Corel art tools for Mac are decent but no match for Photoshop

Corel art tools for Mac are decent but no match for Photoshop

Company makes limited editions of CorelDraw and Photo-Paint available as free Internet download

By Joel Sparks

Special to GCN

CorelDraw has long been a favorite illustration program among Microsoft Windows users. On the Apple Macintosh side, which arguably has more artists, the favorites are Adobe Systems' Illustrator and Photoshop.

Corel Corp., aiming to win more of the Macintosh market, has released a free, limited-edition download of CorelDraw and Photo-Paint for Mac users. The 56M suite consists of CorelDraw 8.0.3 LE, Corel Photo-Paint 8.0.3 LE and a Service Bureau Profiler. Simple installation requires about 100M of RAM.

CorelDraw 8 has an interface packed with features, but it gets somewhat confusing when lots of tools are in use.

The interface for both programs, while striving to keep innumerable tools and palettes at the user's fingertips, sacrifices some clarity. Groups of related tools are difficult to identify without the pop-up tags.

Each tool has numerous options crowding the top of the screen for quick access. The sheer number of tools, menus and options makes it tough to get started.

Ease into it

Complete help files ease the difficulty somewhat. AppleGuide tutorials are thorough but time-consuming. A Workspace option can reshuffle toolbars and menus to mimic the Adobe programs, which minimizes the relearning chore for Mac users who switch.

The Workspace Option can change the CorelDraw interface to mimic other leading programs.

CorelDraw is a vector drawing program; its files have no set resolution but instead consist of lines, curves and shapes that can be reproduced at any size. Drawing shapes is easy with the usual pens and brushes plus some neat innovations. For example, in making a gradient shade from light to dark, a clever arrow control can adjust the color, direction and abruptness of change.

Corel Photo-Paint, the bitmap-image part of the suite, creates and manipulates complex images such as photographs.

It duplicates Photoshop's familiar functions and adds some toys that are not too practical, such as the Image Sprayer that spatters out bright butterflies or sunflowers. Some vital functions'for example, layer operations and magic-wand selections'hide in submenus. Animated GIF movie creation is integrated.

Box Score '''''''''''''

CorelDraw 8.0.3 LE and Photo-Paint 8.0.3 LE for the Mac

Graphics programs

Corel Corp.; Ottawa; tel. 613-728-8200

Price: Free download

+ Limited editions, but packed with features

+ Easy Internet publishing

' Crowded and unappealing interface

Real-life requirements:

Mac OS 8.1 or higher, PowerPC G3 or later model, 64M of RAM, 109M of free storage, Internet connection for download

Both programs have a powerful Publish to Internet function for making Web-ready images or Hypertext Markup Language pages.

Both have nice selections of texture and pattern files, and both offer good Mac OS integration with AppleScript and ColorSync.

So what limits these editions?'CorelDraw LE can open only one document at a time, Photo-Paint two.

Some important file formats go unsupported, such as Encapsulated PostScript export. And animated GIFs can only go to 10 frames.

The Limited Editions are a good alternative for offices that have experienced Mac artists but low software budgets. Even though the suite is persuasively packed with features, and the price cannot be beat, artists who already know the Adobe products are unlikely to switch.

But Corel is making a strong play to capture Mac users who have not yet paid Adobe's entry price.

Joel Sparks, a free-lance reviewer in Silver Spring, Md., has been a government lawyer and database programmer.

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