CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7 is the latest version of Corel’s bundle of vector-illustration and image-editing applications for Windows. It takes its name from Corel’s most famous product, CorelDRAW. While you may think that this is a for artists and illustrators, there is, in fact much more to CorelDRAW. It is also suitable for technical design applications. We asked Dermot Hogan to evaluate CorelDRAW from the perspective of the more technically-oriented user.
|You may think that CorelDRAW is only useful for illustrations like this. In fact, as Dermot Hogan explains, it is also useful for creating technical plans and designs.|
How long is long? Over 20 years? I’ve been using CorelDRAW in some form or another over that period. Many times I’ve been tempted to bin the product, trying out various other tools such as Adobe Illustrator and various CAD packages. I’ve even used graph paper, but in the end I’ve returned to CorelDRAW for my technical layouts and engineering drawings. In all those years, I’ve sworn at Corel developers for not making it easy to do what I’ve wanted, been reduced to chewing the carpet over the bugs I’ve come across and, on occasion, nearly thrown my PC through the window when CorelDRAW has obligingly ‘lost’ a couple of hours work. But in spite of that, I’ve kept coming back to it, time after time. Why…?
The simple reason is that no other product (and I must have tried dozens) quite does what CorelDRAW does. In brief, it enables me to create technical and engineering drawings that I can use to produce my projects. Here, I don’t mean full CAD engineering which you can use to program a numerically controlled milling machine, say, or architectural designs. All I really want is ‘automated graph paper’, that is, a flat design surface which has a grid on it and some dimensioning tools. CorelDRAW does is very nearly perfectly.
Something Old, Something New…The last version I used before X7 was CorelDRAW 10, released in 2000. X7 is actually version 17, so there’s a considerable time period – 14 years – between my old version and the latest edition. As you might expect, there have been many improvements. But, kudos to Corel, I was able use X7 immediately with my knowledge of version 10. The latest product behaves, more or less, the same as the version for 14 years ago! The menus are in the same place, more or less, and the tool-bar is pretty much the same. Even better, X7 imported version 10 files flawlessly.
|Here CorelDRAW is being used for hardware design – its design, measurement, layout and transparency options all assist in creating a precisely defined technical drawing.|
I’ll just go over some of the things that I noticed immediately with X7. First off, it supports transparency (available since X5, I think). This is a big plus, since I can stack objects over one another and see how the parts fit (or don’t) together. The next thing I noticed was that the ‘graph paper’, aka ‘grid’, worked correctly. In my old version, it was somewhat hit and miss depending on the scaling. Then there’s MDI (Multiple Document Interface). With this, you can place the tool windows (Object Manager, Transformations, Object Properties, etc.) on one screen and have the main drawing on another. I found this greatly improved the ease of use, with my main drawing on my nice big wide screen and the tools on an older square-format monitor. You can also pull out multiple documents onto other monitors if you need, but not individual pages within a document. As in previous versions, documents (a .drw file) are hierarchically structured into ‘pages’ and ‘layers’, each page having as many layers as you want. You can move objects between layers and either edit just objects within a layer or select and edit objects across layers. Both modes have their uses.
Not such a snap!The dimensioning tool is very good and easy to use. With this tool, just select an edge, say, drag across to another edge and release. The dimension will be drawn between the two points in the units selected in the defaults. So far so good. But I found a couple of problems with dimensions. First, they seemed a bit reluctant to ‘stick’ to an object. What should happen is that, as an object is moved, any dimension attached to the object should move with it. Well, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, in my experience. The next problem was much worse. Adding a dimension to an object in a layer caused CorelDRAW to crash. I’ve no idea why – no explanation was given and no log file produced (as far as I could see). I suspect that the .drw file had been corrupted by an accidental attempt to move a dimension between two layers (I inadvertently dragged a dimension in the Object Manager which caused CorelDRAW to do some odd things which I paid little attention to at the time). I tried several ways to get round this but to no avail. Fortunately, I’d done nearly all the dimensioning on that layer, so I didn’t have to re-enter everything – an experience I’ve sometimes had with previous versions of CorelDRAW.
|Here is a close-up of part of a technical drawing showing the numeric dimensions.|
The other problem I had with X7 was with snap-to-grid. Again, like the dimensioning tool this was somewhat variable. Sometimes it would and sometimes it wouldn’t – about 25% of the time, it seemed to me. Normally, this was just an annoyance and I had to correct the seemingly random numbers in the actual x-y coordinates to whole numbers. Where it proved to be more than troublesome was in trying to draw complex line objects and then convert the lines into a closed curve in order to fill the resulting object with a color. When I could get a closed curve it wouldn’t look right – jagged edges and a couple of times I could not get the curve to close at all. CorelDRAW ‘closed’ the curve, but it would not fill.
However, I’ve only used a small part of what’s available in CorelDRAW. From browsing around, some major uses of CorelDRAW are the production of artwork for posters and signs and logos. I’m totally unartistic, so I’ve not touched on any aspect of this. There’s also some useful standalone utilities such as Connect which lets you search or artwork and Capture which is used for capturing screen images and animations for use in manuals and Photo-Paint – an image editing application, similar to Photoshop.
ConclusionWhile I’ve highlighted a couple of problems I had with CorelDRAW, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bug-ridden application that you shouldn’t use. Far from it: CorelDRAW X7 is a superb graphical editing tool which does nearly everything that I wanted easily and simply. It also has a great advantage that you don’t have to buy an ongoing subscription (as with Adobe software, for example). For me as a technical drawing package, CorelDRAW X7 is unsurpassed.
What else do you get….?While CorelDRAW may be the most famous program in this suite, you also get a whole load of other useful applications.
|Corel Photo-Paint is a fairly easy-to-use image editor which comes with a number of filters to apply distortions and artistic effects simply and quickly. Here a pastel effect has been applied to a photograph.|
These are principal components:
• Corel PHOTO-PAINT: Image-editing application.
• Corel PowerTRACE: Converts bitmaps into editable vector graphics.
• Corel Website Creator: Design, build, and manage websites (CorelDRAW Standard Membership required)
• Corel CAPTURE: Screen-capture utility.
More details of these and other tools can be found on the CorelDRAW site: http://www.coreldraw.com/us/product/graphic-design-software/#tab2