CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 Review

by Reads (10,559)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Cost Benefits
      • 6
      • Total Score:
      • 8.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Powerful vector-graphics editor with many advanced features
    • Can customize workspaces to adapt the interface to your skill level
    • Includes a QR code tool to help you create and verify barcodes
    • Can handle multi-page documents
    • Includes an impressive collection of images, templates, fonts, and training videos
  • Cons

    • Expensive
    • Can be difficult to use without study or training

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7 EN_RightIt was introduced 25 years ago—a year before Adobe Photoshop. Yet many causal graphics users have never heard of it. CorelDraw creates vector graphics that scale up and down more gracefully than the bitmapped graphics produced by Photoshop and its descendants. A vector image from CorelDraw will look essentially the same whether it’s printed on a business card or a giant billboard. That makes it a favorite among billboard, sign, and car wrap professionals. According to Corel, more than 70 percent of the sign makers in the U.S. use the CorelDraw Graphics Suite to produce their graphics.

 

For Professional Use Only?

If you’re not a graphics professional, and you have heard about CorelDraw X7 ($499), you may have wondered if it has a place among your graphics applications. Clearly, Corel thinks so. In recent years, the company has worked to make the CorelDraw Graphics Suite more appealing to casual users. Over the past few versions, Corel has simplified the interface, made the video training more task oriented, and bulked up the free content. The challenge for Corel has been to open up the application for casual users without scaring away the professionals.

This latest version moves even further in that direction by adding customized workspaces. When you first start CorelDraw x7, it asks you to choose a preconfigured workspace. Casual users can now select a Lite workspace that hides the more arcane tools while leaving the core features in place. It lets you become familiar with the basic functions before advancing on to a full set of tools and icons.

Corel has also expanded the free content and training. The package now includes more than 10,000 clipart and digital images, 2,000 high-resolution photos, 1,200 objects, 1,000 OpenType fonts, 600 professionally designed templates, 400 pattern fills, and five hours of training videos. It can be difficult to create vector graphics from scratch, until you become familiar with the application, so having a wide range of examples that you can adapt for your own purposes is a critical component for beginners.

Default workspace on M3800Form Follows Function

Graphics professionals will also find much to like with this latest version. CorelDraw X7 includes a Default workspace that has a more contemporary look. Following the industry trend exemplified by Microsoft Office and Apple’s iOS 7, the UI is now flatter and cleaner than in previous versions. It’s not a radical departure, but it also won’t put off long-term users.

In addition, there are preconfigured workspaces for page layout and illustration. The Page Layout workspace assumes you’ll be working frequently with text, so the text-related tools are more prominent than with the Default workspace. The Illustration workspace assumes that you’ll be working with bitmapped graphics in addition to vector graphics. And there’s a Classic workspace for those who prefer the UI from previous versions.

Lite workspace on X220Transitioning from Illustrator

This latest version also includes an Adobe Illustrator workspace. If you’re thinking about switching from Illustrator, you might download the trial version of CorelDraw and give this workspace a try. It arranges the tools and icons into an Illustrator-like work environment. It even supports the Illustrator keyboard shortcuts, so you should feel right at home.

CorelDraw has attracted a lot of interest from Illustrator users due to Adobe adopting a subscription-only policy for new versions of Adobe Illustrator. CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 is still available with a perpetual license for $499 (that price is unchanged from CorelDraw Graphics Suite X6). Upgrades are $199 from CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4, X5, or X6.

And as with the Adobe applications, you can purchase CorelDraw via a subscription. That would bring you the new features as they are developed, as opposed to your having to wait through CorelDraw’s typical two-year upgrade cycle. The subscription options are for 30 days ($24.95) or 365 days ($16.50 a month).

Installation programsMore Than Just Draw

That $499 price is expensive, but keep in mind that CorelDraw is just one part of the graphics suite, though it is the primary application. In addition to the free images, fonts, and templates, the suite includes Corel Photo-Paint X7, which is a bitmap photo-editing application similar to Photoshop. Photo-Paint can stand on its own, though it’s really designed to augment CorelDraw. The UI and toolsets are similar to CorelDraw’s. And that makes it easier to mentally move back and forth between the two applications.

Also included is Corel PowerTrace X7. It converts bitmapped images into vector-based images. PowerTrace works best with uncomplicated graphics, such as patterns or designs, as opposed to high-resolution photographs. It isn’t a separate application, but a menu option within CorelDraw that you can choose after importing a bitmapped image.

Yet another component is Corel Connect X7. It helps you find additional content from Corel, iStockphoto, fotolia, or Flickr. You can search across all those sources for content and import whatever you find into your design.

As if that weren’t enough, CorelDraw owners can download Corel Website Creator. It’s a visual-based website creation program—as opposed to a text-based HTML editor. Website Creator is intended for small businesses that are looking for a simple way to establish a web presence.

Font PlaygroundOther New Features

As you might expect, there are many other new features in CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7. One of the more interesting ones is the new Font Playground docker. It helps you preview and experiment with different fonts. When companies design a brochure, flyer, or logo, they often don’t know which font would be the best choice. They’ll usually create a separate blank document to try different fonts until they find what they want. Font Playground makes it easier to try out the advanced features of the OpenType fonts and preview how the modified font would appear when displayed in your design.

Another new X7 feature is the built-in QR code tool. You can create codes that veer far from the standard black-and-white QR codes and perform a quick verification to see if your alteration is machine readable. Using the QR code tool, you may find that you can embed your logo directly into the code and still have it be fully functional. Different mobile devices read QR codes differently, so it can be tricky to maintain compatibility. CorelDraw uses an online service to verify your code with the most popular devices. The verification response time is fast enough that you can adopt a trial-and-error process to push the envelope for how extreme a barcode can be.

Color styles dockerThe Color Styles docker in CorelDraw X7 is significantly enhanced over the same feature in CorelDraw X6. With Color Styles, you can preserve the relationships among a group of colors as you shift that group across the color spectrum. In theory, it preserves the harmony within a set of colors. For example, a client might come in at the last moment and ask that a blue shirt be changed to green. With Color Styles, you can move all the colors as a group as you change the shirt from blue to green. Otherwise, it might take hours to rework all the colors, so that they maintain the same relationship.

This latest version also adds a significant number of new drawing tools. These include a smoothing tool for reducing jagged edges, a fill creation tool for creating and saving patterns, a fill picker for browsing and selecting fills (it works in both CorelDraw and Photo-Paint), and fountain fills for better control over fills and transparency. Many of the previous drawing, layout, and typology tools have also been enhanced to make them more powerful or easier to use.

While the emphasis is on CorelDraw, Photo-Paint has received new and enhanced features, as well. Many of these are the kinds of tools and effects that would be available in Photoshop only through third-party plugins. A new Planar Mask tool lets you apply tilt-shift blurs to simulate various depth-of-field effects.  And a new Liquid toolset lets you smear, attract, repel, or twirl pixels much like applying a real brush to water color paints.

Notebook Friendly?

Page Layout workspace on X220Several new features in CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 make it better suited for a notebook computer than previous versions. With the new workspace customization feature, you can create a separate workspace that’s optimized for the lower-resolution display on your laptop. It’s simple enough to modify a workspace. There are plus signs throughout the interface that let you select which tools are active and which are inactive. If there’s a tool you’ll never use, you can remove it from the menu bar or toolbox.

If you customize the workspace on your notebook for a narrow subset of functions, what happens when you want to access the additional tools and features that you’ve become familiar with on your desktop computer? Corel has added a new overflow button that addresses that issue. When there are additional functions associated with the toolbox, property bar, docker, or color palette that aren’t visible because of limited space, you’ll see an overflow button that indicates more options are available. Click the overflow button, and you can quickly access the hidden tools, commands, or settings.

This latest version also lets you work on multiple documents across multiple screens. If you’re using CorelDraw with a notebook and an external monitor, you could create a second document on your notebook, undock the document, and move it over to the external monitor. You could then work on the two documents side by side on the separate screens. You could save that workspace for re-use whenever you connect your notebook to an external monitor. It won’t come up automatically (there’s no workspace autosense that a second screen is now available), though it’s simple enough to manually switch to a specialized workspace whenever you work in a multi-monitor environment.

Default workspace on X220To see how well CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 would adapt to different screens, we installed it on two notebooks: a four-year-old Lenovo ThinkPad X220 with a 1366×768 pixel display and a new Dell Precision M3800 workstation with a 3200×1800 pixel display. We wanted to see how well CorelDraw would function—either by adjusting to the resolutions automatically or by allowing for substantial customization to accommodate the differing resolutions.

With the X220, the default workspace (shown on the right) was fine as is. The 1366×768 display is only marginally wider than the minimum required 1280×768 resolution. The menu bar, toolbox, document palette, and drawing window were uncluttered and sized proportionally. Best of all, the icons, buttons, and labels were large enough to be seen clearly without squinting.

With the Dell M3800, the experience was more problematic. CorelDraw X7 is able to detect the DPI setting for Windows and adjust the interface to better fit the display. If you set Windows to 125 percent, it will slightly open up the space around the buttons. And if you go to 150 percent, you’ll have even more space around the buttons. That works well for large high-resolution screens, but it isn’t sufficient for small high-DPI screens, such as the 15.6-inch display on the M3800.

Lite workspace on M3800Even at 150 percent, the icons were somewhat hard to differentiate on the M3800, and the text could be difficult to read. Switching the display’s resolution to 1600×900 solved the too-small icon and text problem, though running the display at one-quarter the native resolution isn’t a very practical solution.

Corel isn’t alone in not adapting fast enough to the newest generation of high-DPI notebooks. Other Window applications suffer from the same too-small icons and text. It’s likely that Corel and other software developers will address this issue in future upgrades—at least for Windows 8 users. According to a Corel representative, a future update will support the 200 and 250 percent DPI settings that were introduced with Windows 8.1.

If you plan to use CorelDraw on both your desktop and notebook computers, you’ll find Corel’s license agreement to be quite accommodating. The license is by user, not by machine. The end-user license lets you install the applications on to three different devices—as long as the devices are owned by the same individual, and the installations are not used simultaneously. In other words, three people in an office can’t use the same license, but one person in an office can install it on three machines.

Bring on the Pages

Fountain fillsIf you’re looking to create vector graphics, the choice is likely to come down to either CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator. Both applications provide so many tools and menu options, it could make your head spin if you try to compare them feature-by-feature.

Along with the perpetual license option, the other significant advantage for CorelDraw over Illustrator is its page-layout capabilities. To do true multi-page layouts in Illustrator, you’ll need to send your design over to Adobe InDesign or similar desktop-publishing application. While CorelDraw doesn’t have nearly the same level of desktop-publishing features as InDesign, it is able to create and manage multi-page documents internally much better than Illustrator.

CorelDraw X7 supports documents up to 999 pages. You can link text across multiple pages and perform simple page layouts. It’s not designed for a full book layout (InDesign might be the best option there), but it would be a good choice for creating brochures and flyers up to 32 pages or so.

Pros:

  • Powerful vector-graphics editor with many advanced features
  • Can customize workspaces to adapt the interface to your skill level
  • Includes a QR code tool to help you create and verify barcodes
  • Can handle multi-page documents
  • Includes an impressive collection of images, templates, fonts, and training videos

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Can be difficult to use without study or training

 

Software System Requirements:

  • Windows 8/8.1 or Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit editions), with latest service packs
  • Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon 64
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 1 GB of hard disk space
  • 1280×768 or higher monitor resolution
  • DVD drive for installation by disc
  • Mouse or tablet
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 or higher



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