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  • Adobe Photoshop Versus Corel Photo-paint: Is the fight Over?
  • July 11, 2003

    Adobe Photoshop, the undisputed image editing program on the market, has always had at least one torn on its side, Corel's Photo-paint. For the time being, it seems that a general cease fire exists between both. Once, Adobe had to deal with the likes of Macromedia, Meta Creations, Corel, and Microsoft all at once. It still has to but the market has changed, as products and users have matured.

    Of all the companies Adobe fights, Corel is the one with the most products directly competing against the former. Whereas Adobe competes with Microsoft and Macromedia for Web authoring applications, Jacs in image editing, Apple, in video editing and motion graphics, Corel always seems to have a product to counter the graphic giant.

    Most of this ongoing competition is probably unplanned and grew out of the evolving market, during the 1990s. Adobe's first product, Illustrator, started the ball rolling. At the time, Illustrator was only available on the Macintosh platform. Corel, introduced a similar product, CorelDraw for the Microsoft Windows platform.

    Until both products were available for other operating systems, they were not direct competitors. In the mid 1990s, that changed. Whereas each company once had a captive audience, each began offering its products to its competitors' users. Still, there were differences in Adobe's and Corel's philosophies. Adobe, treated Window users as a priority. Corel did not do that with Macintosh users.

    When Adobe offered PC users Photoshop, Illustrator and other products, it created a new quality and interface design standard. Customers quickly hopped on board. When Corel offered its products to the Macintosh market, it did not offer its best and finest and lagged with updates. Moreover, Corel's products interface ran amok of the famed intuitive and researched design appreciated by Mac users.

    The very influential Macintosh user group, which was at the core of Adobe's success, dismissed products from Corel. Corel had always created products that were functional and practical. Its typical customer, at the time, was not a tenured design professional. It was a business owner, and often a one man band, who needed the practicality of Adobe, without having to buy an Apple computer.

    PC users became chic too. Microsoft Windows taught PC users that computers could be elegant and functional. Mac users always knew that. Corel didn't. To this day, there is not much effort on Corel's part to streamline the interface of its products into something elegant and simple to use, although the interface is standardized across all its products. Nevertheless, Corel's graphic programs' interface is not the best.

    Photo-paint has suffered from a lack of exposure by Corel. On its own, Corel's main product, CorelDraw could retain its user base. However, Corel markets its products differently than Adobe by always dumping a series of products, under the CorelDraw label. Photo-paint has languished beneath big brother CorelDraw for years.

    Illustrator was Adobe's first product. However, soon after Photoshop was introduced, Adobe allowed it to fly on its own. Today, Photoshop is probably the most known product from Adobe. Photo-paint has had to struggle under the negative perception of influential Macintosh users while being choked under the CorelDraw brand.

    When users install Corel Draw, they often find to their surprise a powerful image editing application tagging along the illustration program. Many of them get addicted to the product quickly and enjoy its robustness. However, Corel did not sell Photo-paint apart from CorelDraw, until recently. How can Corel convince users that it was a solid alternative to Photoshop, if steps are not taken to convey that?

    Most of the early problems of Corel Photo-paint have been fixed. It is available as a separate product from Corel. Updates for the Mac, are faster. Its user base is no longer limited to small business owners. However, other problems persist. The interface is still not as intuitive as Photoshop's. Small business owners often bypass the product completely in favour of others, like Jacs' Paint Shop Pro.

    If Photo-paint can't rely on entry users, can it go after the high end users who should recognize its power? It's difficult. Photo-paint, long known for its excellent brushes, now shares the spotlight with Painter. Painter, once sold by Meta Creations, was one of star products of the latter. Although, not as intuitive and expendable as Photoshop, it had earned the respect of hardcore users because of its unique set of tools.

    Having been added to Corel's stable of graphic products, Painter eats part of Photo-paint's market, while not necessarily helping Corel gain credibility with Macintosh users. For many, Painter is a powerful gimmick, used by fine artists only. Other power users, such as graphic and Web designer, can only hope to use the product on off days for personal projects. Painter is more than that, but the public doesn't know.

    Yet how does Photoshop and Photo-paint compare technically? Both products are mature and can handle most of graphic designers' tasks. Photo-paint has more features and options. Many regular tasks performed by designers can be done with one click buttons. Photo-paint can open and save Photoshop files. Photoshop has the best interface, a better handle on colour and is better optimized for print work.

    Both products have the same basic functions, such as layers (objects, for Photo-paint), editable text tools, several utilities to export for the Web, extensive masking abilities and a series of import and export options. Photoshop is more stable than Photo-paint. There is no point in arguing which product is better. Both, are equally suitable for most users. Everything else, depends on the user's preferences.

    This is a good news for consumers. Techniques and skills learned in one application, can easily be transferred to the other. Nevertheless, are there any uses for Photo-paint when Photoshop is the industry's standard? Photo-paint will remain the under dog. It is unlikely that this article will convince established Photoshop users. Shouldn't Corel just shut down the program and be done with it?

    No matter how many couldn't care less about the future of Photo-paint, its existence has helped make Photoshop a better product by offering many functions not available in the former, often two to three releases prior. If Photoshop had no direct competition, it would not have progressed so fast. Once, Photoshop grew exponentially during each new release. It doesn't anymore. It is a mature product.

    Photo-paint, however, continues to push the boundaries of new functions, in every new release. Sometimes, new features are added, only to be removed in the next release, because they do not work. Other times, Photo-paint users quickly adopt them, and eventually they are added to Photoshop. However, expecting Corel to fund what ultimately will benefit Adobe users is unfair.

    So are they any more uses for Photo-paint in this market? Unless Corel folds, there are lots of reasons to continue to publish Photo-paint. The first is simple. It is a good product with a solid user base. Corel should continue concentrating its effort on delivering upgrades to its established user base. Second, competition is good for end users. Third, Photo-paint is great for beginners and power users.

    Photo-paint has a range of functions that trains graphic designers' skills very well. It is more technical than Photoshop, but there is nothing wrong with that. Photoshop, strength, is that it fits the needs of the middle range professional designers. They know its power and interface, rarely strays from their common tasks, and must make a living with the product. They don't have time to learn new applications.

    However, new users entering the field will learn as much with Photo-paint as with Photoshop. Knowing the two applications, also shows potential employers, the capacity of adapting easily. Employers may look for that such difference in a r®sum®.

    For power users, Photo-paint offers movie editing tools and image editing tools in one interface. It also has a good batch program. Power users will also enjoy using both programs simultaneously to get the best of each. Whichever product is used, both will be challenging, and ultimately, rewarding. Adobe Photoshop and Corel Photo-paint are great and mature additions to any designer's arsenal.

    Coolstreak Cartoons Inc.

    Copyright ® 2003. Use of material in this document®including reproduction, modification, distribution, electronic transmission or republication®without prior written permission is strictly prohibited.


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