Thoughts on CorelDRAW X6

I love CorelDRAW*. It’s one of my favorite go-to tools for just about everything graphics-related. I’ve been using it since a friend gave me a bootleg copy of CorelDRAW 3, all the way back in 1994. Four years later, I had scraped and saved enough to buy a legitimate copy of CorelDRAW 5 (see! piracy really can lead to sales sometimes!), and I’ve been upgrading ever since. Boxed copies of everything from version 5 to version X5 are sitting on the shelf behind me as I type this.

* Lest there be any doubt, I’ve tried Adobe Illustrator. I gave it a fair shot, I really did. But it drives me crazy trying to use it. I spend a lot of my time bending and tweaking nodes, and I use the heck out of CorelDRAW’s PowerClip and Blend for everything from simple clipping to really complicated shading effects. Illustrator was pretty weak in all those categories the last time I used it. I tried InkScape, too, and stopped using it right about the point where their coders asked on their forum, “Why would you ever want PowerClip?”

That said, as much as I love CorelDRAW, there are a few things I’d really like to see either changed or fixed. Some of them are downright bugs that they keep not fixing. Some are existing functionality that just doesn’t work well. And one’s a “please steal this technique from your competitors already.” So here’s my list:

  • Death by transparency: CorelDRAW can only do translucent objects via a Lens. That’s annoying enough in and of itself, but it only takes a few translucent Lenses in a complex scene to grind the program to a stunning halt. If I was doing something complicated, like a magnification Lens, I could understand the computation; but simple pixel translucency should be easy and cheap, especially when the video card can do all the work for you.
  • Translucent colors and gradients: Seriously, how do we not have this yet? Alpha is a common feature of just about everything now, but not for shapes in CorelDRAW. Instead, I still have to do translucency with either a Lens or with carefully-chosen colors that happen to match.
  • Pseudo-bitmaps: The ability to convert your shapes to bitmaps is a nice tool to have, but the resulting bitmaps retain no connection to the original shapes: Once your shapes are bitmapped, they’re gone, transformed into nothing but pixels. It’d be really cool if there was a form of bitmap that was only a semi-permanent rendering of the shapes that kept track of which filters had been applied to it, so that you could at any point still edit the shapes and have the bitmap get re-generated from the new versions, with the filters reapplied.
  • Bitmap opacity: I can make a bitmap more or less translucent by editing it in Corel Photo-Paint and dragging the opacity slider there, which seriously takes me out of my workflow in CorelDRAW. Why isn’t there just an opacity slider in CorelDRAW itself? It’s not like CorelDRAW doesn’t know how to render bitmaps with translucent pixels.
  • Corel Photo-Paint’s copy-paste bug: For something like a decade and counting, Corel Photo-Paint has had bugs with copy-and-paste. Really nasty, crash-inducing bugs. Take an object, cut it to the clipboard, paste it somewhere else. Repeat with another object. Do this a couple dozen times and Photo-Paint will get slow, and do it another couple dozen and it’ll simply crash outright. The Windows clipboard ain’t rocket science, folks: I’ve written code to put images on it and pull images off it before, so I really don’t know how you guys are having so much trouble with it.
  • Shape blur! This is quite possibly the only really cool feature that InkScape had when I last used it: The ability to apply Gaussian blur to vector shapes and still have them remain vector shapes. Having shape blur in CorelDRAW would blow my mind, and make complex shading work about 200,000,000% easier.

So there’s my list. Corel, any chance you guys could get working on any of that for CorelDRAW X7? I keep holding out hope that you’ll add/fix this stuff, but as of CorelDRAW X6, still no dice. I’d totally buy an upgrade if you did.

Actually, I’ll probably have to buy the upgrade anyway, since your licensing restrictions won’t let me upgrade from more than two versions old. But at least your licensing is less onerous than Adobe’s.