By Steve Bain
If you use CorelDRAW to create graphics for Powerpoint presentations or MS Word documents, you’ll be pleased to know that the export process has been vastly improved from previous versions. You can now use the Export For Office dialog (below) to optimize your graphics for excellent results every time.
In this tutorial, we’ll examine how to use the Export for Office tools to create the best possible graphics for importing into your favorite MS Office application. We’ll also investigate some of the compatibility and troubleshooting issues you should be aware of. This feature was first introduced in version 12 and so the interface you see here is CorelDRAW 12 running under Windows XP. It’s also consistent through recent versions of CorelDRAW including versions X3 and X4.
Browsing the Tools
The Export For Office dialog features several standard conveniences for previewing your CorelDRAW graphic before exporting it (see below). You can click the Zoom In or Zoom Out tool buttons to interactively change the view, or you can click the Hand Tool button to pan through a zoomed-in view.
You’ll also notice three drop-down menus at the top of the dialog. The first drop-down menu enables you to specify the destination application for your exported drawing; the second and third drop-down menus provide further options. Below the preview window, CorelDRAW estimates the size of the file you’re about to export, based on your menu selections.
Weighing the Options
Depending on which options you choose, the graphic you export can be prepared in different ways, meaning that it can be saved in one of several file formats. The main question you need to answer is whether you plan to import the drawing into WordPerfect Office or into one of the Microsoft Office suite applications – such as Word, Access, Publisher, or PowerPoint.
If you choose WordPerfect Office, you’ll ultimately be setting WPG (WordPerfect Graphic) as the format for your graphic file, which makes it fully compatible and editable in WordPerfect after it has been imported. If your graphic is destined for a Microsoft Office application, however, you’ll have a few more options to ponder.
At this point, you need to choose between one of two conditions for your graphic from the second menu: Compatibility or Editing (see below). This rather pivotal fork in the road helps you determine whether the exported file will become a bitmap image, in which case the individual objects cannot be edited, or a collection of vector objects, which for the most part can be altered with the basic editing and drawing tools in Microsoft Office applications.
Choosing Compatibility sets the final format to PNG (Portable Network Graphics), whereas choosing the Editing option sets the final format to EMF (Extended Windows Metafile). You’ll next discover why these two specific file formats are best suited to their respective graphic types.
Evaluating the Graphic Formats
To import a picture into a Microsoft Office application, you just choose the Insert > Picture > From File command from within the application (or click the Insert Picture button on the Picture toolbar) and browse to the PNG or EMF graphic you created. In case you’re wondering which file format you should be using, let’s take a walk through the finer points on how these two graphic file formats differ.
Let’s start with the PNG format, which is what you get if you choose Compatibility as your export preference. Often pronounced as “ping,” this special bitmap file format features a wide range of capabilities, but its real strength is lossless compression, meaning that the PNG format can store a high degree of detail and color without compromising picture quality or inflating file size. The PNG format is also capable of storing other properties, like alpha channel masks and objects with varying degrees of transparency. Because it supports a color depth of up to 16.7 million colors, it is superior to other lossless-compression formats, such as the popular GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), which is used for many Web graphics.
If you choose the Compatibility option as your export priority, you also need to specify a destination option for the PNG file you’re about to create. The Optimized For menu contains three options: Presentation, Desktop Printing, and Commercial Printing. Choosing one of these options (see below) sets the resolution of the file to a specific number of dots per inch (dpi). Resolution essentially determines the amount of pixel detail in a bitmap. Although screen image requires a relatively low resolution, higher resolutions are needed for various levels of print reproduction quality.
Choosing the Presentation option produces a PNG graphic with a resolution of 72 dpi, which is ideal for PowerPoint users. If you choose either Desktop Printing or Commercial Printing, the PNG graphic features a resolution of 150 or 300 dpi, respectively. All files are exported using RGB (red, green, blue) colors, and anti-aliasing is automatically applied to smooth the appearance of object and text edges.
If you choose Editing as your export priority, you’ll be exporting an EMF file. Unlike the PNG bitmap format, EMF files are device independent, meaning that they can include vector objects as well as bitmaps. Objects you export are preserved after they reach the Microsoft Office application. To begin editing your picture, right-click it and choose Edit Picture. In the most recent Microsoft Office suite, a prompt appears. For example, if you’re using PowerPoint, you’ll be asked to confirm the operation by clicking Yes in this dialog:
To edit the individual picture elements, right-click the picture group and choose Grouping > Ungroup. From there, you’ll be able to use tools from the Microsoft Office drawing toolbar (see below) to fine-tune your drawing.
As you begin to edit your drawing, you may discover that a few things have been lost during the translation, and certain object types may not be what you’d expect. Here are some of the common pitfalls to avoid if you plan on editing:
- Long Text Strings: Text that spans multiple lines in your CorelDRAW document is imported into the Microsoft Office application as separate objects, one for each line of text:
- Combined Fills and Outlines: Each object applied with both fill and outline properties is imported as two separate objects, each representing the fill and outline portions.
- Outline Styles: The outline styles in CorelDRAW are not compatible with Microsoft Office. For example, each dash in a patterned line is imported as a separate shape:
- Special Fill Colors: Fountain fills applied to objects are converted to collections of solid-colored objects. This means that a single object filled with fountain color could potentially result in hundreds of objects on export (like the conical fill shown below). Objects with two-color, full-color, texture, and bitmap fills are each converted to bitmap objects. Here is how a typical object applied with a conical fill appears during editing in PowerPoint:
- Complex PostScript Fills: The objects that make up the detail in PostScript pattern fills are each converted to separate objects when exported. The pattern itself can be edited after import only on an object-by-object basis. This complex arrangement was once a Colored Leaves PostScript pattern applied to a rectangle:
- CorelDRAW-Specific Effects: The dynamically linked objects created by effects – such as blends, contours, drop shadows, and extrusions – are imported as separate objects, and the dynamic link is eliminated.
- Shadows and Transparency: Drop shadows and objects with transparency effects that are applied with the CorelDRAW 12 Interactive Transparency Tool are imported as bitmap objects.
- Special Object Types: Rectangles, ellipses, polygons, and objects applied with distortion or envelope effects are imported as ordinary shapes.
In general, the wisest strategy to follow when preparing your CorelDRAW graphics for export and editing in a Microsoft Office application is to keep things relatively simple. For best results, use the features of each program for the tasks in which they’re most efficient, and consider following these rules of thumb:
- Although small strings of text created in CorelDRAW are easily converted and can be edited or applied with Text Effects after they are imported, it may be more efficient to use the dedicated text tools in the Microsoft Office application to enter text that is longer than a single line.
- Use the Microsoft Office Fill Effects dialog tools (see below) to apply gradient color as an alternative to editing the CorelDRAW fountain fills. This is likely the best strategy for applying other special fill types, such as pattern, texture, or bitmap fills, or for applying transparency to objects. Transparency can be applied by using the Fill Effects in the Microsoft Office program.
- Use the Microsoft Office program to apply any outline styles, such as dashes or stripes, to your lines after you import them instead of using the outline styles featured in CorelDRAW.
A Few More Tips for Office Exporting
Here are several more points to consider when you export to Microsoft Office applications. If you’re exporting from a multipage document, keep in mind that Export For Office exports only one page at a time and only from the current page in view. Moreover, in order for objects to be included in the export, they must be inside the page boundary or at least straddle the edge of the page. Any objects outside the page boundary are left out.
If you’d like to export only a portion of your drawing, just select your specific objects. When you do this, the Export For Office command automatically omits all other objects (provided they are at least partially on the document page). Proceed with caution, though. If you’re exporting for compatibility (that is, if you’re using a PNG graphic), watch for objects that reach the edge of the exported image. In such cases, it may be wise to create an invisible border around your arrangement of objects to add an artificial boundary.
If your document page has a colored background applied in CorelDRAW, this background is included – regardless of whether specific objects are selected. Vector-based EMF picture files include the background as a separate rectangle, which can be edited or deleted if necessary.
Although the filter types used by the Export For Office command are the same as the filters that are available when you use the main Export command in CorelDRAW 12, the Export for Office dialog dramatically streamlines the decision-making process making the export operation relatively foolproof. Using the tips and tricks covered here, you can optimize your drawings for better results when you import them into your office suite application.
Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and the author of nearly a dozen books, including CorelDRAW: The Official Guide.