Corel was for a long time a reflection of its founder, Dr. Cowpland, and thus the enfant terrible of the graphics software business. Originally Corel was a CD hardware and software provider for DOS and the newly emerging Windows when it brought out its Corel Draw vector graphics software for Windows and managed to have a hit product. For 14 years after Corel Draw's basic feature set remained unmatched until the latest versions of Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand finally added 3D Blend and Extrude effects with their latest releases. But this spectacular success in vector graphics has been most futilely pursued but never been matched in any of the other emerging graphics technologies despite some promising in-house efforts, an undisputed Corel competence in GUI/interface design, plus the acquisition of some fairly good technology and developers.
Corel came awfully close with PhotoPaint, its bitmap graphic editor which
for a long time was the hands down winner over Adobe's Photoshop for sophisticated
operation and ease of use in bitmap graphics editors. Version after version,
PhotoPaint matched and even bettered Photoshop for a number of features. Right
panes for dialogs,
context sensitive toolbar changing each time a new tool was selected, superior
color and effects previews, etc. Unfortunately, PhotoPaint had a buggy period
with versions 4 and 5. Also it was slow to match
the color, layering, and print control features of Photoshop which
wrapped up the allegiance of many designers who had to take images to the print
shop for precise color matchings. Photoshop's ability to run on Mac and Windows
unlike Windows-only PhotoPaint did not help Corel as well.
Corel Painter 8 - Natural Media Leader ?
Now PhotoPaint as a part of the Corel Draw Suite has become almost feature frozen as Painter IX carries the advanced bitmap graphics while PaintShop Pro has the editor role at Corel. PhotoPaint 11 and 12 have seen only 2-3 minor new features in comparison to Corel Painter's complete revamp, a major upgrade with PaintShop Pro X. These programs need to be good given Adobe Photoshop's major enhancements for its last 3 versions.
So there appears to be changing of the guard at Corel in terms of bitmap graphics. Painter IX covers the high end, trompe d'oeil artistic media offering while PaintShop Pro becomes the industrial strength (and a bargain at that)graphics editor. Coupling it with a free version of the excellent Photo Album Standard Edition helps to solidify its entree into the Windows digital graphics market. The one problem is that neither PaintShop Pro nor Photo Album have Mac versions like Painter IX.
Corel R.A.V.E. also shows promise because it brings a bevy of powerful vector
graphics features to the animation process. Animations are of interest
to Photo Finishers because they are at the crossroads of the new rich media
world which brings together vector and bitmap images along
with audio and other special effects. Animations are just flip books - still
images drawn to life. Animations are everywhere from banner ads to Saturday
morning television. Curiously the
the PC, Macromedia with Flash Mx and Director
ever the programming side of animation. This has left artists and designers
somewhat out in the cold - because they see fewer aids to the drawing and design
and much more emphasis on scripting and programming.
In fact Corel Micrografx's division along with its own Smart Graphics Suite (SVG-XML vector graphics) have very interesting entry vehicles into the arena of Smart Graphics where imaging, databases associated with those images and scripting come together to deliver value to customers in new ways. Think of a dynamic Web catalog - the user specifies the color, cloth, and size and then Smart Graphics generates a customized view. Or in a building showroom, Smart Graphics could not only "build" a visual mockup but can tell what the bill of material costs will be and when the parts can be effectively delivered. But when visiting the website all mentions of the Micrografx line and Smart Graphics Suite have disappeared. So it is not clear at all what has happened with these innovative properties.
In fact, that is the fundamental difference between Adobe and Corel. Adobe has long gestation periods too for its software - Acrobat and Premiere are examples. But Adobe has found a way to move and combine things such that they get a viable product o the market. use of the Photoshop Elements versus full Photoshop model allows for ideas/innovations to be trialed in Elements which remains an entry level subset otherwise of the top of the line product. So Elements is both a test bed, an entry price level, and a training tool to get users to the top of the line products. Fortunately, with Painter Essentials Corel is picking up the cue - and trying new things.
Ditto for Corel Designer Suite (the only identifiable Micrografx product left at Corel) which is doing some awfully neat innovations on ease of use in the business and vector draw space. But the broad graphics field is exploding with competitors - testimony to how cautious the main players have been including Corel. Oh ... and one of those competitors is Microsoft itself with the very ambitious Expression Suite. So survival is still not assured despite the greatly improved and rationalized product offerings from Corel