Corel Updates the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite

While the 20th anniversary of Adobe Photoshop has come and gone, it's by no means the only graphics application with more than two decades of experience under its belt. The CorelDRAW vector illustration and page layout program is also a member of this elite group, with it being for many years the central element of Corel's Graphics Suite. Version X6 of the Suite, which shipped in May of 2012, was a major update, providing enhancements to font support, color management, drawing tools and page layout capabilities, as well as more bundled content than ever (which is saying a lot). There have been point upgrades since then but version X7 marks another significant enhancement.

But before getting into that, here's the current list of what constitutes the Suite: CorelDRAW is the core application, providing sophisticated vector illustration capabilities and enough flexibility to make it appropriate for creating single and multi-page documents (think brochures not books); PHOTO-PAINT is an under-rated image-editing application that can hold its own with Photoshop for most tasks; PowerTRACE is employed for bitmap-to-vector tracing; CONNECT can be used to access digital content in the Content Exchange and on a local computer; Website Creator is a website-design application; CAPTURE is a screen capture utility; the PhotoZoom Pro 3 plugin exports and enlarges digital images from Corel PHOTO-PAINT; and ConceptShare makes it possible to share artwork and ideas with colleagues and clients. Part of the Suite's claim to fame has always been that it also included a pile of content, some frankly of uneven quality. Brace yourself: 10,000 clipart and digital images, 2,000 high-resolution digital photos, 1,000 OpenType fonts, 350 templates, 2,000 vehicle templates, 800 frames and patterns, and more than five hours of training videos.

So what's new? To be honest, this release seems to contain so many tweaks that your best bet is to simply peruse the thorough 37-page Reviewer's Guide (PDF), which goes through everything in detail. Highlights include a new approach to the interface, which now provides six workspaces based on proficiency levels and specific tasks: Lite, Default, Classic, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Advanced Page Layout or Advanced Illustration. These can be customized by adding or removing such elements as dockers and tools. CorelDRAW has always provided users with a lot of freedom in working with type. This has now been enhanced, thanks to the addition of Font Playground, which makes it easier to browse, experiment with and choose fonts. Full support for OpenType fonts is welcome, as is the ability to embed fonts in CorelDRAW files.

Other significant enhancements include additional fountain fill functionality; robust multi-monitor and high DPI support; an interface that adapts to touchscreen devices; enhancements to PHOTO-PAINT that include pressure-sensitive liquid tools (Smear, Attract and Twirl) and camera effects (Bokeh blur, Sepia Toning and Time Machine) ; a slick ability to easily create customized QR codes that include colors, images and text. Also new is the Patterns app for iOS 7 (what, no Android?), which makes it possible to create patterns from photos, then share and sync them with CorelDRAW through the Corel Content Exchange or with other applications such as Photoshop. Corel's version of what's possible using Creative Cloud?

I have been following CorelDRAW closely since it was released in 1989. In fact, I wrote the first book dedicated to it, ran the CorelNET.com site for Corel Corp. and even published a magazine devoted to DRAW, the CorelDRAW Journal. Some releases of DRAW have made me question whether it had a future. But X7 is happily not one of those. In fact, it's one of the strongest, most professional Suite releases in recent memory. If you're a Windows user and need to create a wide variety of illustrations and short documents, as well as edit photos, you need to either subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud or purchase Xara Designer Pro or CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7. It's as simple as that.

The CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is currently available as a licensed product, which requires a one-time payment that results in permanent ownership of the downloadable or box product. You can add a Premium Membership to this and receive early access to new features, exclusive content and the next major release of the Suite at no extra cost. Finally, you can opt for a subscription model and pay a monthly or annual fee to use the product for as long as payments are made, similar to Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7 for Windows can be purchased on the Corel site for $499. Premium Membership costs $8.25 per month when purchased as an annual membership for $99. More information and a trial version is also available. The illustration above is by Joseph Diaz. Finally, this is the place to mention that the prize for the April Graphics.com Sweepstakes is in fact the Suite, so why not try your luck?