CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 review
Improved handling of templates, tracing, text and layers along with new table support make X4 superior to Adobe Illustrator in several ways, but existing X3 users may need more to convince them to upgrade
Review Date: 22 Jan 2008
Reviewed By: Tom Arah
Price when reviewed: £328 (£377 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Fifteen years ago each new release of CorelDRAW was a major event in the world of PC graphics but then Corel took its eye off the ball and allowed Adobe to take over.
With the company under new management, however, it has adopted a renewed focus on graphics and its flagship product is going from strength to strength.
Rival Freehand is out of the way too, and with the last X3 release the best in years, there's something of the old anticipation and buzz about this latest launch.
In this UK exclusive review, we run through what's new and deliver our verdict on all the features.
So what's new? Well naturally, as with every past launch, the CorelDRAW interface sports a new, fresh look, though in practice this boils down to little more than redesigned icons and less cramped toolbars.
One area of the interface that has been completely reworked is the Welcome Screen which now offers tabbed access to help with new features, a gallery showing sample images and, for the first time, integrated update information.
It's the main Quick Start pane that matters, though, and this has been revamped to show larger, full-colour thumbnail previews of recently opened files.
The Quick Start pane also offers quick access to the New from template dialog, which has also been completely redesigned and provides a much wider range of 80 options, organised into categories such as brochures, business cards and so on. CorelDRAW X4 also now offers a dedicated Save as template command to add your own designs to the options available.
And to help you quickly locate the design you're looking for the New from template dialog includes a search box with which you can find options based on author, keywords and so on.
Of course to find your own templates in this way you'll need to add keyword and descriptive data yourself and CorelDRAW X4's Save dialogs now encourage this by default. The use of searchable metadata really comes into its own when working on Vista systems as this lets you instantly find matching artwork across all indexed locations on your hard disk.
Vista users also benefit from X4's larger, higher quality thumbnails and from support for Explorer's preview pane, which lets you zoom in on artwork and see previews of all pages.
Improved file format support
It's not just file handling that's been improved: so has the range of supported file formats. Unsurprisingly, Corel adds support for its own Painter X files and makes use of its development work on Paint Shop Pro Photo and Designer to add support for Camera RAW and AutoCAD DXF and DWG formats.
In addition X4 adds import support for the latest Microsoft Word 2007 files and, for the first time, Publisher PUB files (2002, 2003 and 2007 versions). Most significantly CorelDRAW X4 adds updated import and export support for the latest versions of Adobe's Photoshop PSD and Acrobat PDF standards and now lets you base colour management handling on Adobe's freely downloadable Color Management Module (CMM).
Improved drawing power
In a boost to its drawing power, CorelDRAW X4 builds on X3's introduction of the PowerTRACE capability for direct bitmap-to-vector conversion. You can now right-click to quickly access tracing presets, for example. For greater control you simply call up the dialog and this now adds improved options for handling smoothing and corners as well as the ability to redefine, merge or delete output colours.
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