Customize CorelDRAW to Fit Your Workflow

By Steve Bain

cust-introIf you like the convenience of having quick access to just the right tools or commands exactly when and where you want as you work, you’ll love the customization features built into the CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite.

Changing your CorelDRAW or Corel PHOTO-PAINT® workspace lets you go wild with custom toolbars, command menus, and shortcuts to create a look and feel to suit your workflow or your tastes. Few applications enable you to radically change your user interface to this extent.

Besides the cool factor, customizing your workspace has invaluable and practical benefits. Each extra moment you spend adjusting tool settings or sifting through options can add up surprisingly quickly over the course of a task or project. Organizing and optimizing your workspace can save you time.

What makes a workspace a workspace?

So, what exactly constitutes a workspace? Essentially, a workspace is a collection of interface settings. It includes the current state and positioning of all dockers, command menus, and toolbars as well as shortcut keys and the Status Bar display. Workspaces also include any customized items you have created, such as new command menus or custom toolbars.

Workspace files in CorelDRAW use the XML file structure, which means that the files can be easily created, saved, and shared. You can create different workspaces for specific design, layout, or graphic operations, or to emulate other applications. Virtually any interface element can be moved, copied, or deleted, so you can personalize the application to suit your own work habits or needs.

In this tutorial, we’ll explore how to switch workspaces, perform toolbar customization, export your workspace, set document default settings, and restore your application to its original factory settings. That’s plenty of ground to cover, so we’d better get started. Although I’m using CorelDRAW version X3, but similar (if not identical) steps apply to more recent application versions.

Importing a saved workspace

Your current workspace is determined by the current application settings, the current document settings, or the settings saved in a workspace file that you’ve imported. You can import workspace files by using the Workspace pane of the Options dialog. To gain some hands-on experience in saving and importing workspaces into CorelDRAW, start by downloading and saving the workspace stored in this Zip file. We’ll use it next to explore and experiment with a few powerful workspace tricks. (Note: If you’ve changed your current workspace and wish to save it, be sure to perform the first three steps. Otherwise, jump to step 4.)

To save your current workspace, use these steps:

  1. With CorelDRAW (version X3 or later) running, open a new blank document (Ctrl+N), choose Tools > Options (or use the shortcut Ctrl+J), and click Workspace to view the workspace options (see below).
  2. Click the New button. In the Options dialog (see below), type My Old Workspace as the workspace name, and enter an optional description. Click OK to save the workspace.cust-02 
  3. Your old workspace is saved and is added to the workspace list (see below). The check mark indicates that the workspace is currently loaded. Click OK.cust-03With the file saved to your system, follow these steps:
  4. Return to the Workspace dialog once again (Ctrl+J) and you’ll see a list of available workspaces with a check mark beside the one you’re currently using. If you’re accessing this feature for the first time, the X3 Default Workspace is likely the one selected.
  5. To load our tutorial workspace file, click the Import button. Follow the wizard screens to locate, open, and import the tutorial workspace file (named X3 Tutorial Workspace.xslt). Be sure that all workspace items are selected, choose New Workspace, and when prompted, name the workspace My Tutorial Workspace. After you exit the wizard, the new tutorial workspace is selected in the Workspace list (see below). Click OK and close the new document window without saving any changes.

Restoring your workspace to factory defaults

At this point, you may be wondering how you’re going to undo what you’ve done so far. If necessary, you can access the workspace options any time and choose a different workspace. For example, if you’d like to load your previous workspace, simply open a new document, choose Tools > Options (Ctrl+J), place a check mark next to My Old Workspace, and click OK. Your application interface is returned to its previous state.

You can also return your workspace to its original factory default state by following these brief steps:

  1. Close CorelDRAW (or Corel PHOTO-PAINT), hold down the F8 key, and restart the application. Answer Yes to the prompt that appears (see below).cust-05
  2. In the Workspace Selector that opens (see below), choose X3 Default Workspace. Your application will continue loading using the original X3 default workspace. For now though, file this away as your ultimate back-up plan and continue exploring the workspace wonderland.cust-06

Welcome to my workspace

Take a close look at the tutorial workspace you currently have loaded. If you’re accustomed to working with the usual default workspace, you’ll notice that several things have changed, as shown below.


To begin with, a new Artwork Surfer toolbar is visible, and other interface elements, such as the command menus, Toolbox, and Status Bar, are hidden. To explore further, follow these steps:

  1. On the Artwork Surfer toolbar (see below), click the far left button. A new document window opens at default settings. If you wish, open one of your own documents by clicking the Open button on the toolbar.
  2. Explore the custom toolbar further, and you’ll see that it also provides access to view-specific tools and functions geared toward browsing a drawing file, such as the Zoom tool, activation buttons for Wireframe and Enhanced with Overprints views, and buttons to toggle the display state of the page border, bleed, ruler, text frames, and guidelines.
  3. Press Ctrl+Shift+W to execute a custom Close command shortcut – another aspect of workspace customization. You can change shortcuts in the Options dialog by clicking Customization > Commands and clicking the Shortcut Keys tab (see below).

Customizing your toolbars interactively

With the tutorial workspace still loaded, let’s do a little toolbar customization. Almost anything you see in the CorelDRAW or Corel PHOTO-PAINT interface can be moved, copied, or deleted.

You can customize any menu item, tool, or toolbar button on any new or existing menu or toolbar. You can use the Options dialog to customize command bars, but the interactive method is much more intuitive. All you need to do is drag while holding certain modifier keys:

  • Move a button or command Hold Alt while dragging to a new toolbar or menu.
  • Delete a button or command Hold Alt while dragging away from the toolbar or menu.
  • Copy a button or command Hold Ctrl+Alt while dragging to a different toolbar or menu.
  • Create a new toolbar Hold Ctrl+Alt while dragging from a toolbar or menu.

When you use this method, it’s important to press and hold the modifier keys before you begin the mouse action. To practice, try these operations:

  1. In the tutorial workspace, use the custom Source and Target toolbars. Hold the Alt key as you drag any toolbar button from the Source toolbar to the Target toolbar (see below).
  2. Note that as you dragged the toolbar button in step 1, an I-beam indicating the new button position appeared on the Target toolbar, and the button was moved from the Source toolbar. Try the same operation with a different tool, but press and hold Ctrl+Alt as the modifier keys. This time, the button is copied to the Target toolbar.
  3. Right-click the edge of any visible toolbar and choose Menu Bar from the pop-up menu to reveal the command menus. Hold Ctrl+Alt, click to reveal the contents of the File menu, and drag the New command to the Target toolbar. Note that the command is copied to the Target toolbar as a button instead of text.
  4. Hold Ctrl+Alt, and drag the Pick Tool button from the Source toolbar to an open space in your document window (see below). A new toolbar is instantly created. For more practice, copy other tools to your new toolbar. Note that the new toolbar is automatically named New Toolbar 1 by default.
  5. To change your new toolbar’s name, access the Options dialog (Ctrl+J), click Customization > Command Bars to view the Command Bars list, locate your new toolbar, click slowly two times on the toolbar name, and type a new name (see below).
  6. The tutorial workspace you’re using includes a third new toolbar. Place a check mark next to Precision Drawing, and click OK. Note that the Precision Drawing toolbar includes elements from various command bars, demonstrating that you can mix and match elements from any existing toolbar or menu (see below).

You can also add toolbar flyouts to your custom toolbar. A flyout is essentially a grouped collection of toolbar buttons. Creating new toolbar flyouts, or copying or moving items from other flyouts, requires a little more wrist action. To explore how it’s done, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Target toolbar and choose Customize > Target Toolbar > Add New Flyout.cust-15
  2. A new empty flyout button is added to the toolbar (see below).cust-16
  3. With the new flyout added, click the source flyout to open it to see the source tool or option you wish to copy.
  4. Hold Ctrl+Alt while dragging from the source flyout until your cursor is over the target flyout. Before releasing your mouse button, you’ll see the target flyout open. After it opens, move your cursor onto it, and then release the mouse button, as shown below.cust-17

Exporting your custom workspace

There are two ways you can preserve your custom CorelDRAW or Corel PHOTO-PAINT workspace – either by creating a new workspace as we covered earlier, or through exporting. You can also choose which specific items to include in your workspace. The export operation creates a unique file that you can e-mail, share among colleagues, or copy to other systems. To export your current workspace, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click any toolbar and choose Customize > Workspace > Export Workspaces from the popup menu (see below).cust-18
  2. Using the Export Workspace dialog options (see below), choose the workspace settings that you would like to include, and click Save.cust-19
  3. Using the Save As dialog, enter a name and location, and click the Save button to and return to the Export Workspace dialog.
  4. Click Close to complete the operation.

More customization options

If you’re new to the workspace concept, it may help to know what is and isn’t stored in a workspace file. For example, your CorelDRAW workspace does not determine document-level settings. Document settings include defaults such as fill and outline properties for graphic and text objects, a variety of general display-related preferences, and page, ruler, grid, guideline, style, save, and Web publishing options. These settings provide an extra layer of customization if you need it.

You can choose which document settings to save as defaults using the Options dialog by choosing Document (see below). Enable the check mark next to the setting(s) you wish to save.


Once you have selected which document settings to save, you can immediately save all current document settings as defaults for new documents by choosing Tools > Save Settings as Defaults (see below). Any currently applied document settings are saved in your default CorelDRAW.cdt template file and automatically applied to each new document file you create.


If you’ve never explored the powerful customization features of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, this tutorial has exposed you to some intriguing possibilities. If you are using a previous version of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, you can take advantage of similar customization features.

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Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and an author of nearly a dozen books, including CorelDRAW®: The Official Guide.


3 responses to “Customize CorelDRAW to Fit Your Workflow

  1. Very good tutorial, Thanks

  2. Pingback: CorelDRAW & Photo-Paint – skräddarsy dina arbetsytor | Stefan Lindblad |

  3. Pingback: CorelDRAW & Photo-Paint - skräddarsy dina arbetsytor - STEFAN LINDBLAD -

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