The first thing that impresses upon opening the package is the hardback guidebook. This is more than a 'getting started' guide and contains, for instance, a whole chapter on colour.
Newcomers to CorelDraw should note that the word 'suite' means that X6 does far more than vector drawing. It includes two professional-level graphics design programs - CorelDRAW and Photo-Paint - accompanied by some essential extras: Bitstream Font Navigator, Corel Capture (advanced screen capture), and the content/resources manager, Corel Connect.
The DVD includes some learning tools (videos etc.) and a host of content. Not only is there a mammoth collection of clipart, fonts (1,000), design elements and templates, there are also 1,000 high-res royalty-free photos. Take into account the cost of stock photography and using only a few of these will significantly offset the cost of the suite.
Finally, Corel Website Creator X6 is available as a free download after installation by creating or logging into your Corel account.
The guided step-by-step installation takes from 15-25 minutes, depending upon your installation choices. You're installing several software packages along with a massive amount of resources, so you may want to customise what you install to your hard drive and what you want to leave on the DVD. A full installation of the software takes approximately 1.99GB of space, whilst the clip-art, photos and other content will consume well over 3.67GB.
Launching X6 takes you to the welcome screen where you can leap straight into X6, explore a summary of the new features, watch the video tutorials, browse a gallery of artwork or check the status of updates.
Thankfully, Corel hasn't yielded to "software developer interface itch" and has left the interface pretty much alone. However, there are a number of new features worth exploring. Here's a brief summary of the main changes and additions:
Corel Connect (above) is where you search for your design elements and store them for your project. New to X6 is the ability to store these in multiple trays and a search facility. The latter not only keyword searches X6's resident resources and PC folders, it is also linked to iStockphoto, Fotolia and Flickr in case you need to search further afield for imagery. Additionally, you can mine images from a client's website, reducing the need for images to be sent by email or other means.
The new Object Properties Docker (right) is a wonderful little context-sensitive dialogue that keeps handy all of the formatting options for the currently selected object.
One powerful new feature is the ability to create empty Powerclip frames from selected objects. Drag another object or bitmap over the frame and it will be clipped automatically. At the same time, the new Powerclip Toolbar appears for editing the frame's content.
Other key developments include:
A Colour Styles Docker (below) has been added for creating and changing colour themes. All the colours of an object can be 'set' as a style that can be adjusted harmoniously using a colour wheel.
A further two new tools, Smear and Twirl, create very interesting and artistic effects on objects and converted text. These tools are pressure-sensitive using a graphics tablet and pen.
Making boring old Arial look more interesting takes only a few twirls and smears with the new shape tools.
Smart Carver is a new, powerful photo-editing tool. As well as removing unwanted objects from photos, you can also contract or expand the photo without unsightly distortions.
Converting this standard photo to widescreen without cropping was a breeze with Smart Carver.
(Notice the absence of the cygnet - also a piece of cake to do.)
A Pass Through object merge mode has been added when working in groups.
Clip Masks are a welcome feature and now make Photo-paint a serious competitor in the photo-editing software market. These are similar to masks in Photoshop, enabling non-destructive masking of photos.
The suite has been upgraded to work with multi-core and 64-bit processors, improving performance with multiple open documents. Finally, import/export are now fully compatible with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop CS5, Acrobat 10 pdf and Microsoft Publisher 2010.
There are some excellent new features here along with essential improvements. Though artists have managed without things like the smear tool and colour styles docker, and could survive happily without them, once used, they'll quickly realise their potency. X5 users will have to weigh up their potential usefulness along with the general improvements. For anyone with X4 or earlier, the changes and additions are significant and worthwhile. Add Corel Connect to the equation and upgrading to X6 really makes sense.
Contemporary graphic artists can no longer choose whether to pursue solely vector drawing or bitmap editing design paths. Modern graphic design projects tend to need both - even Photoshop includes vector tools. CorelDRAW offers the possibility of both approaches in a single professional-standard suite that can only be matched by Adobe CS6, which will cost you three or four times as much.
For small graphics design businesses or those just starting out, CorelDRAW is no second-rate alternative; it is a viable contender. Equally, if you're an enthusiastic amateur illustrator or designer looking to make the next step towards pro-level work, X6 will give you what you need.
Price: £399.00 inc. VAT