Bryce joins the OS X landscape

To call Corel's relationship with Mac users rocky is like calling the Pacific Ocean wet. Whether it's dropping development of WordPerfect for the Mac or coming out with Mac software after the Windows version have shipped, Corel's business decision have often left Mac users feeling slighted.

Corel executives concede that their company has an image problem among Mac users and have vowed to improve their reputation. So, what better way to make amends with Mac users than by updating an application that's popular among creative professionals and hobbyists alike -- and by making it available as an OS X-native program to boot.

Thus, the announcement that Bryce 5 should ship by the middle of next month represents more than just the unveiling of the 3D landscaping tool's latest features. It's also a sign that the Canadian software company has taken the criticism of some Mac users to heart and wants to prove its commitment to the platform.

Corel bought Bryce from MetaCreations last year in a purchase that included Painter, KPT and KPT Vector Effects. Corel's purchase of the MetaCreations graphics applications left many Mac users feeling uneasy, given the company's shaky Mac track record and ongoing reorganization efforts.

To reassure Mac users, Corel released an incremental update to Bryce last August. Version 4.1 added new mapping models. It also put out a public beta of Bryce for OS X in January. But Version 5 marks the first major update to Bryce under Corel's watch.

Chief among the new features in Bryce 5 is network rendering. Users can now farm out the extremely time-consuming and processor-intensive task of landscape rendering to multiple computers on a network. That's an important addition since Bryce isn't enabled for multiprocessor machines. Included on the Bryce installation CD is a cross-platform client application that lets you use all available computing power -- whether it be Mac or PC -- to dramatically speed up rendering times.

Bryce's interface sports a few enhancements, with onscreen menu items added, subtracted and moved for an easier user experience. A Most Recently Used Files list, for instance, gives users faster access to files from recent projects. The Terrain Editor introduced in Bryce 4 is now displayed in floating panels to give users quicker access to more features.

There's now Tree Lab for designing and customizing trees as well as a Light Lab for editing the placement and effect of lighting. Bryce 5 also adds support for Metaballs, which are used to create shapes not based on models with tons of render-hungry polygons.

Corel plans to ship Bryce 5 in mid-July for a suggested retail price of US$309; owners of previous versions can upgrade for $159. In addition to running in OS X, the Bryce update also works on Mac OS 8.6 and higher.

Expect more OS X-native products from Corel throughout 2001. Painter 7, which is in development right now, should ship later this summer. OS X-ready versions of KnockOut 2 and KPT 7 are expected in the fall. Corel also plans a fall release for the OS X version of its flagship product, CorelDraw 10.

This story, "Bryce joins the OS X landscape" was originally published by PCWorld.

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