I’ve always been a big fan of Serif products* – they provide a much more affordable alternative to the likes of Photoshop or CorelDraw. Just out is version X5 of their popular DrawPlus vector drawing package.

As well as creating standard vector drawings – SerifDrawPlus X5 also lets you generate both Keyframe and StopFrame animations which you can export as either animated .gif files, or as Flash .swf files.

DrawPlus X5 contains all the drawing tools you’d expect. There are lots of pre-set document types including posters, greetings cards and banners, to kick start your designs.

New in X5 is The Shape Builder Tool which can be used to combine simple shapes, including the built-in palette of QuickShapes, into more complex shapes. Dragging between the shapes combines them, and clicking on shapes that overlap will split and create new objects. It’s quick and easy to use.

An instant 3D conversion tool lets you convert simple objects into 3 dimensional shapes. There is also new Styles tab that lets you quickly apply various preset shadows, glows, bevels, feather edges, textures, text effects and more. The user interface has been improved, including the option to display larger tool icons if you wish.

Serif DrawPlus X5 is an excellent product when compared to similar products produced by Corel and Adobe. It can’t do everything these can, but it does enough, and the price should make it very attractive for schools. A single licence for DrawPlus X5 is about £80. It’s also worth looking at the Serif Design Suite which packages up DrawPlus along with MoviePlus, PhotoPlus and WebPlus. A 100 user licence costs around £2600 plus student licences are also available. More info here.

ICT Teachers should definitely take a look at the free teacher resources for using Serif products to support/teach the  OCR Nationals, 14/19 Diploma, DiDa etc. These include ideas for projects, step by step guides, pupil worksheets and course materials. It’s an excellent set of resources, and much of it is free if you contact Serif. You can also download some free samples immediately. Take a look here : http://www.serif.com/Education/CurriculumCourses/

As an aside – you can also download and try out free versions of older Serif Software here.

*Disclosure – Over the past few years I have written some of the Serif training materials for the OCR Nationals and 14/19 Diploma, namely the Multimedia, Computer Graphics and Web Design modules. I was sent a free copy of Drawplus X5 to look at, but I have not been paid for this review.