By Cynthia Morgan, Reviews Editor, Software
Corel Ventura 7.0 has a seductive promise for you: Develop a page of information once, then publish it to as many formats-paper, Web, SGML, CD-ROM, Acrobat-as you like.
So far, the beta incarnations of the new Ventura I've tested don't quite live up to such a tall order, but Corel's major overhaul of this venerable desktop publishing package should still make the shipping version a splashy contender in several product categories.
It's been ages-and at least one new owner-since Ventura was upgraded, so this is a ground-up rewrite. Like many new Corel products, this suite is a grab bag of all things Corel: a soupon of CD-ROM authoring, a touch of photo retouch, a bit of color management, a dash of database publishing and some scripting language tossed into the CD alongside the page-layout program. Corel's got a nasty habit of changing feature sets right up to product release, so that list could grow-or shrink-by the time you read this.
Corel's the master of CD installations, and this one's no exception. To save disk space, you can choose to run the suite from the CD, although you'll have to insert the CD each time you want to run the software and you'll sacrifice some performance. The setup routines add the dozen or so programs in this suite to your folders, but they're not fully integrated into Ventura and must be started separately.
The new Ventura, updated to version 7.0 from version 5.0 to fit in with PerfectOffice 7 and other Corel suites, offers extensive menu and toolbar customizability. You can make it resemble its predecessors or rearrange it to match your favorite applications. A full 32-bit package with OLE 2.0 support, it follows Win95 conventions, including long filenames and a floating property inspection bar to which you can attach your favorite tools. That's a useful feature, because tool locations may be confusing if you're used to most popular Win95 applications.
The interface lets you conveniently split a document into different views for editing and layout, and you can drag and drop elements between multiple documents.
The package pays special attention to workgroups, offering version control, multi-user access rights and the ability to add revision comments to hidden notepads within the file. You can
compare different versions to view changes, track changes back to the author and lock specific versions to prevent changes.
Two utilities simplify document organization. The Explorer-like Ventura Navigator controls everything that goes into your document, from table of contents to master pages. Its outline format makes it particularly easy to navigate through book-length files. The Publication Manager, accessed through Navigator, gives you global control over assigning styles, determining user rights and arranging document elements.
Ventura's Library Manager acts as a repository for style sheets, graphics, text, OLE objects and just about every other element that can fit into a document. You can drag and drop elements from the libraries into your publications, as well as share libraries across the network.
This Ventura edition gives you far greater control over graphic art elements than Ventura 5.0 could. You can hand-tune font tracking and develop your own kerning for letters such as ÒffÓ and ÒtiÓ that often need spacing modifications when used together.
Corel wisely added spell-checker and hyphenation dictionaries, as well as database-editing tools. Ventura supports OLE 2.0's in-place editing for anything the company forgot to include, but the program also offers equation editing and mini-spreadsheet functions. For a search tool, it has borrowed WordPerfect's admirable WP QuickFinder. Type Assist, Corel's ÒsmartÓ editing feature, gives you more direct control than most. Edit your worst spelling nightmares to automatically self-correct, and you can choose to turn off all or part of Type Assist when it grows tiresome.
Ventura's heavy on graphics and color, offering texture options as well as the usual fills and patterns. These can be especially useful for Web-page backgrounds. The program can use your color scanner and printer to calibrate precisely for optimal output, and it supports Hexachrome's extended process-color management. The Ventura package offers simple multimedia, with sound record, playback and rudimentary editing.
Like many desktop publishing packages, almost all Ventura elements exist inside a frame. You can even make shaped frames, in diamonds and hearts and such, which can be very convenient for building HTML anchor points. The program's graphics capabilities include drawing tools such as Bzier curves and frame anchors.
Ventura comes with a limited table editor that Corel promised would be more feature-complete by the time the product ships. The tables created, however, can be translated directly into HTML code-a very handy option.
In fact, Ventura's Web-page conversion ability probably will be its most attractive feature, although you'll still need to do a little extra tweaking to make this trick work properly. Corel uses the tagging procedures common to HTML's big brother, SGML, to format your document. Each frame in your document-and there are many in the typical page-needs a tag to properly convert to HTML.
The program supports HTML 2.0, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator 2.0 extensions. It will also translate into Envoy (WordPerfect's portable document exchange format), Common Ground and Acrobat.
Enough of the latest Ventura beta was nonfunctional that I'm leery of giving it an unqualified recommendation. If Corel can pull off even some of its promises, however, Ventura 7.0 should be a roaring success. We'll keep you posted.
Corel Ventura 7.0
Pros: Extensive feature set; one-stop publishing
Cons: Interface; some tools hard to find
Platforms: Windows 95, NT
WinMag Box Score: 3.5