ROMCat and CorelDRAW X4

January 25, 2008

Upon seeing this title, I can see many of you ready to click on the link to download the new ROMCat and catalog for CorelDRAW X4. Unfortunately I’ve got some bad news to report. There won’t be a new version of ROMCat for quite some time and it is possible that it will never come.

The first thing to understand is that each version of CorelDRAW introduces a new file format. Typically this has very little impact on ROMCat as the changes don’t affect the thumbnail and metadata portions of the CDR file that ROMCat uses. CorelDRAW X4 introduced a radically different file format. In fact, a CDR file is a Zip file in disguise. Go ahead, rename a copy of a CorelDRAW X4 file (please don’t play with the only copy) to have a ZIP extension. Open it up in Winzip. Voila, you can now see the guts of the new CDR file!

Inside you will find a bitmap for the thumbnail, named thumbnail.bmp, which is 256 pixels square. That’s a lot bigger thumbnail than in previous versions. You will also find one bmp file for each page in your document. This is a thumbnail of each of the pages. That’s pretty cool as well. There will be XML files with data on links, metadata and textinfo. This means that any human can look at these XML files in Notepad and see data that was once only viewable by hex editors and programmers. Lastly you’ll find the actual graphic data in a file named riffdata.cdr.

Now I don’t really expect any of you to regularly look inside a CDR file like this. I just wanted you to understand that this was a big change. And it is the kind of change that would allow ROMCat to show us much better thumbnails and allow us to include much better metadata in our files for ROMCat to catalog.

Unfortunately such a big change means that it takes the man behind ROMCat many hours to add support for the new format. As he says “It’s more work than I can justify — ROMCat doesn’t pay my bills.” Remember, ROMCat is completely free so it doesn’t really pay any of his bills.

Prior to the updates of ROMCat v5, he was asked to add some new features at the request of enthusiastic ROMCat users. These users would gladly pay if the features they wanted could be added. So ROMCat v5 was released with many of the requested features and the ability to donate money to the author. Let’s just say the total of all the donations he has ever received wouldn’t even buy him a nice dinner. And none of those donations came from the users who begged for the new features.

That’s brings us to the problematic fork in the road. ROMCat would need a lot of programming work to be made compatible with the new CorelDRAW file format. Just by supporting that format there would be a number of really cool improvements most notably nice big thumbnails. Sadly there is no way to justify the work for the pittance that has been donated to date.

So I’ll ask all of you to stop and think for a second about how important ROMCat is to your workflow. If you have found it useful, please consider making a donation. This donation goes to the author and I don’t get anything from it. Just select Help | Donate to ROMCat’s Author within ROMCat. If you are like most users of CorelDRAW, ROMCat has been a big help to you and this is the least you can do for the man who has brought it to you for free for fifteen years. Even a dollar for each year you’ve used it seems like the least you could do.

Now I’m not making any promises. There may never be another ROMCat. But maybe if we all show the author the appreciation he deserves then he’d be more willing to spend some time and upgrade it. If not, he still deserves some reward for all the hours that he has put into the program over the years. To get the ball rolling, I’ve already donated more than he had received in total prior to today for my appreciation of ROMCat.

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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