HTML & CSS - - By Jennifer Farley

Xara Xtreme Pro 5: A Designer’s Perspective

Xara Xtreme Pro

Yesterday, Craig wrote about Xara Xtreme Pro from the point of view of a web developer. I also reviewed the program from my point of view as a designer. Just to be absolutely clear, this is not a paid review nor have I any affiliation with Xara.

This version of the program aims to pack a lot into the box offering illustration tools, desktop publishing tools and web design tools all in one package. If you’ve used CorelDraw or Inkscape you will probably find the interface familiar. Like most graphics programs there is a toolbar, a document window for creating and editing your images, web pages and print pages and a context sensitive set of controls for each tool.

One thing you notice right away is the lack of panels or palettes. They are there if you need them but they nicely tucked away until that time, giving you plenty of breathing space in the work area.

interface

Vector Drawing

When it comes to vector illustration tools, Xara ha a very strong pedigree and has been producing high quality vector drawing programs for years. As you know, vector graphics are infinitely scalable with no loss in sharpness or quality. They offer a level of flexibility to a designer that you just don’t have with pixel-based graphics. However there is a perception (untrue) that vector drawing is incredibly difficult which tends to scare off people from using vector programs.

So how is Xara for vector drawing? Well, it’s brilliant actually.

All the usual suspects of vector drawing are here in the form of the text tool, shape tools, a freehand tool and a Bezier drawing tool. The Shape Editor tool allows you to grab a line segment anywhere along the path and drag to change the curve. This is a much more intuitive way to deal with curves that selecting an anchor point and then dragging on the Bezier handles. To do the same thing in Illustrator you need to install a plug-in such as Xtreampath.

shape-editor

One thing that is quite noticeable with Xara is the speed at which it renders. Below you can see a couple of objects manipulated with the contour tool, the bevel and the 3D tool. While the examples below are simple shapes, the 3D extrude was extremely fast with more complex shapes and type.
shapes

There are strong color tools for both drawing work and web design and desktop publishing. At first glance it might appear as if you only have about 30 colors to play with, but the color picker there are millions of colors to choose from. A nice feature is the ability to link related colors in your design and then apply a global change. The transparency tool is useful for making web backgrounds and stylish fades.

colour-picker
transparency tool

But it’s not all about vectors.

Photo Designer 7 comes as part of the Xtreme Pro package. It’s a pixel-based image editor that covers many of the photo operations you know and love, along with some nice effects and filters.

PhotoDesigner7

Naturally enough, every image editor is compared to Photoshop. This is not Photoshop. However, the editor provides tools that will allow you to prepare and improve your images for use on the web and for use with the desktop publishing tools. Web designers will like the image compression, as it does a good job squeezing images way down in file size while maintaining quality.

Check out Craig’s review for more information on the web development and flash tools within Xara Xtreme Pro.

Pros

  • Very Reasonably Priced
  • Excellent Vector Tools
  • Good Bitmap Support

Cons

  • Possibly too much of a Jack Of All Trades
  • Xara Xtreme does not offer everything that the Adobe Suite can offer, but it does provide an awful lot of good stuff for a very reasonable price.

There are two versions of the product: a standard version ($89 / £69 / €79) and a Pro edition. You can compare the two versions here, and download a 30-day trial here.

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