Mon, 10 Jan 2000

Corel Print Office 2000 could use a lot of improvements

By Zatni Arbi

JAKARTA (JP): When I visited the well-known Danish pump company Grundfos last year, there was something that really struck me as a very useful idea. Many of the managers and employees had their photograph on their business cards. It was very useful to journalists who were still so sleepy because of jet lag and therefore found it difficult to memorize the name of every individual that they met. With the photo, they could easily use the card to remind themselves that the marketing manager, who was speaking in front of them, went by the name Jeff Gaestenzhorn, for example. This is probably one more thing that globe-trotting professionals can learn from the Danes: put your photo on your business card.

Talking about business cards, wouldn't it be nice if they were also equipped with a chip and a tiny speaker that would pronounce the name each time we press them against our ear? That would help us a lot in learning how to pronounce the people's names correctly in their native tongue. Now, anybody out there interested in starting a new business venture that manufactures "Talking Business Cards"? They would certainly be a great hit among international businesspeople.

Anyway, before we have such smart business cards, here's a software package I have received from Corel Corp. that will enable you to design your own business card with your photo on it. For the review, I just designed an Idul Fitri card in a quick and dirty manner. Certainly you can create a much more impressive card than this one.


Corel Print Office 2000 is the successor of Corel Print House, which I reviewed early last year. It consists of Corel Print Office 5, Corel Photo House 5 and Corel Web Designer. As usual, Corel has also thrown in a slew of extras including CorelCENTRAL 9, more than 25,000 clipart images, more than 10,000 photos, more than 2,500 templates, more than 2,500 Web specific images and 300 fonts. No wonder the package comes in three CD-ROMs.

Starting a new project is easy. The main menu, which Corel now calls "Home", is shown in the accompanying screenshot. The menus, while quite intuitive, are organized in a notebook style. You have to click on the tabs on the left to go to the list of menus that you need. At the bottom of the notebook, there are also three different tabs: Guides, Properties and Catalog.

The Guides menus, as the name indicates, leads us step by step as we work on our project -- a newsletter, a brochure, a sign, a banner, a resume, a letterhead, a fax cover page, an invoice, anything that a SOHO or do-it-yourself small business owner may ever need. The Properties enable us to apply preset effects or create our own effects. The Catalog basically lets us browse the contents of the CD-ROMs.

Creating the card in the accompanying illustration was very straightforward. I chose a sample in Corel Print Office and then replaced all the text. I then loaded Corel Photo House, opened a scanned photo of my family, and applied the Edge fading transparency effect. I tinkered a little bit with the amount of fading so that my blangkon (Javanese cap) would still be visible. When I got the image that I liked, I clicked the right mouse button, clicked Copy, moved to Corel Print Office, clicked the right mouse button again, and clicked Paste. Bingo!

Doing simple projects like this one does not require us to look up the 134-page manual. The program felt pretty zippy despite the processor speed (233 MHz) that may be considered feeble by today's standard.


Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that leave a lot to be desired. For starters, the navigation buttons (Back, Home, Next) are found at the very bottom of the notebook, forcing us to move our mouse a long way across the mouse pad. It would be much nicer if they were located just at the end of the menu list so the mouse cursor wouldn't have to travel very far each time we want to click on these buttons.

I still encountered a glitch in Corel Photo House. Once an effect was applied, I wasn't able to undo it by pressing Ctrl-Z or Alt-Backspace. I had to go over to the Edit menu on top and click on the Undo menu item. The funny thing is that next to the Undo item Corel had added the Ctrl-Z alternative, which did not work.

Corel Print Office seemed to have a bug, too. Sometimes the cursor changed to hourglass and I was not really sure what the program was doing. I simply had to wait. In addition, Corel uses nonstandard icons for buttons to move up one level in the folder directory or to move up to the root directory. I only knew what the icons were for by placing the cursor over them and waiting until the balloon explanation appeared.

The menus are not consistently organized, either. Sometimes Corel put a Proceed button at the bottom, and the Advanced button under the Open menu in Corel Photo House simply calls the standard Windows Open file dialog box.

When I tried to open a Webpage that had been saved on my hard disk in Corel Web Designer, the page did not load properly. I got the strong impression that this software was included as an afterthought, and therefore it was not very compelling to explore it further.

Final words

It's a pity that Corel, which has been the leader in graphics software for PCs, does not seem to allocate more resources to the development of this package. It seems that the revision of the Corel Print House was not seriously done. This may be the result of Corel's increasing involvement in the development of Linux (Corel will soon release its own Linux package, and Corel has made its WordPerfect for Linux available for free for quite some time).

Until Corel steps up its effort in making Corel Print Office a great graphics software package for business users who do not have the time to learn heavy-duty software such as CorelDraw, I must admit that Microsoft's Publisher offers far better tools to create business communication materials quickly and easily. (