CorelDRAW is one of the great business graphics programs. It came out many years ago, one of the first heavy-duty programs of its type, and remains a mainstay to this day.

It’s a great program, revised many times, but with a fairly steep learning curve. Now its namesake maker has come out with

a simpler version, keeping most of the features but cutting the learning time from a month or more to just a few days. The new program is CorelDRAW Essentials 2, $80 list price from Corel (www.corel.com), $70 from many discounters on the Web. The training CD that comes with it is the best we’ve ever seen.

Essentials contains graphics, page layout, photo editing and photo album management. One simple feature lets you click on any thumbnail in a group and it pops up full screen. Shrink it, spiral it or make it into a pie chart. Place any text or graphic on a page and bend it as you wish. Make the page any size. Print or publish to the Web.

Corel owns Painter and Bryce, two famous and sophisticated programs for adding painting effects to a picture and creating fantastic landscapes. Some of these features have been incorporated into this slightly truncated version of CorelDRAW. It also includes a CD with 100,000 photos and pieces of clip art and 250 templates for creating business cards, stationery, brochures, fliers, etc. It turned out the best-looking envelope we’ve ever made.

All in all, this is a major league program for a minor league price. CorelDRAW Essentials 2 is available in English or German, with Spanish and French available soon. The program runs on Windows 2000 or XP.

Internuts

Check out www.marginalrevolution.com: An eclectic collection of thoughts, odd facts and interesting research. A study at McMaster University in Ontario found that when young men are shown pictures of attractive young women it affects their judgment. When women are shown pictures of attractive young men it has no effect on their judgment. (Just as we always suspected.) And … the highest earning British artist last year was a guy who put sharks in formaldehyde. That was worth $20 million.

Also at www.aircraftdealer.com: Used and new aircraft, including military. Has pictures. How about a LearJet for just $3 million? Climbs faster than a jet fighter.

At www.aerotrade.biz: A large marketplace for airplanes, helicopters, gliders, etc. Server is based in Prague, but the planes are everywhere. Need any fighters or troop transporters?

Bluetooth Cavity

We took a look at Concord’s new wireless Bluetooth digital camera, the Eye-Q. Bluetooth is an industry protocol used for wireless transmission over short distances. The odd name recalls 10th-century Danish King Harald Blatan, who had, well, a blue tooth. The camera is intended to let you transmit pictures to a cell phone or handheld computer.

The Eye-Q lists for $150 and has a 2-megapixel resolution. Transmission range is given as 30 feet and the manual notes you can only transmit one picture at a time, each one taking about five seconds.

We were unable to try any of this as the camera didn’t work, fresh out of the box. If you’re thinking of one of these for a gift, try it out before wrapping it up, lest there be a big disappointment for the recipient. Web info: www.concord-camera.com.

Bluetooth-enabled cameras are a fairly rare item. Sony has one for around $700.

Books

“”Word 2003 for Dummies”” by Dan Gookin; $22, Wiley Publishing (www.wiley.com).

All the “”Dummies”” books are good, but this one is more valuable than most. There are hundreds of useful tips: Clicking on a word twice marks that word, which can then be deleted by hitting the delete key; clicking three times defines a whole paragraph. Control-delete marks a sentence, control-X cuts it out, and if you move the cursor to a new location, control-V pastes it back in. We tried these and many other useful shortcuts on Microsoft Word 97 as well as the Word 2003 of the title, and they worked on both versions.

There’s an interesting historical sidelight here: The author, Dan Gookin, has written more than 90 computer books and wrote the very first “”Dummies”” book: “”DOS for Dummies.”” It was the best-selling book in America for several months, though it was never listed in The New York Times best-seller list.

Games

Three for adventurers: Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna, from Microsoft; Gothic II, from Atari; and The Hobbit, from Sierra. Legends of Aranna is an expansion pack, but also contains the original game.

These belong to a genre of games loosely classified as Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a large genre, and a fun one as well. The adventures are all entertaining and occupy anywhere from 30 or 40 to a hundred hours of playing time, making them a good value. In general, the artwork in adventure games is representational, but Sierra’s Hobbit adventure is an exception, rendered in cartoon style. Web sites: http://thehobbit.sierra.com, www.gothic2.com, www.microsoft.com/games.

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