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Sneak Preview: CorelDraw 9 for Linux - page 2

An Overview of CorelDraw 9 Beta 2

  • June 20, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

Photo-Paint provides the image manipulation/creation side of the suite. It provides features and functions similar to programs such as the GIMP, PhotoShop, or JASC's PaintShop Pro. This program is the side of the suite home users and hobbyists are likely to be the most interested in.

Like the GIMP and PhotoShop, Photo-Paint allows users to create multi-layered images and apply a number of graphical filters (which Corel refers to as "effects"). Corel includes about 40 separate effects. Most of them will be fairly familiar to those who've used other photo-editing packages. They run the gamut from "art effects" (making the image look like an oil painting, charcoal drawing, or watercolor) to textural effects that introduce three-dimensional "surfaces" to make the image look like it was painted on rough paper, fabric, or brick. Each of the effects is previewable, and the undo feature allows the user to back out of undesired changes.

Photo-Paint has some additional features to aid in image manipulation and creation. One interesting tweak is the ability to simulate use of a pressure sensitive input device with the mouse by pressing the up and down arrow keys while drawing. Photo-paint also includes an "image sprayer" that allows for painting ordered sequences of small images.

Photo-Paint also includes the ability to create scripts of effects that can be run on batches of files. Creating scripts is simple enough: it involves turning on a recorder, operating on the image with whatever tools or effects you choose, and saving the resulting recording of your keystrokes and mouse motions. The outstanding online documentation includes an example script if you're interested in writing your own without benefit of the recorder.

In addition to the filters, which include a good variety of choices and plenty of customization options, there's the normal array of tools for image manipulation, including paintbrushes, a reasonably flexible text tool, convolvers, flippers, and mask tools. It's easy to manipulate the color elements of a given image, including creating CMYK separations.

Photo-Paint also features compatibility with a wide variety of file formats. Though the promotional material with the release claims compatibility even with the GIMP's xcf format (which preserves layer and color information), we were unable to import or export to this format successfully. It may be appropriate to keep in mind that we were looking at a beta release before judging this feature.

One element of file manipulation we appreciated was the ability to preview the effects of saving a file from one format to another. A comparison dialog appears, allowing the user to judge the effects of image compression, palette reduction, or other potentially artifact-inducing changes before committing to writing the file.

Everything in Photo-Paint is held together rather well by two things that have nothing directly to do with the image on the screen: the online documentation and CorelTUTOR.

The standard documentation provides a searchable index. It was surprisingly detailed and understandable. We were able to answer several key questions with little trouble using it. The CorelTUTOR is also extremely useful, teaching basic concepts to users in a step-by-step manner that's clearly explained. CorelTUTOR even includes a guide to creating KDE themes to go with Corel's Linux distribution with Photo-Paint.

Both of these elements aid Photo-Paint in being an excellent consumer offering, and another item to tick off on the list of reasons Linux may soon find its way on to more and more non-computer-hobbiest desktops.

Some Issues
Unfortunately, there are a few issues with Photo-Paint, too, having much less to do with the core software itself than with Corel's ongoing use of WINE, which is allowing the company to port applications to Linux more quickly. The problem is one of interface speed more than anything. Some rather exacting tweaks of one's window manager are required to eliminate some flicker and redraw issues, and many of the file dialogs, menus, and requesters are sluggish. Fortunately, the program seems to behave well, and the speed of the filters when being applied to an image is fine, but it's unacceptable to deal with dialog windows that never appear at the front of the screen because they've been inexplicably consumed by the main window.

Much of this sluggishness and strange behavior may be attributed to the fact the product is still in beta and not quite tweaked fully, so it's inappropriate to render any final judgements. On the other hand, we ardently hope someone at Corel is listening and working on ironing some of these problems out. They're frustrating annoyances in an otherwise featureful and solid product.

Concluding Words on Photo-Paint
Overall, Photo-Paint is a solid, feature-filled tool that brings a consumer-oriented, but professional quality product to the Linux desktop. We hope some of the WINE-related issues are worked out, or better addressed, but the program itself is promising. Corel continues to make good on their efforts to bring Linux to everybody.


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