CorelDraw Turns Sixteen

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Corel’s flagship software product, CorelDraw, has been around since 1989, making it among the most venerable packages in the business. I’ve been using it nearly that long (since version 2 or 3, I think). Today, the company released CorelDraw X6 — and since the “X” stands for “10,” that means this is the 16th major release of the vector-drawing software for Windows.

When software’s that mature, it’s hard to radically improve it in ways that actually do improve it. And I don’t think Corel really wants to impose sweeping change at this point. Its software has plenty of loyal users, and it wants to keep them loyal by letting them work in a more modern, efficent version of they software they already know.

CorelDraw’s user interface is mostly the same as it’s been for years, and much of what’s new involves technical updates: CorelDraw is now now a 64-bit app that supports multicore processors for better multitasking. It also supports OpenType fonts for more sophisticated typography, and handles Adobe’s CS5 file formats.

There are a bunch of new features, mostly designed with speed and precision in mind — better alignment guides, for instance, and the ability to create different templates for each page of a multi-page document. (Unlike its perennial rival, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw has long done desktop publishing as a sideline along with single-page drawing.) Several new vector-drawing tools, including smear, twirl, attract and repel, let you nudge around the points in an object to quickly distort them.

Photo-Paint, the image editor that comes with CorelDraw, was once a serious alternative to Photoshop; it hasn’t evolved much in many years, though, and these days it feels more like a minor bonus than a major reason to pick up the package. But I do like Smart Carver, a new feature which lets you change a photo’s aspect ratio by painting out parts of it and then letting Photo-Paint squish the image without leaving visible seams.

I could go on — the list of additions is lengthy even if none of them are huge — but using X16, I realize that I’m probably a relatively undemanding CorelDraw user. I like the same things I’ve always liked, including the straightforward interface, the Swiss Army Knife-like versatility, the well-done help and examples, the bevy of bundled content (including 1000 OpenType fonts). For everything that’s changed about how I use computers in recent years, here’s one thing that hasn’t: When I’m doing graphics on a Windows computer, I use CorelDraw.

The new version is $499 for the full version and $199 as an upgrade; it’s available as a download now and will arrive in boxed form later this month.