Test lab. (draw software for Microsoft Windows) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by William Harrel
Not long ago, graphics artists and desktop publishers believed that using a Macintosh was the only way to create quality logos, brochure covers, and other graphics - especially full-color drawings. And that may have been true, once. But the Windows draw programs covered in this month's Test Lab have closed the gap.
Until Windows 3.0, PC users were hard-pressed to create sophisticated full-color drawings on their PC-based equipment. The areas where designers need the most strength - display, type control, and printing - were all lacking in power. Now there are high-color and true-color video, Adobe Type Manager and True-Type font rendering, better Post-Script printer drivers, color printers priced at under $3,000, and finally, a crop of excellent drawing programs that exploit the potential of Windows.
Of the ten programs reviewed here, some are full-featured applications that can perform almost any graphics function you can think of (and some you couldn't imagine), some are economy packages, and some are specialized illustration packages.
All of these packages claim ease of use - but ease is a relative term here. If all you want to do is to create monotone logos and graphics for stationery or a newsletter, or full-color images for your monitor, then learning to use any of these products is easy. However, taking one of them (especially one of the high-end products) to its full potential requires much more than mastering the rudiments of the program. You must, for example, understand several prepress and commercial printing practices, such as color separations, knockouts, trapping, overprinting, and printing to film on a high-resolution imagesetter These concepts and others, such as halftoning, fall within the realm of the graphics artist and designer. Learning them is nothing like falling off a log.
All ten programs were tested on a 33-Mhz 486 with 20MB RAM, a 24-bit display adapter, and a high-resolution 19-inch monitor. Drawings and separations were printed on both a 300-dpi laser printer and a 1270-dpi Linotronic 330. Not all of the programs require this much muscle, but the high-end programs - CorelDRAW!, Micrografx Designer, Adobe Illustrator, Aldus FreeHand, Professional Draw, and Arts & Letters Graphics Editor - really do perform better on a high-speed CPU with plenty of RAM and a graphics accelerator. The others - Aldus IntelliDraw, Arts & Letters Apprentice, Graphics Works, and Visio - all run well on a 386.
In one way or another, all of these programs let you achieve the same end - camera-ready art. But they take you to that end with varying degrees of efficiency and using different sets of priorities. This is especially true of the advanced products. A few, for example, offer automated draw options for warping or creating 3-D objects. Others concentrate more on full-color prepress output, with features such as monitor calibration and enhanced Postscript separations. Which one is best for you? It depends on your needs. Monitor calibration and enhanced printing, for example, ensure greater color control and fewer prepress mishaps. Automatic drawing features can save hours - especially if you don't know how to draw special effects manually.
All of these programs, except Visio and IntelliDraw (which handle drawing much differently), have the following features in common:
* Bezier curve editing. You can add multiple handles (or nodes) to lines and contour line segments independently for precise drawing and editing.
* Gradient and radial fills. These involve the fading of one color gradually into another. All programs do this automatically.
* Fitting type to a path. This is the aligning of text along a curve or other shape. When done manually, this can be an extremely time-consuming process.
* Tracing bitmaps. This involves turning bitmaps into vector drawings for easier editing and high-resolution printing. (The two scaled-down packages do not have this feature.)
* Clip art libraries. These are canned images you can use as is or edit as needed.
There are, of course, many other common features, such as the ability to align objects on grids or in relation to other objects. Most programs let you draw various shapes or blend one object into another.
Another important feature that most of these programs support is the ability to lock and control multiple layers, or "layering." If you've ever tried to create an image made up of several stacked elements, you will appreciate this feature. With it, you can lock layers into place, name them for easy selection, hide them, copy their attributes to other layers, and so on. Without layering, it can be very tedious to create complex drawings with many overlapping elements.
These are all very good programs, but some are more suited to certain applications than others. A few, for example, excel at giving those of us who are not artistically inclined the ability to draw - and draw well. Others work better for graphics artists who already know how to draw. Visio and IntelliDraw make creating diagrams and floor plans a snap. And so on.
One problem with trying to categorize these products is that there is such an overlap of features. But here goes: If you are a graphics artist with strong drawing skills and prepress knowledge, you will get the most from Designer, Illustrator, or Free-Hand. If you don't draw and need automated drawing features, consider Arts & Letters Graphics Editor, Professional Draw, or CorelDRAW!. For blueprints, floor plans, and diagrams, check out IntelliDraw or Visio.
The two low-end draw programs are great for creating color computer-screen drawings or monotone graphics for newsletters and reports. However, if you are not artistically inclined, you should probably choose one of the programs that support automatic perspective and three-dimensional effects.
Whatever your needs and abilities, this month's Test Lab has information that should help you understand Windows draw software and choose the product that's best for you.
Adobe Illustrator 4.01 for Windows Minimum requirements: 386 PC, 4MB RAM, VGA Suggested retail price: $695
ADOBE SYSTEMS 1585 Charleston Rd. P.O. Box 7900 Mountain View, CA 94039-7900 (800) 961-4400
4.01 FOR WINDOWS
Adobe Illustrator 4.01 for Windows is a serious design and illustration package for professionals; it's not for the occasional brochure or newsletter publisher. It takes some dedication to learn to use, but once you master it, there's nothing you can't do.
The Windows version of this program, which is also popular on the Mac, installs easily. There are far fewer clip art symbols and borders (325) and Type 1 fonts (40) bundled with this package than with the other packages. What Illustrator delivers is power. It supports both monitor calibration and enhanced separations (via Adobe Separator), and the program has some highly advanced text-formafting features, such as automatic column flow and sculptured text wraps. Only CorelDRAW!, Professional Draw, and Designer (and desktop publishing software) offer as much formatting control.
Illustrator comes with a full-featured, data-driven overlay for making charts that (though a little slow) eliminates the need to go elsewhere to include professional graphs in your drawings and publications. It supports numerous color models, including CMYK, RGB, PANTONE, FocalTone, Toyo, and TruMatch - all built-in.
Text can be fitted to a curve with Illustrator or with a separate utility, Adobe TypeAlign. Type-Align allows you to do stupendous special effects with text, such as stretching, warping, adjusting perspective, and creating 3-D effects. However, it works strictly with text (no other objects), and you must import your creations or bring them in on the Clipboard. With either method, you cannot edit the text once it is in Illustrator.
An important strength of Illustrator is that it creates its images in Postscript format. Although all the others allow you to export drawings in Postscript, it is Illustrator's native format. The advantages are many, including compatibility with almost every other draw, desktop publishing, word-processing, and presentation program available, not to mention desktop publishing service bureaus. And even in the best of the other draw packages, exporting to EPS format is not always foolproof. With CorelDRAW!, for example, you can sometimes export a file to EPS and then, upon trying to import it back into CorelDRAW!, get an inappropriate file format error. I have had or heard of similar experiences with some of the others.
Illustrator's technical support was easy to reach (surprisingly, since Adobe is such a big company), and the technician knew his product well. Again, if you want to create simple graphics to include in newsletters, or on-screen, or in slide presentations, you should probably choose something that's easier to use. In fact, only one other program reviewed here, Aldus FreeHand, has as high a learning curve as this one.
Illustrator is still a little slow in places, such as in screen redraws, and its font and clip art selection are limited. But if you plan to do desktop design at this level, you probably already have a bunch of fonts and are not really concerned with clip art. If you're serious about graphics design, Illustrator is worth spending the time to master.
Aldus FreeHand 3.1 Minimum requirements: 386 PC, 4MB RAM, high-resolution graphics adapter, mouse Suggested retail price: $595
ALDUS 411 First Ave. S Seattle, WA 98104 (206) 628-2320
The most popular draw program on the Mac, Freehand targets professional graphics designers who need four-color prepress precision. This becomes immediately apparent when you open the box.
Along with Aldus's traditionally fine manuals, you'll find color charts and extensive information on separations, trapping, knockouts, and many other prepress and commercial-printing topics. There's even a 75-page booklet devoted to explaining process-color separations and printing to film.
You install FreeHand with Aldus Setup, which you will surely recognize if you use Aldus PageMaker, Aldus Persuasion, or any other Aldus program. Not only does Setup give you complete discretion over what files are installed, but it also lets you run diagnostics to ensure that your system is ready to use FreeHand. Aldus products share the same import and export filters; if you use several of these products, you can save a good chunk of disk space.
PageMaker users who purchase FreeHand will discover that the two packages have many features in common, such as the pasteboard metaphor, the grabber hand, and the right-mouse-button view control. Like PageMaker, FreeHand is friendly and easy to use. And it comes with an Asymetrix ToolBook online tutorial that demonstrates (a little slowly) most of the program's features.
FreeHand comes with Adobe Type Manager and the standard typefaces (Times, Helvetica, Symbol, and Courier) but no others. This limitation can be inconvenient if you don't already have a good font library.
FreeHand excels as a serious drawing tool. Layer control is extensive, with the number of layers supported being limited only by system memory. You even have the option of assigning brief notations to each layer - highly convenient for making notes to yourself (or others) about invisible layer attributes, such as line weights, or the reasoning behind halftone screen settings. You can work on up to nine drawings at once. Styles can be created for repetitive tasks. Freehand provides 99 levels of Undo. Monitor calibration and PANTONE matching are built-in. And printing is enhanced with PRINTER-SPECIFIC add-ons that provide screening and other important controls to the Windows PostScript printer driver.
Two interesting features are automatic reblending and pressure-sensitive freehand drawing. With automatic reblending, when you change the shape of one or two blended objects, FreeHand automatically redraws the blend. All the other programs (except Coreldraw!) require you to reblend the objects. Pressure-sensitive freehand drawing lets you simulate traditional pencil and brush strokes with a pressure-sensitive digitizer. And for those of us without graphics tablets, the feature works with a mouse and the right- or left-arrow keys.
I found only two drawbacks to FreeHand - the small sampling of fonts and Aldus's technical support policy. Free support is offered for only 90 days, after which you must purchase additional time or use a 900 number. With a product this sophisticated, your support needs could easily extend well beyond 90 days.
This application's ability to swap files with its Macintosh counterpart can save time at the service bureau, since most service bureaus are still Mac oriented.
No program, except perhaps Adobe Illustrator, provides better, more predictable output. Its Macintosh artist's-station roots render it ideal for professionals (and would-be professionals). If you need precision, you cannot beat Freehand.
Aldus IntellDraw 1.0 Minimum requirements: 386 PC, 4MB RAM, VGA, mouse Suggested retail price: $299
Aldus 5120 Shoreham Pl. San Diego, CA 92122 (619) 558-6000
Aldus intellidraw combines a draw program with rudimentary CAD and presentation features. The program sports a standard draw-program interface with Bezier drawing and editing, sophisticated technical drawing, and simple animation. Whether you need to create simple drawings to embellish reports or draw up plans to redesign the office, IntelliDraw will make the job easier and more fun.
IntelliDraw is powerful. You'll have to spend some time to master all of its rich, innovative features. But once you get the hang of it, you may prefer IntelliDraw to CorelDRAW! or whatever else you're using now. Aldus takes some of the pain out of learning the program with a well-done 90-minute training video that covers almost all of the program's important features. After watching it, I understood Intellidraw's sheer power and couldn't wait to get started.
A palette of action buttons lets you lock objects on a page, link them to other objects, group objects and ungroup them, and perform a number of functions that other programs require you to wade through layers of dialog boxes to achieve. IntelliDraw's tool-box is full of easy-to-use drawing tools, such as the Connector tool that allows you to draw lines that automatically snap to and connect objects. Connections can be locked, stretched, rotated, or drawn at right angles.
Another impressive feature is Auto Align. A pair of cross hairs follows your mouse as you draw, like a pair of automatic intersecting rulers. The cross hairs, or guides, run the length of the document window, allowing you to align the object being drawn with other objects. Auto Align also lets you align existing objects in relation to one another. When, for example, two or more objects are exactly centered, the guides form a cross over them, indicating perfect alignment.
Unlike other draw programs (which use grids and an alignment dialog box to accomplish same feats), IntelliDraw doesn't force you to turn off the alignment feature to place objects freely nor do you have to open a dialog box to align objects. The cross hairs constantly inform you where an object is in relation to other objects in your drawing.
Yet another slick feature is the user-defined symbol library. You can add objects to your symbol library and delete objects from it. You can also edit symbols once they are defined. Symbols are linked; if you use the same symbol several times throughout your document (remember that documents can have unlimited pages), you can edit it once in the symbol library, and IntelliDraw will update every occurrence in the document.
There's also a collection of "intelligent" clip art, such as office furniture and landscaping elements. You can add drawers to file cabinets or change the shapes of trees simply by double-clicking on them. For example, you can change a pine tree to an oak with a couple of mouse clicks. Change a chair into a sofa by stretching it. No, you don't get a distorted, elongated chair, as you do with other clip art. Intelligent clip art actually converts the chair to a sofa.
There's one important drawback, though: The program does not support process-color separations. Creating camera-ready art for multicolored documents could be a problem. You can, however, print separate layers, which will give you spot-color separations.
The color separation issue aside, IntelliDraw is a great, innovative draw program, especially for $299. While it's not for commercial prepress applications, it fits neatly into a number of other applications. Like most other Aldus software, it is a solid performer. And since there is an identical Macintosh equivalent, it's easy to distribute your drawings across platforms or on a network.
Editor's note: By the time this review appears, there may be a new version of Aldus IntelliDraw
ARTS & LETTERS
Until I had an opportunity to open a few menus and see what was missing, it was hard to tell the difference between Apprentice and its high-end brother, Graphics Editor. The installation is the same, the interface is identical, and so on. With Apprentice, you get the same ease of use, some of the same great clip art images, and the same cataloging system as with the advanced version, for about a quarter of the price. What you do not get with Apprentice is the very sophisticated perspective/warp feature, as many clip art images (3000 rather than 5000), or as many fonts (only 25 instead of 81).
With Apprentice, Computer Support offers styles and a scaled-down graphing option. If our work requires you to do color separations, Apprentice can handle the job; Windows Draw! (the draw program in the other budget-minded package reviewed here, Micrografx's Graphics Works) can't do color separations. As with Graphics Editor, the screen redraw is a little slow. But otherwise, this is a slick graphics program for nonprofessionals. This is also a great program for teaching children about computer graphics. If you're trying to stay within your budget and need a great draw program, check this one out.
ARTS & LETTERS
Of the six full-featured Windows draw programs reviewed in this Test Lab, Graphics Editor is matched only by CorelDRAW! and Professional Draw in ease of use, overall friendliness, and number of features designed to help the nonartist.
The program is built around a collection of 5000 superb clip art images. You can easily edit the images or incorporate them into drawings as is. You should find it simple, for example, to use parts. of images, such as the state of California from one of the many maps of the USA. All you have to do is enter a number corresponding to that part of the drawing. The program allows you to store and catalog the images you draw in the same manner.
Easy to install, Graphics Editor includes an online manual with an automated "show me" option that demonstrates many of the program's features. However, you must install everything - all clip art and 81 proprietary fonts - in order for the program to run properly. Accordingly, the full installation requires about 12MB.
I found the tutorial to be one of the best I've used. It takes you from the basics to more complicated topics in an easy, friendly style. Even if you don't have much drawing savvy, you will be creating drawings in no time.
Graphics Editor provides an adequate data-driven feature for making charts and graphs. To create a chart, you enter data within the program or import information from spreadsheets.
The program also provides styles for automating repetitive tasks, such as assigning the same attribute to objects in several different drawings. You could, for example, use it to automatically turn a string of text into a logo.
A perspective/warp feature lets you manipulate text and objects in ways that would require much artistic talent otherwise. You can, for example, make objects appear to move into the distance, give them roller-coaster contours, and even wrap them around themselves.
Again, easy describes this program - right down to the levers (rather than text boxes) for adjusting the angles of gradients. And if you do have trouble, Computer Support furnishes free technical support. The technician I talked to was a little sketchy on some questions; he had to go off the line to get some answers. But at least he knew what he didn't know.
The absence of monitor calibration and prepress enhancements makes Graphics Editor less appropriate than some of the other draw programs for creating process-color separations. Also, you cannot import and export EPS files or several other kinds of files. Instead, you use a utility called Decipher to convert files to the appropriate format. This arrangement is somewhat inconvenient.
Screen redraws of blends, gradients, and warped elements are too slow. But a math coprocessor version (available free on request) is supposed to speed things up substantially. So if you have a coprocessor or a 486, this may not be a problem.
Graphics Editor is a strong program for nonartists who need to create images in a hurry. Much of the included clip art can be used right out of the box, with little or no modification.
CorelDRAW! is powerful enough for some professionals, yet it also has a wealth of features designed to help the nonartist.
Although the latest version of Corel's popular drawing product is version 4.0, the company is also selling version 3.0. In both packages you get a lot more than just a strong draw program. You get CorelCHART!, a highly sophisticated charting application; CorelPHOTO-PAINT!, a program for creating and editing bitmapped gray-scale and color images; CorelSHOW!, a slide and onscreen presentation program that supports limited animation; CorelMOSAIC!, a program for cataloging drawings and clip art; and CorelTRACE!, a program which turns bitmaps into vectors. Version 4.0 also contains an animation module, CorelMOVE!, for creating animated graphics for onscreen presentations.
And it all this isn't enough, with version 3.0 you get a CD-ROM containing 12,000 clip art images and over 250 Type 1 and True-Type fonts (the floppy version contains 4000 images and just over 150 fonts), and you get a great draw program to boot. Version 4.0 has two CD-ROMs containing over 18,000 pieces of clip art and clip media and 755 fonts.
A complete installation requires over 30MB of disk space; however, the installation program lets you load all or any part of the package. The draw program itself includes a spelling checker and thesaurus. Many options have "roll-up" menus that float in the editing area, allowing you to make changes to objects quickly. And when you aren't using these menus, you can roll them up into a title bar and use an arrange command to stack them neatly in corners of the drawing area.
Extrusions, perspectives, blends, and many other features can be created and modified interactively with a mouse, rather than by entering values in dialog boxes, checking the results, and then going back to do it all over again. An interesting feature is the Rainbow option for blends. With it, instead of blending directly from one color to the other, you can reverse the blend on a color wheel and get a rainbow effect. In other words, if you choose two like colors, say light and dark blue, and blend them backwards, you'll get yellows, reds, purples, blues - hundreds of shades, depending on the number of blend steps you choose.
The differences between versions 3.0 and 4.0 are many, but not so extensive that you could not use version 3.0 for all your graphics needs. Version 4.0 supports multiple pages and has
some page layout features not found in previous versions. You should look to version 4.0 if you want animation, OCR, and advanced prepress options, and if you want to save color separation configurations for future use. However, each package is a terrific value. While CorelDRAW!'s draw program itself is not necessarily stronger than some of the others reviewed here, the extras make it the best buy.
Graphics Works 1.0
Minimum requirements: 386 PC,
4MB RAM, VGA (SVGA
recommended), mouse; CD-ROM
drive optional for some programs
Suggested retail price: $199
1303 E. Arapaho Rd.
Richardson, TX 75081
GRAPHICS WORKS 1.0
Looking for ease of us? Then take a look at Graphics Works, built around Micrografx's popular, economical Windows Draw!, a relatively sophisticated vector draw program. Windows Draw! is a scaled-down version of Designer. You get about 80 percent of Designer's functionality for about 10 percent of the price.
Since Windows Draw! doesn't support color separations, trapping, and other commercial prepress options, it won't meet the needs of professional graphics artists, but it's great for most small business and home office settings - everything else you need to create sophisticated vector drawings is included. With Windows Draw! you can rotate, skew, fill, and manipulate Type 1 or True-Type fonts in every way imaginable, which makes this program great for creating logos and special effects.
The other applications in Graphics Works include PhotoMagic, a bitmap photograph editor; Windows OrgChart, for creating organization charts; WinChart, a charting and graphing program; and SlideShow, the standard slideShow module included with Micrografx's high-end draw and presentation packages, Designer and Charisma. There's also a clip art indexing and viewing utility for managing the 10,000 clip art images that come in the package, as well as a photo index and view utility for the 1000 photographs also included. However, to access the bulk of the clip art and photographs, you'll need a CD-ROM drive. (Both a CD-ROM and floppies are included in the box.)
The most impressive aspect of the Graphics Works package is its ease of use, which arises in part from the use of similar interfaces for its various programs. After you learn the basics in one, mastering the others is simple. And there's a Run command on the File menu in each application that lets you access the other Graphics Works applications with a mouse click.
I consider the 10,000 clip art images included on the CD-ROM some of the best available. (Actually, the clip art and the photographs are worth the product's purchase price. Just consider the graphics applications a bonus.) Micrografx has a strong reputation in the graphics industry for superb clip art. You will probably never have to look any further for a suitable image. The options are nearly limitless. There are welldrawn maps, complete with cities and other geographic information; terrific anatomy art; and a collection of business scenes and symbols to suit almost every imaginable situation. And when your documents or presentations;tall for photographs, surely one of the 1000 24-bit images of nature scenes, people, animals, and business situations will fill the need.
When you buy Graphics Works, you get Micrografx's great support program, which includes 24-hour service during the week and limited hours on weekends. The technicians are very well trained and courteous. This is a strong, easy-to-use draw program. The average small or home-based business can't miss with Graphics Works.
Circle Reader Service Number 377
Micrografx Designer 4.0
Minimum requirements: 386 PC,
4MB RAM (8MB recommended),
Suggested retail price: $695
1303 E. Arapaho Rd.
Richardson, TX 75081
Designer targets technical illustrators, graphics artists, and designers, who care more about precision and performance than about a pretty interface. However, Designer's recently reworked inter face provides ease of use along with very powerful features.
New features abound. There are so many, in fact, that choosing a few to talk about is difficult. In terms of technical enhancements, the most significant addition is a color separation utility that lets you separate not only Designer files but also any EPS graphic. With this feature, you can trap objects and perform undercolor removal (UCR), dotgain correction, ink correction, and a myriad of other functions - all of which are prepress options necessary for top-quality reproduction at the print shop. And as with the new version of CorelDRAW!, you can save color separation configurations for future use. If you currently have to repeat the steps required to set up separations each time you print to your service bureau's imagesetter, you'll appreciate this feature.
Speaking of color, no longer must you order optional color palettes from Micrografx. Palettes for PANTONE, FocalTone, and Tru-Match systems are provided, and you can create your own. You can also print spot-color separations
Designer has never had good automatic special-effects features - until this new version, that is. Before, to produce 3-D effects, such as extruded text or objects that look as though they fade off into the distance, you had to have the artistic knowledge and talent to create them. Even graphics artists find this a trial-and-error proposition. Now, creating 3-D objects is a snap with the features Extrude, Rotate, Scale, and Perspective. There's even a new control option that lets you adjust shading according to an imaginary light source. These options make Designer more accessible to the nonartist.
This year's draw programs have become amazingly adept at text handling, and Designer is no exception. You can pour text into frames of any shape, for some interesting effects, such as text that is contoured to fill a star shape and other forms. You can link text containers (or frames), a feature that's similar to jumping text from one page to another in a desktop publishing newsletter layout. (By the way, Designer now supports multiple pages.) The text-on-a-curve and wrap features are enhanced. There's a spelling checker, as well as automatic hyphenation, and no longer must you convert text to curves (an irreversible procedure that leaves text blocks uneditable) before applying gradients and other artistic effects (which means that the text remains editable).
You can perform these wonderful new options with one or all the 250 Type 1 or TrueType fonts shipped with the program.
Another useful addition to the Designer package is PhotoMagic, Micrografx's low-end bitmap editor. Photomagic is not a fullfeatured photograph editor, as is the CorelPHOTO-PAINT! module bundled with CorelDRAW! 3.0 and 4.0, but it does allow you to scan directly into the program and perform most bitmap-editing functions.
Designer now supports multiple levels of Undo and Redo. It's also an OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) client and server. You can create onscreen presentations and slides from drawings and use Designer to show your presentations, or you can use Designer as a stand-alone viewing utility that you can take on the road.
Designer is known for its precision, and version 4.0 lives up to that reputation. According to Micrografx, object placement is accurate to within one micron, and the program supports printer resolutions up to 24,600 dpi.
Not for the faint of heart, fullfeatured Designer is aimed squarely at the professional.
Circle Reader Service Number 378
Professional Draw 1.0
Minimum requirements: 386 PC,
2MB RAM, VGA
Suggested retail price:$495
5155 Spectrum Way, Unit 5
At $495, Professional Draw costs less than many of the other programs reviewed here, and although it does not have all of the combined features of the applications in CorelDRAW!, overall it is at least as good as that program. Gold Disk is a strong company and makes great software. Professional Draw is no exception.
The program installs easily and lets you decide which files to load, including files for CorelDRAW! 2.xx WFN fonts, TrueType fonts, Professional Draw proprietary fonts, or the 150 Type 1 fonts that come with Professional Draw. In fact, Professional Draw is the only draw program here that can import CorelDRAW! 3.0's CDR format. It also sports many of CorelDRAW!'s automatic drawing features, such as Perspective, Extrude, and Envelope. It supports interactive mouse-manipulation and light-source adjustments, such as those found in CorelDRAW! and Designer. Radial graduated fills and light source can be adjusted with levers, rather than with obscure values in dialog boxes that make sense only to mathematicians.
A feature unique to Professional Draw is its extensive snap-to controls. You can place lines precisely - snapping to a corner, on a circle tangent, parallel to each other, perpendicular to each other, at center, and at midpoint.
But what really sets this program apart from CorelDRAW! 3.0 is its advanced printing options. From within the Print dialog box, you can set knockouts, traps, over-prints, and many other options. Trap settings include choke and spread amounts for each color, whether spot or process. Halftone settings include control of dot shapes, ten. of which are predefined or user-defined. You can set dolor brightness and contrast, color balance, gray-scale conversion, and posterization. Drawings can be converted to gray scale, spot colors, or process colors automatically, and you can invert them.
If all you need is a strong, easy-to-use, and moderately priced draw program, there is really no reason not to buy Professional Draw.
Circle Reader Service Number 379
Visio 2.0 Minimum requirements: 386 PC (20 MHz or faster), 4MB RAM, VGA Suggested retail price: $129 through December 1993, then $299; $79 for upgrade from version 1.0
SHAPEWARE 1601 Fifth Ave., Ste. 800 Seattle, MA 98019 (800) 446-3335
Visio's approach to drawing is entirely different from the approaches taken by other programs reviewed here. (IntelliDraw does, however, have many of Visio's drag-and-drop and smart-graphics features.) Instead of calling it a drawing program, the publisher (Shapeware Corporation) calls it shapeware. This product is designed for business users who don't know how to draw. The concept is that you create business drawings - floor plans, diagrams, flow charts, and so on - by combining predefined shapes. This approach, though somewhat limited, is very effective.
Shapeware calls Visio's approach drag-and-drop drawing. To create drawings, users drag predefined shapes from job-related stencils, or palettes of shapes, and drop them onto the drawing page. Simply by moving objects onto a page, you make your drawing come to life. I created a complicated organization chart in no time, without spending much time in the documentation.
Visio is OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) aware, which means that you can embed drawings in, and link them to, other applications such as your PowerPoint presentations or PagePlus layouts. Text is integrated. All you do is select an object and start typing. The text is automatically centered in the object. You can create master shapes and copy them throughout your drawing; when you change the master, all copies are automatically updated (a feature known as cloning in some other programs).
Styles let you predefine frequently used formats, such as text attributes, line weights, fill patterns, and so on. Once a style is defined, all you do is change it to automatically update all other objects formatted with the same style. You can set your measurements system to inches and feet, metric units, or one of several other units.
The options Glue and AutoConnect allow you to draw a line between two shapes, then reposition them without breaking the connection. Connecting lines stretch, contract, and change angle perfectly when shapes are repositioned. The AutoConnect feature lets you connect objects automatically.
Visio performs its magic with shapes, or clip art, called SmartShapes. SmartShapes can assume different forms, colors, proportions, and other properties, depending on the context in which you use them. You can use them as Shapeware has defined them, or you can modify them to suit your needs. Each shape has its own spreadsheetlike form you can edit to modify its behavior.
Visio comes with several predefined shapes, and you can buy several themed collections from Shapeware. The collections include Marketing, Space Planning, Home Planning, and Landscape Planning, as well as several others. Or you can purchase a book that shows you how to develop your own Visio shapes.
Visio must be a popular product. I called technical support several times and had to wait for a long time on the line each time. However, when I did get through, my questions were answered clearly and courteously. I couldn't find a problem the technician couldn't solve.
If you need a program designed to help you create diagrams and flow charts, this is a good one.
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