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-- by Lori L. Bloomer
Looking at CorelDRAW 7 brought on a flashback. I remembered those "wonder widget" commercials of yore, when just $19.95 bought you a gadget that would shine your shoes, brush your teeth, start your car in the morning, make your coffee and caulk your bathtub-or so they claimed.
CorelDRAW 7 makes a similar claim-the difference is Corel makes good on its promise to give you a lavish selection of useful and powerful tools, albeit for a bit more than $19.95.
Breadth has always been this program's biggest strength; CorelDRAW combined many different graphics apps in one package long before "suite" became a buzzword. Now, it seems CorelDRAW has attained depth and speed as well. Earlier incarnations were hardly fleet-footed, but the main applications in version 7-CorelDRAW, Corel Photo-Paint and CorelDream 3D-all run at respectable speeds even on a system with 16MB of RAM, which is the minimum configuration for this package. On the test machine, a 133MHz Pentium with 24MB of RAM, screen updates were speedy and operations didn't keep me waiting.
CorelDRAW's interface is much more intuitive and well organized than before. Streamlined toolbars, toolboxes, menus and dialogs now use far less desktop real estate and provide more functionality. The property bar-a context-sensitive toolbar-displays controls appropriate to the tool you're using. The customizable status bar lets you see the information you need for the image you're editing.
The new toolset in CorelDRAW is superb. Interactive tools that blend, render transparency and approximate natural pen strokes on a pressure-sensitive tablet are only the beginning. The Image Sprayer "spray-paints" one graphic onto another, offering a fresh approach to mixing and conjoining images. With the interactive fill tool, you can click and drag over a selected object to add your choice of fill types.
In addition, the revamped CorelDRAW improves on previous tools. The artistic and paragraph text editors, for example, have been melded into a single powerful tool that allows you to apply the same modifications and effects to all your text. Anti-aliasing has been added. For meticulous layouts, you can fit text to a path interactively and wrap it around objects. WordPerfect writing tools are also included.
One aid to document management is your ability to define "color styles"-stylesheets of linked color relationships. This allows you to apply a predefined color scheme to an entire image in a single step.
Bitmap and vector images get equal treatment in the new CorelDRAW. Color-adjustment filters can be applied to both types of image. You can convert a vector image to a bitmap in a single step; a separate bitmap-to-vector converter, OCR-Trace (formerly known as CorelTrace), makes the process almost as simple in reverse.
CorelDraw now includes an integrated set of bitmap effects borrowed from Photo-Paint-though they still only work on bitmaps. You can use the conventional sharpen, emboss and add noise effects, but you can also make psychedelic colors, add an impressionistic flair or give the graphic a wet-paint look. If those tools aren't enough, CorelDRAW also cooperates with Photoshop-compatible plug-ins-a limited edition of Kai's Power Tools is bundled with the program, as are Extensis Intellihance and Cytopia PhotoLab.
Corel has expanded its product line in the past year to include an array of Web-authoring tools, based in part on the company's existing technologies. CorelDRAW 7 incorporates many of the capabilities of these tools as well, making it an impressive canvas upon which to paint and draw your Internet images. An Internet toolbar is included, allowing you to assign a URL and ALT text to any object in an image. This image map can be published to HTML or to Barista, a new Corel utility that allows users to author Java applets without knowing any code. CorelDRAW also includes Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer palettes, ensuring you'll see the image on the Web the same way you see it in CorelDRAW.
CorelDream 3D was based on Ray Dream Designer, and a number of enhancements have been added since its debut in CorelDRAW 6. The new default workspace includes different views of the 3-D image. Scene Wizard lets you start from a template and build from there, and the new, slicker navigation makes editing a breeze. With the included object-linking and deformation tools, your 3-D objects are easier to render, too.
The newly lowered price-and better Web features-of Macromedia's FreeHand 7 Graphics Studio, also reviewed in this issue, keep Corel's suite a hairsbreadth away from making our Recommended List. Still, CorelDRAW 7's power, performance and diversity as a graphics wonder widget will satisfy all but the most demanding image-editing appetites.