October was a huge month for the graphics software market. There were new releases from many of the key market players and a clear tilt by everyone involved in this sector toward providing applications that make Web pages and paper-based documents look colourful, stylish and snappy.
The most high-profile of these announcements was the Corel Draw 7 graphics package for Windows 95 and Windows NT 4, which includes retooled versions of the three main applications: Draw, Photo Paint and Dream 3D.
According to Corel president and CEO Michael Cowpland, the company's flagship graphics product is now easier to use. It also provides improved memory handling, faster file open, save, import and redraw function and an Internet graphics support including the ability to create image maps and publish to HTML.
The new version of Draw includes a grab-bag of other supporting utilities:
Multimedia Manager 7 is a 'visual file manager' utility that helps users organise and manage graphics files.
Corel calls its OCR-Trace 7 an 'enhanced' optical character recognition/raster to vector conversion utility.
Texture is a procedural texture generation program that promises to allow the creation of simulated natural textures like marble, wood, stone, clouds and metal.
Scan is a scanning utility which includes preset processing options.
Depth is an additional utility that makes it easy to create 3D logos and text.
Capture 7 is a beefed-up screen capture utility.
Script Editor and Script Dialog Editor are scripting utilities that Corel hopes will be used by corporate customers to create add-on utilities for Draw and Photo Paint through OLE 2 automation.
Memo is an OLE-compliant utility that allows users to attach notes to their drawings or documents without altering the original graphics or text.
Aside from these applications, Corel has designed the revamped package so that it should work with Photoshop-compatible plug-in filters, including Kai's Power Tools 3 SE, Extensis Intellihance 2, the much hyped digital watermarking filter by Digimarc and AutoF/X Photo/Graphic Edges when using either Draw or Photo Paint.
Corel has included some other extras including some 32,000 clipart images and symbols, 1,000 Adobe Type 1 and True Type fonts, 1,000 high-resolution photos, more than 250 three-dimensional models and in excess of 400 Draw and Paper Direct templates, floating objects and tiling textures.
Anyone who has followed the fortunes of this product is used to seeing a list of new features - and it's always a long one. But one addition dealers should welcome is Internet support.
Although it is almost obligatory in the current Internet-mad software sales environment to include such features, the fact that they are in such key products does change the way something like Draw 7 can be sold.
For example, Draw 7 allows users to assign URLs to any object and to publish documents to HTML, Gif, Jpeg or Barista, a technology that Corel has developed to allow users to create documents based entirely on Sun Microsystems' Java language without any programming requirements.
Both Netscape's Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer colour palettes are included so that Web pages can be designed to be optimised for either.
There is also a direct link within the help menu in Draw 7 to the home page.
Also included is support for some new input technologies in the Natural Pen tool which can be used with a pressure-sensitive tablet to create curves of varying thicknesses and calligraphic effects. The company claims the Natural Pen tool is great for artistic sketching.
Finally, Draw users are starting to see some benefits from the Wordperfect deal with new writing tools in Version 7 that come from Wordperfect, including a spell check, thesaurus and a grammar checker, as well as Bitstream's True Doc font embedding technology.
The way that Corel has developed and rolled out this latest version of its flagship graphics product is a clear indication of something more important.
Unlike Novell, which really took its eye off the ball of its core networking business when it acquired Wordperfect, Corel appears to have continued its long tradition of quickly and effectively using its acquisitions to add value to Draw, while allowing them to develop in their own right.
That is a strategy the company developed to when it acquired the Ventura desktop publishing software from Xerox more than three years ago.
Dealers should also be happy to see that the system requirements for Draw 7 look set to encourage users either to up-grade or get completely new systems. To use this graphics monolith, users will need a minimum of a 60MHz Pentium processor, with 120MHz Pentium recommended, 16Mb of Ram (32Mb recommended), 40Mb of hard disk space to install Draw, help, filters and fonts, a CD-Rom player (double-speed or higher recommended), a mouse or tablet, VGA display (SVGA recommended) and either Windows 95 or NT 4.
In addition, dealers will benefit from the appeal of aggressive pricing, particularly where upgrades are concerned. Scheduled to begin shipping in mid November, Corel says Draw 7 will be available in the US for a suggested list price of $695, with an upgrade price of $249 for users of any version of Draw on the Windows or Mac platform and Ventura and Office Professional 7 users.
After Corel laid down the gauntlet to the graphics software industry in October with Draw 7, the challenge was taken up by Macromedia as it unveiled Freehand Graphics Studio 7.
This is the first major release of Freehand under the Macro-media banner since it was sold by Aldus. Macromedia has had other successes including its Shockwave technology for displaying graphical, multimedia Web pages.
It's not surprising, then, that this new release of Freehand includes a lot of tools for Web publishing. It also bears the distinction of being released simultaneously for both the Windows 95 and Apple Mac platforms.
Freehand Graphics Studio 7 is Shockwave-enabled, allowing developers to create vector and bitmap art for the Web.
This should give any customers who need to design Web pages a real boost, as it means that their active Shockwave pages can be viewed by any of the 12 million users worldwide who have downloaded players.
The release of Shockwave supported in this new version of Freehand is as good at displaying text as it is graphics, and has the ability to embed fonts in documents and display true, anti-aliased fonts, even if the fonts are not installed on the viewer's machine.
Macromedia says that online viewers of Freehand-created, Shockwave-compatible pages will be able to pan and zoom on selected artwork and magnify by as much as 25,600 per cent without sacrificing resolution and clarity. Shockwave users can create hot links or add URLs to any graphics.
WHAT'S FREE WITH FREEHAND?
Macromedia also boasts that the Shockwave afterburner compression feature reduces file size by approximately 50 per cent, allowing for faster download and display times.
In an effort to keep up with all the things that Corel has thrown into the latest iteration of Draw, Macromedia is shipping Freehand Graphics Studio 7 with the Fontographer 4.1 font creation tool. Also included are 10,000 clipart images, 500 Freehand templates, 500 True Type and Postscript Type 1 fonts, 250Mb of high-resolution photography and dozens of three-dimensional models.
Macromedia says Freehand Graphics Studio 7 is available immediately for Windows 95, Windows NT, Mac 68K and Power PC for an approximate street price in the US of $449. Registered users of the previous version of the product or any of the software applications in it can upgrade for $199.
To grab market share from the competition, anyone using Adobe Illustrator, Draw, Canvas and Micrografx Designer can get a competitive upgrade to Freehand Graphics Studio 7 for $199.
While Corel and Macromedia were grabbing the headlines last month, Adobe was proving that it is still a formidable force in the graphics market, particularly where its Photoshop product is concerned. In September, Adobe began rolling out Adobe Photoshop 4 for the Mac and Windows platforms.
Adobe says it offers a range of features that increase creative control and productivity. Key features in Photoshop 4 include Actions, which supports task automation and batch processing and Adjustment Layers, which are special layers through which image adjustments can be applied without permanently modifying the original image.
Many of the features in Draw are available in Photoshop, in one form or another. Adobe says many users have requested an easier way to align elements in a multi-layered file, so Photoshop 4 supports custom guides and grids.
In addition, this new version of Photoshop includes the same digital watermarking technology provided by Dig-marc that Corel uses for image copyright protection and for providing artist information.
Adobe has tried to make changes to Photoshop that match those being made across the Adobe graphics product line, including Illustrator and Pagemaker, so that users get more consistent access to commands and tool palettes even when switching between multiple applications.
Despite being designed to run on two different platforms, Adobe claims that Photoshop 4 makes the most of each of them, with support for symmetric multiprocessing on Windows NT and Mac systems, as well as broad optimisation of Intel's new MMX processor architecture.
The company is at pains to point out that, despite this optimisation for specific platforms, the Mac and Windows versions of Photoshop 4 share a common feature set and user interface layout, and all data file formats are fully interchangeable on both Mac and Windows platforms.
The opportunities presented to dealers by all these products - as well as with others such as the recently announced Micrografx ABC Flow Charter 6 and 7, Windows Draw 5 Graphics and Print Studio and Micrografx' ABC Graphics Suite 2 is that they create a rationale and a demand for faster, higher capacity hardware and lots of add-ons.
Anyone making the most of these new graphics applications will want a Pentium system with at least 16Mb of Ram, several gigabytes of storage to hold large graphics files, a high-resolution display, a high-quality colour printer, a good flatbed scanner, a reliable and high-capacity backup system and a fast modem to upload graphics to their Web site or send them to a professional bureau for printing.
In short, anyone who needs to use these higher-end graphics systems properly is going to require a lot of extra gear to do it. If they already have a system, it will inevitably need substantially upgrading. Without an existing system, they will need to prepare themselves to spend some money.
All of this is good news for dealers who can use the opportunity to put together bundles of goodies specifically for professional designers, artists and the creative departments of large corporations.
Opportunity also knocks for dealers set up to install systems and train staff to use them.
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