Corel Graphics Suite 12 gives you three main applications for your money; CorelDRAW for graphics, illustrations, and page layout, Corel R.A.V.E for motion-graphics creation and Corel Photo-Paint for photo editing as well as a couple of extra elements such as Corel Capture for screen grabs. Building on previous versions, Corel has come a long way in the last ten years and has done well to integrate the elements so cohesively. New features to the package can be found mostly in the Draw application although Photo-Paint has reaped some improvements of its own.

When the chairman of a company stands up in front of 200 journalists and states that Corel are proud to be number two, you have to wonder if any package they produce will be good enough for the task in hand. As it happens, Corel Graphics Suite 12 needn't try and sell itself as the underdog.

For the graphics user CorelDRAW has seen the biggest change over version 11. The main new tool and one that Corel will hope give them a leading edge is the “Smart Drawing Tool”. The tool works by recognising any freehand shape that you draw and automatically redrawing it with smooth lines and curves. While it sounds like a crazy idea, in practice is actually saves you lots of time by eradicating the need for shape-changing tools when working on an illustration. The automation can be adjusted to suit your freehand drawing capabilities and the tool will even recognise dotted lines.

The other important tool the program introduces to CorelDRAW is “Dynamic Guides”. The guides allow you to track alignment data as it changes within the document and makes for simple shape centring and text alignment. Because the guides are constantly changing (if you want them to) you don't have to fuss with setting up guidelines only for your plans to change 10 minutes later and have to waste another 30 minutes re-setting them.

Photo manipulators will appreciate the main new feature in Photo-Paint; A new touch-up tool. Building on the standard clone tool that is found in most photo editing packages, and similar to a red-eye corrector, the software analyses the surrounding data you are trying to fix and emulates it to allow you to rid subjects of blemishes easily. In tests the tool performed very well and we were surprised at how simple and effective it was.

Another simple solution to an age-old problem is the ability to pick colours even if they aren't in the Corel package and this tool can be used across all the applications in the suite. Using the standard pipette tool, you can now pick colours from any other application, your desktop or even a web page.

Price when reviewed:

At half the price of Adobe CS this will certainly offer plenty to the PC User on a tight budget. Yet with this version concentrating so heavily on the draw application rather than the photo editing application you'd have to be really desire the graphical suite more than the photo package for this to be of real benefit. For the Corel version 11 users the upgraded is limited unless you are in need of new CorelDRAW features. For newcomers however, there is plenty here to offer a viable alternative to Adobe, Jasc and Macromedia. Yes the concentration has been on the draw side of things, but that aside there is still enough here, new and old, to warrant a Hot Product Award.