So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Corel Draw Graphics Suite x4
- Affordable price for what it offers, fast and effective work flow, lots of useful tools, services and templates
- Not as fully realised as Adobe Creative suite (but also significantly cheaper)
CorelDraw Graphics Suite x4 is a solid vector graphics package that adds some useful improvements over its predecessor. Thanks to a range of new tools which boost productivity, professionals will find it worth the upgrade.
Price$ 829.95 (AUD)
CorelDraw Graphics Suite x4 is the vector editing application of choice for people unwilling to fork out for an expensive Adobe software bundle. Unlike Adobe Illustrator, which is a stand-alone drawing application, x4 is an all-in-one suite; combining vector design tools and desktop publishing in one streamlined package.
This latest version comes equipped with full versions of Corel PHOTO-PAINT X4 (a bitmap editor), Corel PowerTRACE X4 (for converting bitmaps into vector images) and the titular CorelDraw x4. In addition, a host of supplementary software and material is also thrown in, including Corel Capture (for one-click image capture), Duplexing Wizard (for the creation of two-sided documents), WhatTheFont (an online service that tracks down unidentified fonts) and a massive selection of royalty-free photos and clipart (around 1000 and 10,000 respectively). While $829.95 isn't exactly pocket change, it remains one of the most affordable graphics suites on the market. With the exception of Web designers and their online ilk, it will suit almost any type of user; from industry professionals to do-it-yourself business lackeys.
Like most regularised software upgrades, CorelDraw Graphics Suite x4 doesn't attempt to reinvent the wheel with any earth-shattering changes. Instead, it refines upon the excellent x3 with some noteworthy – if mostly unessential – new features. The most immediately obvious of these is the redesigned interface. While it retains the same basic layout as its predecessor, everything has been streamlined to improve productivity, with the 'functional' controls of old receiving a professional new face lift. It makes for an uncluttered, intuitive and highly welcoming interface – especially for inexperienced users. If you weren't a fan of CorelDraw's previous look, the new interface is almost worth upgrading for on its own.
Apart from its re-polished appearance, one of the biggest changes to Graphics Suite x4 is the inclusion of ConceptShare; an online workspace that allows you to share designs and feedback in real time with other users. This makes it easy to collaborate with international colleagues – simply upload your output into the workspace and it will remain there for other permitted users to see.
As mentioned earlier, another online-based feature fresh to Graphics Suite x4 is WhatTheFont. As its cheeky name implies, this intriguing new service attempts to find matches for 'mystery' or unidentified fonts (i.e. – a scan from a poster, say). To test the service, we highlighted a few fonts that we already knew the type for, and found that it struggled to recognise some of the rarer examples. Nevertheless, it remains an interesting new addition to the suite which is bound to prove useful when clients ask you to replicate a vague style of font.
While it is still no match for Adobe Photoshop, the latest iteration of Corel PHOTO-PAINT benefits from a few notable improvements; including support for the RAW camera format and an easy image-straightening tool. The real-time histogram feedback tool will also be greatly appreciated, as it allows you to compare photo adjustments and select the best tone. Likewise, CorelTRACE x4 offers a lot more control than the tracing tools found in Graphics Suite x3. The new colour palette allows you to simplify, alter or enhance which colours appear in converted bitmap files for optimum results. What's more, it's fast and easy to use too.
The desktop publishing options have also received several improvements; mostly geared towards boosting work efficiency. We were particularly impressed by the ability to manage independent page layers across multi-page documents; a feature that wasn't offered in previous versions of CorelDraw. You can also preview changes via the Live Text Formatting tool, which saves you the trouble of applying a change and then removing it if it doesn't meet your requirements. Novice users are also rather well catered for, with a range of professionally designed, fully customisable templates.
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