Freehand Studio 5 vs CorelDraw 5, detailed comparison

Freehand Studio 5 vs CorelDraw 5, detailed comparison

Post by Roger Moncrie » Wed, 03 Jul 1996 04:00:00



Before I begin the comparison between CorelDraw 5 and Freehand Studio 5
I feel obligated to tell you who I am and what I do since that is most
likely relevant to the comparison. I retired after 29 years of service
with the USN in 1991. Since then I have taught undergraduate and
graduate courses in aeronautical science for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University. For the past few years I have been taking care of most of
the computer needs for several non-profit agencies in my home town. As
an unpaid volunteer I develop databases, install software, check out
donated computers, conduct training, solicit bids, etc. I have also
been involved either directly or indirectly in the development and
publication of 4 different newsletters by these nonprofit agencies. I
evaluate graphics and multimedia software for our PC User's Group and
for a West Coast newsletter called Virtual Reality Monthly. I have a
Masters Degree in Aeronautical Science and I am a member of Mensa. I
state this information about myself so anyone who reads this will
realize that I do not produce artwork for magazine ads, billboards,
posters, etc. and I am not employed by any software company.
I agreed to do this comparison after being challenged by John Dowdell,
a Macromedia employee. In some of the internet usenet newsgroups I said
I thought Corel 5 was much more powerful than Freehand Studio. When I
began to really dig in to Freehand I quickly realized that Freehand was
much worse than I had initially realized. Disconcerted by this initial
analysis I enlisted the aid of a friend, who is a professional
photographer and artist. She has had one woman shows in New York City
and recently migrated from the Amiga to the PC. She is very familiar
with Painter 3.1 and Photoshop 3.0.5 but had never used either
CorelDraw or any Macromedia applications. After playing with both
Freehand and CorelDraw 5 for just an hour or so she asked me if I was
sure I had the latest release of Freehand because it seemed very
primitive and clunky when compared to CorelDraw 5. She quickly came to
the same conclusions I had reached the first time I used Freehand: that
is that it simply doesn't even come close to CorelDraw 5, an
application that is nearly two years old. One of the deficiencies in
common with all four Freehand Studio applications is that there is no
list of recently opened files. I frequently work on several projects at
one time and on many occasions use different directories for my
projects. My photographer/artist friend does the same. I have no
interest whatsoever in searching my hard drive for the three or four
projects I may be working on when I return to my computer after a three
day weekend. Let's talk about blends. CorelDraw will easily fit any
blended objects to any path. Freehand doesn't fit blends to a path.
Object blends seem to be a lot easier to perform in CorelDraw than in
Freehand. For example in CorelDraw the blend rollup gives you all the
blend control you need in one easy to use area you can place anywhere
on the screen you wish. A variety of blends are just a mouse click
away. In Freehand the arrrange/path operations/blend drop down menu
selection must be accessed to perform a blend. I frequently found it
grayed out when I selected it because I had done something wrong. It is
easy to screw up a blend between two objects in Freehand because they
must be first ungrouped then selected before a blend can be achieved.
Say you draw a circle and a square and you wish to blend them together.
You select them both and go through the drop down menu procedure only
to find the blend command grayed out. You must first select each
object, go to the arrange/ungroup drop down menu, go back to each
object, select them then go to the arrange/path operations/blend drop
down menu and the objects will then be blended. A node on each object
may also be selected if you wish. But wait, how many steps do you want?
For that you must select the blend, then go to the object inspector,
click on the left most icon (I was never able to determine its name)
then you can specify the number of steps you want for your object
blend. In Corel you activate the blend rollup, draw your circle and
square, select them both and apply the blend. The blend rollup in Corel
gives you the option of specifying the number of steps, rotation of the
blend, blending node to node, blending on a path, etc. Blends in Corel
are far easier and offer much more variety and control than Freehand
provides. Blended fills are even more of a nuisance in Freehand. After
you draw an object you click on the unlabeled blend icon in the object
inspector. Then you select from a list of 9 types of fills.
Unfortunately for the user, most of these fills are visible only on a
piece of paper after being printed on a Postscript printer. Apparently
the phrase WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) is unknown to the
folks at Macromedia. You can see the basic solid color fill, graduated
fill, radial fill and pattern fill which are editable bitmap patterns
that print at a fixed resolution. Every graduated and radial fill
displayed on my 32 bit color monitor was heavily banded. There is
nothing in the Freehand "manual" or on-line help that explains how to
specify the number of steps. When I pasted the filled objects into my
word processor or into CorelDraw it looked as if it defaulted to 256
steps and was very smooth. It looked very banded in Freehand, however.
Color selection for the fills is another problem in Freehand. When a
graduated fill is selected in the fill inspector it immediately goes
from black to white. Selection of a color other than black or white
must be made in the color mixer. Any attempt to drag and drop a color
other than black or white to the to/from boxes in the fill inspector
results in a dialog box that pops up and says "could not complete the
Set Fill command because some graduated or radial fills would contain
invalid color combinations." This statement is untrue. If a color is
dragged and dropped from the color mixer to the filled object itself
the blend immediately accepts the color. Once you first drag and drop a
color into the filled object you can then drag and drop colors into the
fill inspector. The manual does not mention this apparent bug.
CorelDraw 5 has fill options that are almost too numerous to list. In
addition to linear and radial fills you also have conical and square
ones. All are instantly available from the fill rollup. A wide variety
of color options are presented and up to 256 steps are a mouse click
away. You can also easily create custom blends that go from one color
to another color then to yet another color, etc. In the square and
conical modes, they looked like something you would create with Kai's
Power Tools. With tile fills Corel once again is vastly superior to
Freehand. Nearly any graphic image can be used to create a tile effect.
Corel Draw also has dozens of bitmaps available to work with.CorelDraw,
on top of everything else, has a pattern editor that allows you to
create any pattern you may want. I dearly love one of the fill options
 in CorelDraw. It is a texture fill that allows you to apply bitmap
texture fills to any object. I counted a total of 186 basic fills that
include minerals, leather, shells, rocks, etc. built in to CorelDraw.
All of these are easily edited. For example you can quickly and easily
create purple marble with orange and green veins if you so desire. All
colors are instantly changeable as is the brightness, density, etc.
Freehand allows none of this. The Freehand "manual" states and I quote
"You can create a tiled fill using anything cut or copied and pasted
except for EPS and bitmap graphics and other tiled fills." In other
words if you draw a simple primitive such as a circle or square object,
copy it to the clipboard, then paste it into the object inspector, it
can then be used as a fill. Nothing else can. The next area I explored
was artistic text work. In Freehand you extrude text using the zoom
dialog box where you zoom to a specified percentage of the existing
text's size. You offset the zoom in the X and Y directions by a
percentage amount and you zoom from one color to another. In CorelDraw
5, once again, you have almost too many options. The extrude rollup
comes with 47 preset extrude options that incorporate a variety of
blended colors and bitmap graphics. The vanishing point can be easily
set, the front or back can be made larger or smaller as you wish, the
extruded text can be easily rotated in 3D space, 3 different light
sources can be easily controlled, etc. Any of the aforementioned 186
basic fills may also be used on the extruded text for truly stunning
results. Text on a circle in Freehand is easy. Unfortunately the text
will only bind to the outside of the circle. CorelDraw will allow you
to put text on a path anywhere on a circle's path including following
the circle's curve on the inside of the circle. CorelDraw also allows
you to place the text tangent to the circle, text descenders below the
circle, etc. All in all CorelDraw's text on a closed path appears more
powerful and versatile. Text on a path in Freehand is simple and easy.
Just draw a crooked path, type your words, select them both and  use
the type/bind to path drop down menu. You can also type your text
directly on the path which is something you can't do in CorelDraw. In
CorelDraw you draw your path, type you text and activate the fit text
to path rollup where once again you are faced with a wide variety of
choices. The text can be justified left, center and right on the line.
The text can be placed above, below or through the middle of the line.
The text can easily be placed upside down. Freehand has none of these
features. By now I grew very weary of comparing CorelDraw with
Freehand. Virtually every time I pitted them head to head it was like
pitting Pop Warner football against the NFL. I decided to concentrate
on Freehand to see if it could do some things that CorelDraw couldn't.
Freehand has a terrific polygon tool. This tool allows you to draw any
type of regularly shaped polygon with as many points as you wish. You
can make stars, pentagons, octagons, etc. very easily. CorelDraw 5
doesn't have this feature. Freehand can draw a wide variety of spirals
clockwise or counter clockwise very easily. The distance between the
spirals can be easily adjusted as can several other aspects of spirals.
CorelDraw 5 doesn't have this feature either, although I believe
CorelDraw 6 does have these features. At least that's what the
CorelDraw 6 manual says. I'm sure Freehand 5 can do a few other things
CorelDraw 5 can't do but frankly after several days of slogging through
Freehand's "manual" I got to the point that I just didn't want to fool
around with it any more. I found Freehand's interface unfriendly. The
manual is tiny, terse, flimsy and disintegrated after a week of use. I
had to staple the thing together with a heavy duty stapler. CorelDraw 5
can do many, many things that Freehand 5 cannot. CorelDraw 5 has a
powerline feature that allows you to draw lines that taper and expand
by any amount you specify. Bullet, teardrop, trumpet, woodcut and wedge
are some of the shapes available. CorelDraw 5 has a lens feature that
allows you to magnify any portion of an image you may wish as if you
had a magnifying glass over it. It will also invert, heat map,
brighten, etc. a portion of an image. CorelDraw 5 also has a contour
feature that is sort of like a combination of blend and gradients on a
path. It has to been seen to be appreciated. CorelDraw 5 has the color
bar across the bottom of the screen so control of fill and line colors
is just a mouse click away. In summation I must conclude that from my
point of view, Freehand is a few years behind CorelDraw 5. This is
pretty sad considering that CorelDraw 5 is already nearly 2 years old.
I also found Freehand's online help very pathetic compared to
CorelDraw. You never know what any of Freehand's icons are for since
there is no bubble or text information displayed when the cursor is
placed over them. Also, a quick perusal of any large book store will
reveal 10 or more after market books on CorelDraw 5 with CD-ROM
tutorials, lessons, practice work, etc. I have been able to locate just
one book on Freehand. It is for the Mac and doesn't include a CD-ROM.
Perhaps the shining star of the Freehand Studio is Xres. I first bought
Xres 1.2 from Fauve software. I couldn't use it much because it locked
up my computer all the time. When I first installed Xres 2.0 I was
initially ecstatic. It would easily open a 40 MB Xres file in just a
couple of seconds. However I quickly tempered my excitement because KPT
3.0 is not available in the Xres mode. Xres does have a terrific
gradient designer built in that does work in the Xres mode. Their
gradient designer easily rivals KPT 3.0. Xres initially seems to be a
cross between Photoshop and Painter. My photographer/artist friend was
even more ecstatic than I am since she does nearly all of her work in
those two applications. She said that the brush has options that even
her Painter 3.1 lacks. One of my favorite things to do is to take an
existing image and clone it to another image using the stamp tool. I
like to use different types of brushes to achieve various effects. When
I tried to clone an image in Xres I wasn't able to. Xres does not allow
you to clone from one image to a different image. This is very
distressing considering all the cool artistic brushes and textures in
Xres. Corel Photopaint does not have this problem. You can easily clone
any image you wish into another image while using any brush Corel
Photopaint has. The brush and texture options are quite extensive in
Xres. I counted 20 fundamental types of brushes and each has several
parameters. For example, under the "styles" brush type you have
pointillist, cubist, Van Gogh, rice, spray, nature, glass and hav. Lets
say you choose styles/cubist. Now you can go to the brush options
rollup and choose artistic, fast, shading, sponge, noise, tint or
contrast. Lets say you choose artist. Now you have displayed before you
10 sliders: concentration, flow, texture, smoothing, spacing,
blackness, bleed, fringe, tips and tip spacing. The brush shape rollup
allows you to set the  brushes shape as to aspect, size, square or
round, angle, edge softness and anti-aliasing. There are also 40
textures that can be applied to brushes. My photographer/artist
friend's eyes quickly became very bright and happy when she started
playing with these brushes. Corel Photopaint has more brush options
than I realized although I don't think they compare that favorably with
Xres. I never realized how much Corel Photopaint could do until I began
this comparison. I started thinking back to almost 2 years ago when I
first purchased these CorelDraw 5 applications and realized that I had
been using Micrographx Picture Publisher extensively. Then I got
Photoshop, went through the 2 Adobe classroom in a book series so I
never really used Corel Photopaint much at all. Corel Photopaint does
have a basic brush, pointillism (colored dots), impressionism (colored
lines), artist brush, air brush and spray can. Each brush except the
artist brush has 56 basic shapes that can be used. Each brush has a set
of controls associated with it. For example the pointillism brush
allows control over the variance of hue, saturation, lightness, and t
he number of dots, brush spread, fade out and spacing. It is very easy
to make the dots square, round, oval, etc. plus any of the 56 basic
shapes can be used. I would have to give the edge to Xres in the brush
department but not by much. Corel Photopaint has all the 186 basic
fills that CorelDraw has. Xres has nothing like it. Xres will fill a
background color but only in direct mode. Fills in the Xres mode are
not permitted. The gradient tool Xres has is absolutely superb. If you
have ever used Kai's Power Tools gradient designer then you will be
pleased. It is almost as good and it does work in the Xres mode. It has
30 preset color schemes and they can be line, ellipse, rectangle, cone,
diamond, hyperbola, pinch, satin and folds. Corel Photopaint can do
some pretty nice gradients and a lot of control is available but I like
Xres better. When it comes to special effects though I'm afraid Xres
takes a back seat to Corel Photopaint. Xres has sharpen (basic,
luminosity, unsharp mask), blur (simple, gaussian, radial, motion),
noise (add, add HLS), distort (cylinder, fisheye, ripple, wave
whirlpool), stylize (colorize, diffuse, emboss, find edge, glowing
edge, mosaic, posterize, solarize, tint) and other (maximum, minimum,
medium, offset, threshold). Xres also allows color inversion,
brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, levels, curves, balance, etc.
Corel Photopaint has artist effects (pointillism, impressionism), color
(brightness and contrast), gamma, hue saturation, tone map), mapping
(glass block, impressionism, map to sphere, pinch, punch, pixelate,
ripple, smoked glass, swirl, tile, vignette, wet paint, wind), noise
(add, maximum, medium, minimum, remove), sharpen (adaptive unsharp,
directional sharpen, edge enhance, enhance, sharpen, unsharp mask),
soften, (diffuse, directional smooth, smooth, soften), special
(contour, posterize, psychedelic, solarize, threshold), tone (equalize)
and transformations (3D rotate, mesh warp, perspective). The great
thing about Corel Photopaint is the degree of control allowed. For
example, artistic impressionism allows control of number of brushes (1
to 20), brush scatter (1 to 10), brush steps (1 to 100 both X and Y),
brush edge (hard, medium, soft), density (0 to 100), transparency (0 to
100), fade out (1 to 100), spacing (0 to 100), color variation (0 to 50
for hue, saturation, lightness each), stroke length (1 to 200), stroke
direction (8 different all infinitely adjustable) and starting point
(top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right). All effects in Corel
Photopaint can be previewed. My favorite effect in Corel Photopaint is
the mesh warp. With this effect you can easily and quickly stretch or
compress any part of any image. For example, the red pickup truck that
comes with Photoshop is rather chunky looking in real life. It can
easily and quickly be warped to be low, long and sleek with the mesh
warp effect. All in all I would have to conclude that both Xres and
Corel Photopaint have some very strong pluses and minuses. Xres is far
superior for performing basic tasks on very large files. Its brush
painting effects are probably better. For just about everything else
though Corel Photopaint comes out on top in my opinion.
Let's see what else Freehand Studio has to offer. Fontographer is
certainly unsurpassed in the creation of fonts. I wish I had this
application 3 or 4 years ago when I was creating fonts with CorelDraw
2.1. It was quite a chore but was doable. Fonts can be created in
CorelDraw 5. I have never done it but the directions are in the manual.
Ever since I spent $40 for Fantazia's CD-ROM with 2000 fonts I have
never needed any more. Plus CorelDraw comes with several hundred fonts,
far more than come with Freehand Studio. Extreme 3D is the 3D
application that comes with Freehand Studio. I will readily concede
that CorelDraw 5 has nothing comparable. CorelMove has lots of cartoon
clips and sound effects but it is no match for Extreme 3D. CorelMove is
very user friendly however and I think Extreme 3D could be a lot more
user friendly than it is. I really don't like reaching across the key
board to reach the F3 and F4 keys when I should be using the control
and alt keys as Macintosh users do. John Dowdell stated that this was
necessary on the PC because Windows uses those keys. I've been using
the control and alt keys with Photoshop and many other applications for
years without any complaining from Windows. Of course extreme 3D is a
3D application and they are always harder to use than 2D applications.
So, because of that, I would think extra effort would be expended to
make it as user friendly as possible.
As for the rest of the stuff that comes with these 2 suites, I made the
statement that the clipart that came with Freehand Studio was a joke, a
very bad joke. I stand by that statement. Most of the clipart that
comes with Freehand Studio consists of one bit images like I used to
purchase 5 years ago for use in WordPerfect 5.1. There isn't all that
much of it either. Corel's clipart, on the other hand, numbers in the
thousands from a wide variety of clipart houses. To be specific, I was
asked to provide clipart for the newsletter for the local Meals on
Wheels program. They are one of the many agencies whose computer
resources I manage. I found about a dozen or so images of elderly
people in wheelchairs, with walkers, with canes, with grandkids, etc.
in Corel's clipart. A perusal of Freehand's clipart reveals just a few
one bit images of elderly people. I reiterate, Freehand Studio's
clipart is a joke, a bad joke. The Corel Graphics package also includes
Corel Trace, Corel Capture, Corel Show, Corel Query, Corel Database
Editor/Converter/Publisher, Corel Chart, Corel Kern, Corel Mosaic and
Ventura Publisher. Corel Trace is for electronically tracing bitmap
images into vector graphic images. It has many options and I've used it
but I've never been satisfied with the results. Corel Capture is a
terrific screen capture utility that I've used a lot. It has many
options and works great under Windows 3.1 however I've not been able to
get it to work under Windows 95. Of course it's nearly 2 years old now.
Corel Show is a presentation application somewhat similar to Freelance
or PowerPoint. I have never used it but it can use animations created
in CorelMove, comes with 150 backgrounds, does charting and a whole lot
more. Corel Query and all the database stuff is for analyzing database
information. I've never used any of it. Corel Kern is for modifying the
kerning pairs that are found in .pfm files. I've never used it either.
Corel Mosaic is a catalog creator for fonts, images, sound files and
animation files. I've used it a lot and it's great. I can quickly and
easily preview any and all fonts I might have on a CD-ROM before I
install them. I can preview a wide variety of graphic images with
mosaic. It is a very useful utility. Ventura Publisher is an
application that is in competition with Page Maker, Quark Express and
Frame Maker. I don't think its as good as any of those applications but
on the other hand I've never used any of them or Ventura Publisher. So
in closing I cannot in good conscience recommend Freehand Studio for
the average user. If you plan on creating fonts, then by all means get
Fontographer. If you routinely work on very large images, then by all
means get Xres. If you want a pretty decent 3D application, then
investigate Extreme 3D. If you want a good vector drawing application,
then do not buy Freehand. It is, in my opinion, the most over rated
graphics application on the market. Also, I do not recommend Freehand
Studio unless you really need more than one of the included
applications. The CorelDraw graphics package has approximately 90% of
the PC market for many very valid reasons. So, after spending nearly 20
hours on this comparison, I'm off to install CorelDraw 6.

Roger A. Moncrief