As the centrepiece of Corel's Graphics Suite X4, CorelDraw X4 ships with significant new features that, while not flashy, are practical, and substantial enough for professionals to find the upgrade worthwhile. Even the interface has been redesigned to present a clean, intuitive workspace.

CorelDraw is the well-established "other" vector drawing program, covering the same ground as Adobe Illustrator does. You can use it to create illustrations for signs, logos, and technical and industrial designs, and for specialized printing like engraving. Draw also works for designing multipage publications. The growing ranks of people who double as the designated designer in multitasking work environments will appreciate the extensive set of easy-to-modify templates and the intuitive help screens.


Draw X4 ships with a substantial library of royalty-free artwork, including 1000 high-resolution photos suitable for commercial projects. And Draw X4 meshes smoothly with Windows Vista Instant Search to sort quickly through images on your computer or network from within Draw's Open Drawing dialog box.

Among the more substantial enhancements is a connection to the WhatTheFont Web site: Within the app, you can paste in bitmap captures of type to identify fonts-helpful, for example, for a designer who is asked to duplicate a print brochure's unidentified fonts. Also, you can now preview type flow around images instantly. Publishers who generate data-driven output can use the print/merge features to generate customized publications--so a product press kit, say, could have customized fields that generate a personalized kit for each reviewer.

Draw has always had an advantage over products in Adobe's design suite in that it is both a full-fledged vector drawing program (like Illustrator) and a solid desktop publishing package (like InDesign). Desktop publishing features in X4 now let you create and edit independent layers on each page of multipage documents, as well as implement master layers throughout a publication for repeating elements (such as page numbers or headers).


Illustrators who convert bitmap files to Draw's vector format will spot changes in the bitmap trace feature that allow, for example, combining of colors to simplify trace results. Users who found the trace feature in CorelDraw X3 unpredictable will notice improvements here.

The other significant application in Corel's Graphics Suite X4 is Photo-Paint. Almost abandoned in version X3 of the suite, this bitmap-editing application has some new features, including support for the RAW camera format and interactive histograms for previewing image adjustments. But while CorelDraw is a professional alternative to Adobe Illustrator, Photo-Paint is not a professional photo editing app.


Illustrators and designers who don't use Adobe products (a niche community) will find the improvements in CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4 worth the upgrade.