. A bitmaped image defines an image as an enormous list of pixles (dots). All the pixles are the same size and are assembled on the page to create the image.

An image created as a series of vectors is more efficient. Vector file sizes are much smaller than those required to assemble massive quantities of pixles. Vector based images are easy to re-size without sacrificing detail. If you have ever tried to enlarge a bitmap file you know what it's like. As the image increases in size, the pixles are made larger, or more square pixles are placed adjacent to the original, thus making the edges jagged. A vector based image is enlarged by mathematically interpolating the position of intermediary vector placement, thus retaining the smooth curves of your image. This is true even if you reduce to a thumbnail size or increase to the size of a billboard.

The mathematically defined vector curves created by CorelDRAW 8 retain their smoothness even when enlarged. Bitmap images become grainy and uneven when enlarged. Then why are bitmap images used by other programs?

There are several reasons. First color photos require the use of bitmap technology. Only a bitmap can provide the detail shades necessary for photo manipulation. CorelDRAW 8's companion product PhotoPaint 8 uses bitmaps. Also, bitmap images are required for use on the Web. The low resolution of most computer monitors make the use of vector images impractical. Both GIF and JPEG are bitmap formats. I won't go into detail on that subject here. However, Corel has eliminated the concern for this as CorelDRAW 8 easily imports and exports CorelDRAW 8 files to bitmap formats for use in other programs as well as it's companion programs. It should be noted that Corel's program, WordPerfect also uses vector based images. This is one of the reasons that WordPerfect was such an enormous success in the early days of PC word processors. Other word processors were not able to produce the quality graphic images that were common in WordPerfect because of the vector based technology.
One of the first things noticed when starting CorelDRAW 8 is the large work area around the page on the screen. This work area allows you to drag items off the printed page surface while keeping those items with the page file. If you were trying to decide which holiday decoration to include on your greeting card you could save several possible choices with the card and then easily move them on or off to review the possibilities before the final decision was made. Only the graphics and text placed on the shaded page outline will print.

If you were creating an image of a person for the company newsletter, it would be simple to modify that image with the variety of hair styles, nose sizes, smiles, and face shapes that are part of thousands of images included with the package.

If your plan is for a quality commercial document, Corel includes a "Commercial Printing Guide" in the box. This guide explains in detail how to prepare a commercial grade product. The guide includes a glossary of terms and a troubleshooting section. Everything you need to know when dealing with a commercial production facility or Service Bureau.

CorelDRAW 8 ships two other programs; Corel Photo-Paint 8 and Corel Dream 3D. Corel PhotoPaint 8 is very similar to CorelDRAW 8 except that it works with bitmap images. Working with color photos requires using a bitmap editor. PhotoPaint 8 includes all the necessary tools and special effects needed for professional color image manipulation. Images quickly import back and forth between the two programs. Image editing can be done in low resolution for speed and space saving. Web page design with high quality color images is a snap. Keep in mind during any web page design that color bitmap images consume more disk space. Large (high resolution) files load slower and may discourage web site visitors from spending more time at your site. For more information about PhotoPaint 8 visit this web site; http://www.ppinet.com/toppage11.htm.

Corel's Dream 3D, as you might have guessed, is a program to add a 3 dimensional prospective to your work. The idea in 3-D is to create an image that "jumps" off the page to catch the reader's eye and draw more attention to your work. Three dimensional shadowing can also instantaneously create a sense of positioning or time that no amount of text could. It can also be used to create an illusion, or add to inter-activity at a web site. Architectural drawings come to life in 3-D to visualize that new addition, or help sell that new product. Shades and contrasts are better defined in a 3-D image. Corel's Dream 3D adds another level of excitement and professionalism to your document.

I decided to put CorelDRAW 8 through it's paces with two different tests using most of CorelDraw 8's features. Since my artistic abilities are less than zero I decided to start with graphic manipulation. I imported a photo from the many included on the CD library. I began with one of the many templates supplied by Corel. By simply selecting a template, editing a little text, and scanning in a photo of my daughter, I was able to create a customized letterhead for her with her photo. With a little editing I removed and replaced the photo background. Then I added a photo of her pet dog so that the dog was looking up at her, corrected for the color difference in the three photos, and added a brush effect to smooth the edges. All completed in less than thirty minutes.

My second project was to scan in a black and white photo of my great grandparents wedding from November, 1854. This 144 year old photo was in reasonably good shape, but had definite signs of time torture. With a little editing in PhotoPaint 8 I was able to repair nature's damage, and add a slight tinted background. It gives them a fresh new look. I have sent the new photo to a lab for reproduction. I can't wait to see the final product. I spent several hours on this project to get it just the way I wanted it.

For those of us who are a little reluctant to engage a program of this stature, Corel has provided a helper, CorelTutor. CorelTutor is a built in demo program. It provides you with step by step instructions on completing dozens of tasks from creating objects... to publishing your work. It is a series of basic tutorials and workshops that fully demonstrate the features of CorelDRAW 8. If you are familiar with the PerfectExpert feature of WordPerfect, this could be considered the next generation.

As if this isn't enough, CorelDRAW 8 ships with a utility bundle that includes Kodak's digital color management system for accurate color, OCR-Trace for direct text recognition editing, OLE script editing, a screen capture utility, a font navigator, texture editor, scanning software, over 450 templates, 750 floating objects, 40,000 clipart images, 1,000 photos, and 1,000 TrueType fonts. All in all, there are more than 100 new features since the last upgrade.

In conclusion, I believe this program is simple enough for the beginner but powerful enough for commercial production. It is designed to work in whatever capacity needed, always ready to provide the next level of performance as needed by a user. You won't outgrow this gem.

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This page was last updated on:
February 2003