Corel was founded by Michael Cowpland in 1985 as a research laboratory. Michael Cowpland was CEO of Mitel. Mitel needed writing and creative design programs to enhance the company product line. Corel products were born. Additional products were added. The company had great success early in the high-tech boom of the 1990s and early 2000s with the product CorelDRAW, and became, for a time, the biggest software company in Canada. In 1996 it acquired NovellWordPerfect and started competing with the thought of being "Pepsi to Microsoft's Coke" as Microsoft Word was the top-used word processing software at the time. Corel was in a difficult position as Microsoft pushed pre-loaded copies of its software onto new computers. This mainly consisted of Microsoft Works office applications, but a variant called Works Suite also bundled the Microsoft Word software.
In 1997 Corel sold its Corel ChemLab studio and its "CD Home Collection" consisting of over 60 multimedia titles to Hoffmann + Associates, a Toronto-based company. As part of the deal, Corel acquired a minority interest in Hoffmann + Associates and received royalties.
In August 2000 Cowpland was accused of insider trading and left. A new board of directors was then appointed and Derek Burney Jr., announced that the product line would be split into several brands--DeepWhite, ProCreate, and Corel. However, these plans were scrapped, and only the Corel brand remained. Corel acquired the graphics software company Micrografx in late 2001.
In August 2003, Corel was bought out by the private equity firm Vector Capital for $1.05 a share (slightly more than the cash in the company). The company was voluntarily delisted from the NASDAQ and Toronto Stock Exchanges. Some U.S. shareholders alleged the management benefited from the buyout personally while the buyout price was too low. A lawsuit was filed in the U.S. to stop the buyout and was unsuccessful.
In March 2005 Corel announced that the United States Justice Department purchased 50,000 licenses of WordPerfect (adding to the worldwide user base of 20 million) and that WordPerfect was adding 4 million new users per year thanks to bundling deals with Dell. Corel contended that WordPerfect was the only viable alternative to Microsoft Office, with sales 70 times more than Lotus'SmartSuite. On April 26, 2006, Corel completed its return to the public market with an initial public offering on NASDAQ, the same day finalizing the acquisition of WinZip, an archiving software title.
On December 12, 2006, Corel completed its acquisitions of InterVideo and Ulead. The InterVideo acquisition was valued at around $196 million. In May 2008, CEO David Dobson announced that he was leaving the company to take a senior strategy role at Pitney Bowes. Dobson was replaced on May 8 by former Symantec executive Kris Hagerman. In November 2009, it was announced that Vector Capital would be purchasing the remaining shares of common stock in Corel Corporation. Upon completion, this made Corel once again privately owned. On January 29, 2010, the shareholders of Corel approved its previously announced stock consolidation, completing the transfer to Corel Holdings, L.P., a limited partnership controlled by an affiliate of Vector Capital.
Having suffered layoffs in 2003 and 2008, Corel began a near yearly culture of restructuring beginning in 2010, when in the latter part of that year the company's finance department was restructured and moved to their Taipei office, resulting in significant layoffs at its Ottawa HQ. Restructuring in 2012 resulted in more layoffs. In December 2013, the company's restructuring resulted in the layoffs of the Taipei locations engineering and quality assurance team. Corel's Taipei office was the core development centre of PaintShop Pro and VideoStudio, one of the company's most well-known photo- and video-editing bundles. The 2013 restructuring led to a partial handover of product development to outsourced companies, resulting in more rapid, low-cost development across its product lines. The company continued with layoffs in 2014 and once again at the beginning of 2015 with the change of the company's CEO to Patrick Nichols, previously the head of Corel's WinZip business unit.
Corel Digital Studio – a set of four applications: PaintShop Photo Express (a light version of Paint Shop Pro), VideoStudio Express (video-editing software), DVD Factory (DVD burning and converting software), WinDVD (DVD player software).
Quattro Pro – A spreadsheet program acquired from Borland and bundled with WordPerfect Office.
VideoStudio – A digital video editing program originally developed by Ulead Systems which remains a distribution of Ulead Systems. The software was rebranded Corel VideoStudio since Corel acquired Ulead and it became a working division of Corel.
MotionStudio 3D – A 3D text and animation program originally called Ulead COOL 3D and was developed by Ulead Systems. It was rebranded after Corel acquired Ulead.
WinDVD – A video and music player software, acquired in 2006 from Corel's purchase of InterVideo.
WinZip – A file archiver and compressor, acquired in 2006 from Corel's purchase of WinZip Computing.
The annual Corel World Design Contest first ran from 1990 through 1998. The competition intended to recognize and encourage an international community of graphic artists from over 50,000,000 registered Corel users. Two finalists for each of the eight categories were awarded a trip to Ottawa, Canada to participate in the Corel World Design Contest gala and awards ceremony. The finalists from each of the eight categories received an issue of the "Corel Crystal Award". The collection of artworks were later released in a catalogue with bundled CD, under the name of "Corel Artshow". The contest was reinitiated in 2009 on the 20th Anniversary of CorelDRAW's launch and now runs every two years. The 2013 and 2015 contests each had a prize pool with a total value of USD100,000.