At one time, if you were serious at design then you'll have used Corel. Now in its 20th year, it's a leading application that has recently been superseded by the likes of Adobe's Illustrator package. X3 hopes to re-address this balance by introducing new features and streamlining the whole process. While Adobe is aimed at professionals, Corel has aimed for the semi-professional and the enthusiast market.

Loading the suite up you'll find that it still maintains its clean and easy to navigate interface. Comprising three separate standalone applications: CorelDraw Photo-Shop and Capture, it's as comprehensive as you need. That said, you won't find any layout tools, nor any applications specifically aimed at web design and remains an art-based package.

CorelDraw X3 is the heart of the package and remains a powerful tool and comes with newly designed controls that make creating images easier. PowerTrace is a re-invented tool that once stood alone but has been built into CorelDraw and is a bitmap-to-vector conversion tool. You can choose to do a quick scan for low accuracy conversions, ideal for getting an idea across. Or, more likely, you can convert high-res scans quickly and easily, as the application even allows you to specify and check the colour conversion before it does so, which can save considerable time later on.

It's not just images manipulation that has been improved as you'll find that TEXT has been overhauled, allowing for sentence and paragraph formatting - a feature that until now hasn't been supported. What's more, formatting also expands to allow bullet-points and tabbing. True, these features could be found in the previous Format Text feature but now they sit more naturally within the main application making it easier to edit text in real time.

Photo-Paint X3, as does Draw, is based around easy to access controls, called "dockers", which are lined on the side of the page for easy access to everything from colour palettes to Hints and Help tutorials. Image correction has been brought together in the Adjustments Lab, while the new Cutout Lab means you can remove details from images far more easily than in previous versions. Sadly, we feel the changes, while worthwhile, haven't gone far enough and still lag behind other applications on the market. Finally, Capture is a screen capture application that works well but doesn't boast too many tools.

When it comes to resources, you can't fault the wealth or quality of the included images and clipart. Even the most idea-bereft user can find inspiration here.

If you need to send finish material to a printing house or to pre-press, the addition of exporting to PDF comes as a bonus and makes the life of even the most casual user easier. What's more, it's compatible with Adobe applications, so you can share files with friends or clients were use rival packages.

Verdict

As a standalone product, Corel has made sufficient changes to keep pace with Adobe Creative Suite 2.0.

Will it sway users away from others packages? Sadly, we feel it lacks the features and versatility to make to the mainstay of larger agencies or publishing houses take notice.