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CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 - Create Professional-Looking Graphics

written by: David Berry•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009
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CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 is a complete suite of graphic programs that lets you create professional-looking images, logos, and brochures, and capture and edit images. CorelDraw X3 has more cool tools, such as text handling, but the big draw for new users will be its documentation and how-to tips.

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    Introduction

    CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 is just a fancy way of saying CorelDraw 13, the latest version in Corel's long-running collection of graphics programs. I started using CorelDraw many years ago, with version 5, and the user interface and bundle of programs hasn’t changed much with this latest incarnation. Some of the names have changed and new features were added, but long-time CorelDraw users shouldn't expect to be awed with a new look and feel to the program.

    If you’ve never used CorelDraw, it’s a vector-based graphics program. Vector-based graphics use geometrical shapes such as points, lines, curves, and polygons to create images. This is different than other programs that use raster graphics, which renders an image as a collection of pixels (this type of imaging is normally associated with photographs). CorelDraw can be used for a variety of tasks such as creating logos, graphics for documents or web sites, brochures, page layouts, business cards, labels, and other types of artwork or presentation materials.

    The CorelDraw Graphics suite also comes with programs for screen or image capturing, photo editing, converting bitmaps into vector-based graphics, and font management. This bundle of applications is an excellent toolset for professional designers as well as home users.
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    Price to Value

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    CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 bundles several programs together with a powerful set of features to satisfy the needs of most graphic designers. When you evaluate the X3 suite against some of its competitors, like Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator, you’ll find that Corel offers many comparable features at a much lower price. CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 includes CorelDRAW, Corel Photo-Paint, and Corel Capture, as well as some other handy utilities. Having all of these features in one bundled package is a big advantage, and the programs all work well together.

    If you’re concerned about the high cost, you can download a 15-day free trial to see if the suite fits all of your needs before you purchase it.



    What's Not: 

    Unless you’re a professional graphics designer, or have the need for all the different programs that CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 comes with, the price is pretty steep: $169.00 for the upgrade or $379.00 for the full version.

    While this suite does allow you to create excellent graphics, edit photos, or create various publications, you can also find a number of cheaper shareware programs that may meet all of your needs. For example, if you own Microsoft Publisher, you can use it to create impressive layouts and designs that are more than enough for the average home user. Most digital cameras come with some type of image editing program, or your PC may have come with one pre-installed such as Microsoft Digital Image Suite or PaintShop Pro. The Internet is full of graphic design software with a much lower price tag.

    Finally, I was disappointed in purchasing the download version of CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3. I like buying software that you can download because you get it immediately, but in the case of CorelDraw you may want to consider getting the CDs. The CDs for CorelDraw come with disks filled with thousands of pieces of clipart, fonts, and templates for designing publications. I still use the Corel Mega Gallery CDs that I got with my older version and I feel that I really missed out by not getting the CDs this time. If you do a lot of design work, just having the extra fonts alone is worth the wait for the boxed version.


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    Installation & Setup

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    Installation and setup ran smoothly but there are a number of options that you need to address before the programs are installed. The download from the Corel website is an executable that contains compressed files. The first screen asks you to choose the location to save the setup files needed for installation. Once the files have been extracted, the installation will continue. These files are removed after the product is installed.

    The next prompt asks you to select a default language. You can add additional language packs later. Once the setup finally starts, you will be prompted to log into an existing Corel account or create a new one. This step allows you to easily access your product key and other registration information at a later time.

    The next screen prompts you to select which of the three main applications (CorelDraw X3, Photo-Paint X3, and Capture X3) that you'd like to install. If you click on Advanced Options, you'll be able to make more granular choices as well as choose additional language packs. Being able to pick and choose what parts of an application are installed is a big plus in my book.

    The final step in the installation gives you the option of installing the Yahoo toolbar for Internet Explorer as well as a Yahoo toolbar integrated into CorelDraw X3 and Photo-Paint X3.



    What's Not: 

    Why are so many programs lately asking you to create a user account before you can install them? It’s probably a good way to help prevent software piracy and yes, it is a handy way to keep track of your product keys and registration information, but I’d also like to see an option for skipping this step and registering your product later.

    The Yahoo marketing team certainly is working as hard as Google to get their products onto user desktops, but frankly I’m getting tired of seeing these options. If I had downloaded a shareware program, then I expect to see additional prompts for Yahoo or Google, but when I pay for an expensive piece of software, that’s all I’m looking for. If I wanted the Yahoo toolbar integrated into Internet Explorer, I would have already gone out and downloaded it. Having it integrated into CorelDraw itself doesn’t serve any useful purpose except to overcrowd the program’s toolbar.

    Finally, it’s not very clear to the user that the installation has completed. All you’re left with is a blank screen waiting to see if the setup is done. CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 doesn’t even add any icons to your desktop for easy access to the programs.


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    Product Features

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    When you first launch CorelDraw you’ll see a welcome screen that allows you to start a new file, open an existing one, create a file from a template, or access CorelTUTOR. CorelTUTOR provides step-by-step instructions for completing dozens of tasks such as Workspace tutor (which gives you an introduction to the tools in CorelDraw), information on creating a logo, working with layouts, and how to convert bitmaps into vector-based images. CorelTUTOR is a browser-based help system designed to help you learn more about the application. It's an excellent feature for people new to CorelDraw.

    Another new feature that you’ll notice as soon as you launch CorelDraw is the Hints sidebar docked to the right of your screen. If you’ve never used CorelDraw before, you may find that it has a steep learning curve. The Hints sidebar gives you quick access to a wide number of tips and tutorials for getting you started. The really cool thing about this sidebar is that topics are activated when you click on tool or when you start using a tool. This eliminates the need for the user to search through help files for the information they’re looking for. You can chose to leave the Hints docker active or hide it once you’ve become more familiar with the tool. There are also a number of other dockers that you can select from on the main menu bar to give you easy access to program features and settings.

    As I’ve mentioned, CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 includes a number of different products. The main program is CorelDraw, which is used for creating vector-based graphics. There are a number of significant new improvements from previous versions but for users of an older version, the learning curve in upgrading to X3 is an easy one. This is because the user interface for the program hasn’t changed much over the years.

    CorelDraw comes with an assortment of new text tools that give you greater control over formatting and page layout. There’s also an improved "Interactive Fit Text to Path" tool for creating curved text. In earlier versions of CorelDraw, getting text to fit to a curve wasn’t always the easiest undertaking.

    CorelDraw has never been a leader in desktop publishing. When I needed to create a brochure, page layout, or other presentation, I would do my graphics in CorelDraw and then export them to a format that I could then import into PageMaker or QuarkXpress. While I still don’t see CorelDraw as a formidable desktop publishing package, there are a number of new features that move it up a notch. Two of them are the new Character and Paragraph dockers, which give you easy access to text-formatting settings such as selecting fonts, alignment, character effects, spacing, and other tools presentation designers need.

    In addition to CorelDraw, you also get Corel Photo-Paint and Corel Capture. Corel Photo-Paint has pretty much the same features that you’d find in any image-editing software (such as Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro or Microsoft Digital Image Suite), but it does add a few new interesting features. One of these is the ability to create and edit movies. You can insert and delete frames, do some limited editing, and then export your movie to AVI or QuickTime Movie formats. While it’s not as sophisticated as other movie editing software, it is a nice added feature.

    The other product in the suite is Corel Capture, a screen capture utility that can capture your entire screen or just selected parts of it. This is a very handy utility and comes with a wide assortment of configuration options for choosing what you want to capture, setting hot keys, choosing resolution and color depth, and eliminating your cursor from the capture. I used Corel Capture for the screenshots in this review, and it worked extremely well.



    What's Not: 

    I’ve always liked CorelDraw for creating and editing graphics (especially clipart), but it’s still lacking in many of the advanced features you’d find in some of the other higher-end desktop publishing programs and illustration software. As a long-time Photoshop user, I find that the features in Photo-Paint are adequate for the average home user but lacking in power for more advanced photo editing.

    As with previous versions of CorelDraw, if you create a layout with a lot of vector-based graphics or clipart, you may find that you aren’t able to print it. These types of graphics are made up of many geometrical shapes, and you need a printer with a lot of memory to be able to handle them. I created a quick flyer with several graphics on it, and only half of it spooled to the printer. Once I cut down on the number of images, I was able to print it. The better way to do this is to create your graphics in CorelDraw, export them to another format (such as a Windows Metafile), and then import them into Microsoft Word or Publisher to complete your layout and print it.

    The movie-editing features in Photo-Paint are very basic and although adding them to the program has merit, Corel needs to either take them more seriously in future version or remove them altogether. You can easily accomplish the same thing, and more, with the free Movie Maker program that comes with Windows. For higher-end movie editing, you should consider a program like Pinnacle Studio or Adobe Premiere Elements.


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    User Interface

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    If you’ve ever used a previous version of CorelDraw, you’ll be happy to know that the user interface hasn’t changed very much. All of the familiar menus and toolbars are still in the same places. This makes the learning curve for the new version much easier. Corel also offers a large quantity of tutorials and help documentation that will benefit first-time users as well as old hands.

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    Images

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    Suggested Features

    Corel should include a way for people who buy the downloadable version to get the extra fonts and clipart that come in the box.
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    Conclusion

    CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 is a solid graphics package that allows you to create professional-looking images or logos, design brochures, and capture and edit images.  Previous users of CorelDraw will appreciate some of the new features, and new users will find plenty of documentation and tips for getting started.
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    Related Products

    Xara, Adobe InDesign CS3, PaintShop Pro, Adobe Illustrator