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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Released in 2010, Serif's graphic design & drawing software `DrawPlus x4' was set with Serif's usual software brief - to deliver powerful software in a user-friendly and easy to learn package. The result is this impressive piece of software that really allows your every-day user to get involved with the many features it offers, and really get creative from the outset.

The installation itself is a doddle (as per usual). The software comes on one CD-ROM which automatically sets itself to the installation process. A few clicks, the odd confirmation, a wait of 5-10 mins, and you're set to go. Early on in using the software, it checks for any updates (so you'll need to be online for this to happen) and it'll download any updates/patches etc for you. It also asks you to register the software with Serif (and as such join their mailing list) but this can always be declined or postponed if you prefer.

From the start it's easy to get to grips with the usability and various basic features of the software. Just having a play around shows how straight forward and well designed the product is. All of the tools are laid out in easy to find places, with a handy `Help' section that can be quickly referred to at any given point simply by clicking to the far left of the screen (see video).

Incorporating photos and playing around with them is a piece of cake too. With no experience, background, or particular skills in `photoshoping' stuff, I easily managed to get creative with a few photos without even having to consult the help section.

The sheer variety of brushes available for `painting' with is incredible. Just scrolling down the list alone pretty much sums up the capability of this package. The various effects that can be superimposed on to your picture/photo/design are just as simple to use and offer another incredible range.

The animation application does require a little guidance from the help section, but once you've got the hang of this relatively straight forward process, you can then easily put together basic animations (say for a website or just a bit of fun).

The real strength of this package is the simplicity of it. It's not aimed at professional designers. Its market is your everyday user who wants to be a little creative. Whether it's for a website you're building, for leaflets & flyers, or just for a bit of fun, this software offers everything from a quick and easy to use drawing package, to a quite impressive piece of designing software.

The attached video pretty much sums it up really. If you're looking for a drawing & design package that you can get stuck into without hardly any guidance or experience, then this is for you.
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Although Draw Plus is an excellent programme the latest version X4 contained in my opinion only minor changes over X3 with two exceptions. It will now load complete PDF files rather than just one page and the reason I bought this upgrade is that it now supports pressure sensitive lines when using a pen tablets (it is particularly effective with the Wacom Intuos4).
Minor improvements include:
Adding Text automatically to any line or shape.
Upgraded keyboard shorcuts.
Additional Brushes.
Better Connector Tools.

For anyone who has read my review on the X3 version it still does not support the .ico format. The other thing to check is if the package you buy comes with the excellent User Guide, I much prefer this to the on line help or the PDF version included in the CD. Also if you want to find out about all of its extensive features the manual is available on the Serif web site so you can look before you buy.
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
To begin with, I used this product on my computer with specs of: Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit, with 2GB RAM & a AMD Athlon 64 X2 Duel Core Processor 5000+ 2.61GHz.

It will ask for the licence-key as soon as you start it up, so make sure you have the key ready for imput.
I was really surprised that it only took 5 minutes to installed and to top it off their is no need to restart the computer so you can get stuck in straight away.

If you've used programs like these before then you aren't going to have any problem at all, but for beginners like me you might think to yourself "What do I do!?", no need to panic though as their are video tutorials explaining clearly how to start off with the main basics, and some advanced techniques which were great to watch and easy to copy.

For more advanced tutorials just press the "F1" key and a help bar will pop up explaining pretty much everything you need to know in a well organised page, and they even have pictures as well as text to help you with your needs.

Once you get used to the program and read the tutorials, you are going to love this program and the fact that this software runs so smoothly, it will be an enjoyable experience.

Overall it's a great piece of software that is available for a great price compared to other software's out their, I would definitely have to recommend this.
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VINE VOICEon 28 June 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Packaging
DrawPlus X4 comes in a slimline DVD case containing a single CD-ROM. There is no printed manual but there is a PDF of the full version of the paper manual which gets installed. If you really want the paper version then this is available separately: DrawPlus X4 User Guide which I recommend as they are very good.

Installation
The instructions for installing are printed on the front of the Disc, and it will autorun when inserted in most cases. Once installed, you will get icons on your desktop and start menu and you are ready to go! Once you register DrawPlus there is a bonus resource pack that you can download.

First Use
When you first run DrawPlus you will be greeted by a Welcome Wizard and from here you can create a new blank canvas (or animation) to work on, open an existing file (Graphic or PDF) or choose from one of the supplied templates or samples. There is also a help tips and guides pane in the Wizard window.

Ease of use
Once you get going it is very easy to pick up what most of the tools do even without consulting the manual, and if you've ever used any other painting or illustrating program it's a breeze. All the tools are quick and easy to use yet have a large and advanced array of optional controls that allow an incredible level of control.

Features
DrawPlus is capable of turning it's hand to a number of uses. Vector graphics, Raster images, web images, Keyframe animations and stopframe animation and the creation of PDFs. While some programs may be Jack of all trades but master of none that doesn't apply here. DrawPlus is a professional level Vector Graphics creator/editor with all the tools you'll ever need and then some! From simple vector images in bold colours to complex particle effect images with variable density effects - it is all here. You can for example draw with a paintbush tool using a smoke brush just as you would in any paint program, however, your work is instantly and flawlessly converted to a series of vector paths that can be edited like any other. There is a built in Trace module that can turn even the most complex image or photo into a vector graphic illustration in seconds. Other tools include a colour palette creation and management system, a pressure studio for use with graphics tablets and there are various wizards to help you if you need it. You are also able to create your own templates and presets to use later or share.

If you want to get your images up on the net then there are tools to help from download time estimates in the export dialog to colour control, image slicing and hotspot creation.
The Raster image side of things is basic yet competent, and if you want to do more advanced stuff then you can always get PhotoPlus X3 Digital Studio (PC CD). But the tools that are there are all the ones you are likely to need.
The animation abilities are again fairly basic when compared to dedicated animation packages but when coupled with DrawPlus's powerful vector tools it is capable of producing some expert results.

Conclusion
Serif have long prided themselves in producing top quality professional level programs that are both easy enough and cheap enough for the ordinary home user, and with DrawPlus X4 they have succeeded again. Also Serif's support is very good, both by direct contact and via their forums.

Notes:
Serif DrawPlus can open the following file formats:
DrawPlus Drawings, DrawPlus Animation, DrawPlus Templates, PDF, AutoCAD, Adobe illustrator, Encapsulated Postscript, Serif Metafile Format, Scalable Vector Format, Adobe PDF

It can Import from a Photo-CD, Twain device such as a scanner or one of the folloing file formats:
Adobe Photoshop, GEM Raster, GIF, JPEG, JPEG 2000, JPEG 2000 Compressed, JPG, Kodak Flash Pix, Kodak Photo CD, Paintbrush, PhotoPlus, Portable Network Graphic, Paint Shop Pro, Paint Shop Pro Tube, TIFF, Truevision TARGA, Windows Bitmap, Windows Enhanced Metafile, Windows Metafile, Microsoft HD Photo, Encapsulated Postscript, Serif Metafile, Scalable Vector Graphic, Compressed Scalabe Vector Graphic

You can either save in DrawPlus Format or export in one of the following.
Image formats:
GIF, JPEG, JPG, Kodak Flash Pix, Microsoft HD Photo, Paintbrush, Portable Network Graphics, Scalable Vector Graphics, Serif Metafile, TIFF, Truevision TARGA format, Windows Bitmap, Windows Metafile

CAD/CAM formats:
DWG, DXF. HPGL

Video Formats;
Quicktime, Serif Transparent Video, Video for Windows, Windows media audio and video

Other formats that can be exported include PDF, Screensaver or Flash Lite/i-Mode.

All of which come with a variety of options and guides.
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on 8 September 2012
I bought this as my old Corel Draw package had been made redundant with Windows 7; very annoying but another story.
This is the old version being sold at discount price. In order to get it working you have to call Serif for a code to enter. They then do everything to avoid giving you the code and play a hard sell to buy the upgrade at considerably increased cost. I fell for it and bought the upgrade; it works extremely well and I'm very pleased with the performance. The upgrade also comes with paperback manuals which are very useful as some commands are not intuitive. Zoom for instance is on the bottom right rather than in a tool bar - bizarre! After all that, you get continual emails about promotions which fill your email inbox and seem to be impossible to stop.

Good product, pity about the service
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VINE VOICEon 28 December 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm never going to be that good at CAD, despite having training in various applications. But as a teacher, I wanted a piece of simple software to produce posters, T shirt designs etc. of a decent professional quality. It's taken a while, which is my fault in finding the time to practice rather than the software, (The video tutorials enclosed are excellent) but I'm knocking out stuff I'm very happy with. Whether the results compare with Photoshop etc. I've no idea, but for a technnophobe butterfingers like meself, I'm really pleased with the outcomes.
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
DrawPlus is a Corel-Draw-type vector drawing application, with a clean, uncluttered layout and some deceptively simple-looking drawing tools. It lacks the integration of photo-editing and vector capability you get with Corel PaintShop Pro X3 (PC DVD). If you want both, then you'd do worse than investigate PhotoPlus X3 Digital Studio (PC CD) as a companion program. DrawPlus will load PSD and PSP files as well as it's own format and all standard image file types.

The tools include pencil, brush, pen/straightline, a freeform paint/erase/knife tool, a node editor and connector, a quick shapes tool and an artistic/frame text tool (there's no airbrush). For editing, there are fills, transparency, shadows, enveloping, perspective, roughing and blend. There are helpful flyouts that tell you how to use each tool, although most of it is fairly intuitive. There's a flyout at the bottom where you can see all the pages you're working on. It took me a moment or two to find the layers palette - it's hiding under the brushes on the right.

The clipart gallery is OK, but nothing special. It ould be useul if you needed to get some artwork out in a hurry. Other than that, there's no unnecessry clutter

My little Wacom tablet works fine as a pressure-sensitive input device: you can calibrate the ressure profile to suit your stye and device.

There's an option to create little animations, too, and export them in SWF, Flash Lite or as a screensaver, although I haven't tried this.

If you're used to one tool, it will inevitably take a little getting used to another, but the power and flexibility of DrawPlus X4 is quite impressive. Fair enough, it doesn't have the pedigree of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 - Home & Student (PC CD), but it gets the job done. It's licensed for one user on two computers (eg. laptop and desktop).

Note: If you don't want to speak to a Serif employee when you get asked to register your product - they're very friendly, but they will try to sell you things - you can register on the Serif webpage. This gets rid of the "please remember to register" nag screens.
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VINE VOICEon 11 July 2010
This is a great product for the casual user who needs the odd design. It is impressively easy to pick up and use and you can very quickly turn around artwork, logos and even flash animations. The help and training provision is excellent with video tutorials and detailed context sensitive help pages.

Drawplus lacks some of the polish and functional depth you get with the Adobe product set but for most users it's more than sufficient and since they won't be using it all day the minor niggles and under tested areas will not cause too much problems.

All in all an excellent package aimed for the home/casual user and easily fulfils 90% of demands. Top value.
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on 27 August 2011
I have been using Serif products for many years on and off. I found Draw Plus X4 is very useful for the small amount of drawing I do now. It is also very versatile and can be used for many other things beside drawing. I would recommend it for a small business who want to do sketch's for small jobs.
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Serif DrawPlus x4 tries to make sophisticated graphic design drawing tools and techniques more accessible with a friendly user-interface and an affordable price-point and for the most part it succeeds. Anyone who's used Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW before will recognise the toolset DrawPlus offers but even without previous experience the user-interface is logical and fairly easy to understand. The basic drawing and editing tools are supplemented by a few fun and useful extras, which is welcome as DrawPlus doesn't have plug-in support to add extra third-party features or effects. The inbuilt support for pressure-sensitive graphics tablets works well and certainly adds an extra dimension to your artwork. For originating artwork it's a capable and comprehensive package, however there are some issues if you're working with existing artwork.

If you already have a library of vector artwork produced in other app's then you'll probably be able to open most of it in DrawPlus but there are limitations. Adobe Illustrator files (only PDF-compatible) are imported to be fully editable but to maintain full edit-ability you can only save them again in DrawPlus' own file format or export them as an uncompressed PDF with full edit-permissions. If you open layered EPS files these seem to get flattened into a single locked layer (unless I'm missing something?). So although it's easy to get your existing vector artwork into DrawPlus it's slightly awkward to get it back out again in a widely compatible format.

If DrawPlus is the only drawing app you ever use then it's a really good choice with a wide selection of useful tools, an accessible UI and it certainly represents great value for money compared to heavyweights like Illustrator or CorelDRAW. However, for fitting into existing workflows it might not be the most compatible co-worker available.
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