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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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April 2006, Week 2 -- Drawing on Strength

CorelDRAW X3

   One of the best things about the new X3 version of CorelDRAW is the material that comes with it.

 

   Right at the top of the list is the tutorial. It's on disk four out of four, but it's the right one to start with. Next is the accompanying guide to the 10,000 clip art images and 1,000 type fonts. The book shows every piece of clip art and each type font in full color. Hardly any other software we've ever reviewed has included color pictures of what's on the disks. It's expensive, and most companies aren't willing to do it. But it's a lot easier to riffle through pages than call every piece of clip art onto the screen.
   
     This is actually version 13 of CorelDRAW. It was labeled X3 because someone -- we don't know who -- is superstitious. So a Roman numeral 10 was combined with an Arabic numeral three. Doesn't make sense, but you can just imagine how many executive meetings were held before it was settled on.
   
     The program, by any name, is a classic of computer art and drawing. It has more features than an all-night theater, and maybe most important of all: a dedicated user base. This is very important. There are other programs that have the same power as CorelDRAW, and some will have other features that a user may or may not like. But because of the time spent in learning how to use a large program, most people are inclined to stick with what they know, and they're right to do so. CorelDRAW was one of the first high-powered graphics programs, and many companies standardized on it for their publications.

 

 

 

   The most important new feature is probably PowerTRACE. The user can convert a low-resolution image into a high-resolution vector drawing. This can then be expanded to any size without producing the jagged edges that quickly appear when expanding non-vector images. This works with an y bit map image, though the more pixels you have to start with, the better the final results. We took a Coca-Cola logo off the Web and were able to change its size and color with no trouble.

 

 

     The new "cut-out lab" lets you easily take images from one picture and move them to another. The "image adjustment lab" lets you adjust images already in place, like those in a brochure. Any changes you make are automatically updated in the brochure. All projects in CorelDRAW X3 can be saved as PDF files with different editing permissions for different users.
   
     Corel Draw X3 has a list price of $399 at www.corel.com.
   
  Internuts
   
Switch Discs    www.annualreports.com: You can look through thousands of company reports here. The reports appear in their original format, and you can search by industry, company name or stock ticker symbol.
 
   www.switchdiscs.com: A sensible and legal trading network for swapping CDs, DVDs and video games. Membership is free. Trading is by "SwitchBucs." Members give each item a SwitchBuc price and use Bucs to trade. If someone takes your disc, you have Bucs to spend in your account for other discs. And so on back and forth. Note: This is not an auction or rental site.
   
  Political Power Gaming
   

A Force More Powerful

   Here's something of an oddity: It's "A Force More Powerful," a game simulation of possible paths to political power. It was inspired by a Serbian student who organized a group that forced the Serbian government to overturn an election result.
 
   On screen, the game looks a lot like Sim City. In operation, you create strategies to overthrow dictators, elections or influence political leaders. It's a game for political activists: lots of reading material, little action. No one gets shot or killed. It's for Windows, $20, from www.aforcemorepowerful.org. Not for your regular game player.
   
  Books, And Why We Cover Them
   
 

 

 

 

   "Simplified Microsoft Office 2003" by Sherry Kinkoph; $30 from Wiley (www.wiley.com). This is the kind of book that answers most reader needs. It explains the workings of Microsoft Office and all its parts (Word, PowerPoint, Access, Excel, Outlook and Publisher) very clearly.
 
   We get reader requests for book recommendations fairly frequently. What they ask for is something that will explain how to use their computer or a particular program, and do it in simple terms. In general, we have found that any commercial book on these subjects is better than the manuals that come with the products.
 
     There are reasons for this: One is that the manual writer is low man on the totem pole. That's because the manual doesn't produce any income; it's the product that generates the income. For this and other reasons (horrors: the manual writer is not an engineer), manuals have little importance at most software companies. In fact, they are often approved for printing before the product is finished. In which case, no one, not the manual writer or the programmer, fully understands the product's features.
   
     What makes this book and other books in Wiley's "Simplified" series so useful is the lavish use of color illustrations. As each step is explained, accompanying illustrations show the reader what they should be seeing on the screen. On a bad note, the type in the screenshots is often hard to read. Keep your magnifying glass handy.

 


 

 

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site: www.oncomp.com or at www.uexpress.com/oncomputers . You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.