It's Not Just a 2D Program Anymore

CorelDraw 6 is a suite of graphics and multimedia programs built around CorelDraw, Corel's flagship illustration and page layout product. Corel began selling CorelDraw as a suite during the product's third release, which included a relatively modest set of satellite programs. Corel dramatically expanded the suite's contents, and by the time CorelDraw 5 came to market, it was a broad and comprehensive suite for 2D graphics, presentations, and publishing.

The CorelDraw 6 suite is significantly different from its predecessors in two respects:

  • CorelDraw 6 is a 32-bit implementation of CorelDraw (and of most of the other programs included in the suite). It is specifically targeted at the emerging Windows 95 market.
  • CorelDraw 6 is not directed toward 2D graphics and the production of printed material. Instead, this version is aimed squarely at the 3D graphics and multimedia market.

The key changes that give CorelDraw 6 a 3D/multimedia spin are not in the core CorelDraw product. CorelDraw is still a 2D illustration and layout program, and satellite products handle the 3D and multimedia capabilities. Table 1 is a chart of the differences between the key programs in the CorelDraw 5 suite and the key programs included in the CorelDraw 6 suite.

What CorelDraw 6 has in common with the previous releases is that Corel acquired the satellite programs from other companies and integrated them into the CorelDraw suite. For example, CorelDream 3D is a customized version of Ray Dream 3D.

In the Lab
CorelDraw's operating system and hardware platform have always restrained the package. Corel's move to a 32-bit implementation addresses many of the performance and resource limitations of the product's previous versions. CorelDraw needs a system with a fast CPU, lots of memory, and lots of free hard disk space.

Corel's move to a 32-bit implementation does not improve overall performance. My tests indicate that CorelDraw version 6 provides a similar level of performance to CorelDraw version 5, which operates in a 16-bit Windows environment. This is actually good news for longtime CorelDraw users because it's the first major version change to CorelDraw that hasn't resulted in worse performance due to higher resource requirements.

Although the product literature and installation documentation do not mention Windows NT support, I was able to install and operate the CorelDraw 6 suite in an NT 3.51 environment with no problems or technical complications. However, one logistical complication is that you need nearly 200MB of disk space to install all the programs in the suite. If you don't have 200MB of disk space, you can run the programs from the CD-ROM disk and consume only about 40MB of disk. However, running the CorelDraw 6 suite from CD-ROM is impractical unless you have two CD-ROM drives: You can't access any of the clipart, fonts, or samples on the three additional CD-ROM disks because you can't switch CD-ROM disks while a CorelDraw program is running. Fortunately, you can opt to install some of the programs on the hard disk and run others from the CD-ROM to give yourself a balance between your hard disk capacity and your day-to-day needs.

The Main Event
CorelDraw is a vector-based drawing program with excellent prepress features, such as color separation, registration marking, and positive/negative image generation. CorelDraw also offers a modest range of page layout capabilities, including support for paragraph-oriented styles and the ability to incorporate bitmapped graphics (e.g., photos and screen shots). CorelDraw does, however, fall short of being a full-featured desktop publishing tool, such as QuarkXPress or Aldus Pagemaker.

As you can see in screen 1, the CorelDraw version 6 interface contains a horizontal toolbar and a vertical toolbox. The toolbox is deceptively simple: Most of the options in it have an additional "fly-out" toolset that lets you refine the operation you want. For example, the text tool (the "A" tool) has a fly-out that lets you enter either simple artistic text or formatted paragraph text.

CorelDraw version 5 users will notice some subtle changes in the version 6 interface. First, Corel reorganized the toolbox to contain a new polygon tool and a dimension line tool (the tool above the rectangle tool), which used to be a fly-out option on the line drawing tool. Second, version 6 now lets you concurrently work with multiple files. Third, all Help, configuration, and dialog boxes now conform to the Windows 95 user interface.

TABLE 1:
A comparison of satellite programs included with the last two versions of CorelDraw shows the major changes in the suite. Both suites include a variety of additional utility programs.
CorelDraw 5 CorelDraw 6
CorelDraw (2D illustration/layout) CorelDraw (2D illustration/layout)
Corel Photo-Paint (photo/bitmap editing) Corel Photo-Paint (photo/bitmap editing)
CorelShow (on-screen presentations) Corel Presents (business/multimedia
presentations)
CorelMove (2D animation) Corel Motion 3D (3D animation)
CorelChart (statistical charting) CorelDream 3D (3D rendering)
Corel Ventura (desktop publishing)


CorelDraw 6
System Requirements: 486 or better, Windows NT Workstation 3.51, 16MB of RAM, 200MB of disk space, SVGA graphics, CD-ROM drive
Corel * 613-728-8200
Price: CorelDraw version 6: $695; Upgrade from version 5: $239; Upgrade from version 3 or 4: $379

In all versions, one of CorelDraw's strengths has been its ability to import and export a wide range of graphics formats, such as Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), TIFF, and Windows metafiles. These strengths remain in version 6, although it is limited in its backward-compatibility with files created under prior versions of CorelDraw. Specifically, version 6 cannot read version 3 and prior files and can save files only in version 5 and 6 formats. Fortunately, this limitation affects only those who still have CorelDraw version 3.

Satellite Programs
The satellite programs in the CorelDraw 6 suite that deliver the 3D and multimedia capabilities are Corel Photo-Paint, Corel Presents, CorelDream 3D, and Corel Motion 3D. (See the sidebar "3D by Corel.") Corel has learned from its three previous suites to deliver a consistent interface across all the programs in the suite. Although you will see this in version 6 because all the programs use vertical toolboxes and horizontal toolbars, you'll find that each program has its own look and feel once you get beyond the basic user interface.

Whereas CorelDraw is a general-purpose illustration and layout tool, the satellite programs are specialized in their purposes:

  • Corel Photo-Paint (see screen 2) is a bitmap editing program similar to Adobe Photoshop. Photo-Paint lets you edit any bitmapped image or work with brightness, contrast, and other image controls. Photo-Paint supports a variety of input and output file formats (e.g., JPEG, TIFF, and PCX). It also includes a variety of special effects modules (e.g., ripple, emboss, and blur). You can add more special effects via third-party plug-ins.
  • Corel Presents (see screen 3) lets you create and view business presentations. In that sense, Presents is similar to Microsoft PowerPoint. Presents provides a variety of slide layouts and animated slide transitions. It also lets you include graphics from other CorelDraw programs, as well as maps, charts, sounds, animation, and video.
  • CorelDream 3D is Corel's adaptation of the popular Ray Dream 3D program. CorelDream lets you create complex 3D graphics using relatively simple tools to control the perspective, lighting, and shading of objects in an image.
  • Corel Motion 3D lets you create simple 3D animation sequences. It is not a full-featured, full-blown animation program. It is oriented toward the animation of text, logos, or other simple images.

To Buy or Not to Buy
Version 6 is a worthy and notable step in the evolution of the CorelDraw suite. If you are considering a first-time purchase of a 2D/3D graphics package, version 6 is a good choice. The sophistication and prepress capabilities of the core CorelDraw make the program worth the suggested retail price of $695.

If you already use version 5, consider spending the $239 upgrade fee to obtain the capabilities of the new satellite programs and to move to a 32-bit implementation. Even though there is little performance difference between CorelDraw version 5 and 6, all the underlying operating system tasks such as loading and saving files function faster in a 32-bit environment. In other words, making the transition from a 16-bit environment to a 32-bit environment offers its own set of advantages. You may need to take this argument to heart because you might find it difficult to justify an upgrade purely on the basis of new CorelDraw features.

And don't throw out your CorelDraw 5 software. Some of the programs in the CorelDraw 5 suite aren't in version 6, and you might need version 5 to access old CorelDraw files.