Friday, 5 June 2015

CorelDraw drawing and image-editing software - an alternative to Adobe?

Corel is probably the best alternative to Adobe software, although not designed to be the same. It has apps with similar functions to Photoshop (image editing), Illustrator (drawing), Acrobat (handling PDF) and others. It is site-licensed and free to use on campus and for staff at home. If the Adobe apps are not essential, have a look at Corel. It is available for Windows only.

The Corel software collection has been around for a long time, but is not as well-known as Adobe. The University has a site-licence, so the software is free to use on campus and for staff at home, via the CiCS download service. It will soon be available to students to purchase via CiCS at £30. 

Corel software has for several years been provided on all (1500) staff and student computers in the faculty of Medicine. Their IT manager said: 

"For many years Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator have been the de facto image and vector graphics editing applications for those working in both research and design environments. While both applications have comprehensive functionality it can be quite daunting for the new user when getting started. Additionally, licencing for Adobe products has recently become both costly and complicated for use on department owned unmanaged desktop and laptop PCs. 

However, there are alternative products available to the University; Corel Draw Suite is an excellent vector graphics tool that can be used for compiling figures for publication and presentation, while Paint shop Pro is a very capable photo / image processing tool. Importantly, Paint Shop Pro allows the use of many of the same industry standard plugins that are designed for Adobe Photoshop. Many of these are free and provide a diverse range of filters and macros that are equally useful for removing noise and artifact from microscopy images to touching up your holiday snapshots. 

For beginners, both Paint Shop Pro and Core Draw Suite have a great Quick Start guide which includes example based Learning Tools and handy hints."

Full information about the Corel set of software is available here. 

The items available under the site-licence are

CorelDraw Graphics Suite X7 - including: 
  • CorelDraw - vector illustration with scaling and page layout 
  • Photo-paint - Image editing linked to CorelDraw and other tools such as screen capture and bitmap-to-vector conversion (tracing)
  • PaintShop Pro - powerful photo and image editing with industry-standard (Photoshop-compatible) components 
  • PDF Fusion - create (from a wide range of formats), assemble and edit PDF files
  • Corel Painter - Digital painting - an alternative to the artist's brush 
The Graphics Suite and PaintShop Pro are available on the software download service; the last two items will become available during 8-12 June 2015.

CorelDraw itself is a powerful vector drawing tool with similar functions to Illustrator.

You may notice that there are three image-editing tools with 'paint' in their names. Painter is a sophisticated simulated painting tool for artists, Photo-Paint is an image editor that integrates with the main Draw program and PaintShop Pro is a powerful photo and image editor with a good level of compatibility with Photoshop and the ability to handle a wide variety of file formats.

There are many websites giving comparisons between Corel and Adobe products. Some of Corel's comparison material is on these pages and files.

Broad comparison of the applications:

Promotion vs Adobe:

Helping move from Illustrator:

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Help us keep our software legal

We provide a wide range of market-leading software,  mostly site-licensed and thus free at the point of use, for all staff and students. However, our providers are still detecting downloading and use of pirated versions of their software, often by students who don’t realise that this is illegal. This negatively impacts on our relationship with providers and can cost a lot of time and money to resolve.

Please help us meet our legal obligations. Our IT Code of Practice makes it clear that any software used on University computers, or on computers used on the University network, must be properly licensed.  We would particularly ask those supervising postgraduates to make sure they obtain the software they need from legitimate sources, as some may be used to obtaining ‘free’, ie pirated, copies.

A wide range of academic software, including SPSS, Matlab, and Ansys/Fluent is available to download and use from our software download service:

If you need other software contact the CiCS helpdesk or your department IT support staff to discuss your requirements.  However, departments or research groups needing expensive specialist software should expect to cost this into their project bids.

Some software providers can detect the use of unauthorised versions of their products and any indication of non-compliance issues could lead to a very difficult, time-consuming and possibly expensive University or departmental audit. Non-compliance includes software that is:
- from a site that has no right to provide it (ie not CiCS, the provider or their authorised agent)
- 'hacked' or 'unlocked' to disable its protection system
- used for a purpose not covered by the licence - eg a commercial or profit-making activity
- used on a personal computer when only licensed for University machines
- used on extra computers or by other people, when only licensed for one machine or user

Typical consequences are a charge of the full licence fee plus a surcharge for each non-compliant instance. Individuals may be pursued by complainants and with a single licence for academic software being several thousand pounds this could be a costly mistake.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

New room booking system and timetables

The current room booking enquiry system is set to be replaced by a new system based on technology called CMIS-GO. The new system will allow provisional bookings to take place in real time, eliminating the risk of a room being double-booked. It will also replace the staff myTimetable facility in MUSE, making timetables visible for courses, modules rooms, and for individual staff and students. The technology is already being used successfully at other institutions.

Timetablers in departments will continue to use the fully featured CMIS client - the web-based CMIS-GO is intended for ad-hoc room bookings and for viewing timetables only. Instructions on how to use it will be available on the room bookings website and the service will be available via MUSE, replacing the current Room Bookings entry.

We hope to launch the new service mid July, ahead of the big-rush that takes place on the first Monday in August. In the fullness of time we will investigate whether this system it might be used by students to book group-rooms and study desks.