I've been a graphic designer/artist for many years. I have ONLY used Photoshop for photo editing, imaging, etc., and Illustrator for creating vector images. As a matter of fact, when I learned Photoshop, I was also "taught" that Corel was the poor-man's alternative-- the lesser program. However, I was lucky enough to receive this complete program to test and review. And, since I haven't upgraded Photoshop since version 7, I eagerly awaited the arrival of this program.
CorelDraw Graphics Suite x4 is really superb software. This is a great alternative to Photoshop with extensive image editing capabilities. It's quite powerful and more a professional tool than for appropriate for a general user; this is the kind of application around which training courses are built.
Installation was easy and seamless. Upon registration, Corel gives a nice little gift to new registered users of many megs of clipart. This can be a useful thing, but so far, after downloading same, I've had some difficulty in finding the collection on my local drive! Honestly, though, I don't use clipart. Ever. But, it's in my harddrive somewhere just in case I ever find the need for it.
Graphics programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and CorelDraw are serious tools. I've used these applications for advertising, photo manipulation and editing and everything you can imagine in the graphics world. To learn the true "ins and outs" of these tools, one really needs a teacher/mentor or a good training class. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite does come complete with a full training manual, Clipart and Font manual (the font manual is very useful), a handbook called "Insights from the Experts", and a Quick Start Guide.
CorelDraw is astoundingly powerful. Loaded with tools and options, most users are not likely to make use of even half the capabilities available in this huge application. This is not a usual scenario to offer so much capability knowing that most users won't use them. But... if they are needed, they're there. As I've used Photoshop and Illustrator for years, I still haven't used all the tools in the programs that are available! I can see the same being true for CorelDRAW.
The UI of CorelDraw is complex but very similar to Photoshop. The innumerable variations available when editing images makes the application inherently complex. Most users will find the photo editing features particularly impressive, with artistic and photographic emulations capabilities readily available. While there can be a slight delay from selection of image change to actual implementation of that change (and I have 2 gb RAM), CorelDraw is no different than its competitors. Loaded with options, particularly in editing and adding effects, CorelDraw is a welcome addition to any designer's tool box. Additionally, one of the most interesting features this program has (as did Macromedia's now-defunct FreeHand) is changing bitmap images to vector images. I can see this tool being useful in the future.
The average user should be somewhat cautioned regarding the complexity of this tool. As this is a professional-level application, new users not familiar with image editing could easily feel overwhelmed. CorelDraw has an extensive Help system including "tips from the experts" but the focus is on the professional-- not the average user.
The critical problem, and it may not be a "problem" per se, is that applications such as CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop are so very... dense. There are just so many options, so many variations, and so much to learn to do the most simple processes, that non-professionals with little background in image editing and graphics may get discouraged.
For the professional graphic designer and photo editor/"photoshopper", CorelDraw is certainly equivalent to Photoshop and is a welcome alternative to Adobe's also superb offering. This software gets 5 well-earned stars. If there were any way to diminish the complexity of these applications I would invite Adobe and Corel developers to investigate such things. For the professionals, CorelDraw has joined the ranks of the best.