Xara Xtreme Pro 4
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Feature: Xara Xtreme Pro has superior speed and ease of use for Vector+Bitmap editing
Idea:Use this program for innovative vector+bitmap photo compositions
There are only three or four programs that have done the merging of Vector and Bitmap graphics really well: ACDSee Canvas, Adobe Fireworks, Xara Xtreme, and Wright Design. But each has had its problems: Canvas is still buggy; Fireworks must play second fiddle to Freehand and now Illustrator plus Photoshop; Xara has never caught on in North America, perhaps because it is Windows only; and Wright Design disappeared under the antipodes.
Now this reviewer has previously found that Xara Xtreme has 3 very strong characteristics. First, of all the vector drawing programs including Corel Draw, Freehand and Illustrator, Xara Xtreme is one of the easiest to use because many of its vector features like Bevel, Contour, Drop Shadow, Extrude, Fill, Polygon, Transparency and other tools use simple drag and drop operations to achieve their results. Second, Xara is able to handle mammoth files with tens of thousands of vectors and huge, 20MB++ bitmap images with unbelievable speed. Users should download the free trial version here and see for themselves - I can say I am manipulating 20-80MB files with ease; but until you have done it you won't appreciate the results. Third, Xara Xtreme has combined bitmap and vector operations in novel yet easy to use ways, so for photo composition and brochure layout - this is is the place to be. So this review, will try to convince graphic designers and photofinishers that there is great photo composition opportunity with
Photo Composition Tools
In addition users can easily create templates for posters, web pages, brochure designs that become the point of departure for getting things done. And the new Xara Xtreme polishes up three areas of editing. The plugins have always been non-destructive, Xara calls them Life Effects and Adobe Photoshop calls them Smart Objects (Xara had them first). But that was of little use because setting up and then using the plugins was such a chore including a bumpy interface - no longer. All my plugins from Buzz Pro, Flaming Pear, Nik Effects, Topaz and others work like a charm in Xara Xtreme. The one drawback - the plugins, both Xara's own and 3rd party, take 10 to 50 seconds to work on huge bitmap images - depending on the bitmap original size, the plugin and how many are in the stack.
Second, the bitmap editing for brightness/contrast, saturation, blur and sharpness is now incorporated right into the Property bar rather than bringing up a separate dialog window for bitmap editing. This is faster and more convenient - and tied in with non-destructive Live Effects. Third, the vector operations of Combine, Duplicate, Group, and Join, are quick and easy to use to speed up drawing along with the Blend Tool and Create Brush commands. The only only thing that is missing is a set of perspective transforms. But those can be achieved using the new, easy to use Extrude tool. In fact that is the strength of Xara Xtreme, there is often more than one way to get things done quickly.
DTP and HTML in Xara Xtreme
Especially in DTP brochures and menus which Xara Xtreme is good at doing. Because Xara Xtreme has auto-flow text blocks and the new feature of text-flowing around any shaped image (oval, camel vector drawing, the extruded Giant letter "K") doing brochures, facing pages, and simple DTP apps is like falling off a log. It is especially convenient to drag the text overflow pointer from one text block to another and see the overflow text disappear from one text block and appear instantly in the newly designated overflow text block.
And of course resizing, skewing, rotating and other transformations of text blocks is easy and par for the course with Xara Xtreme. You can even Bevel, Drop Shadow, and make Transparent a text block - or Extrude it when combined with an underlying shape (see the screenshot at the left for an Extruded text block).
Now all these "tricks with text blocks" may seem outlandish - and that is perfectly true so keep the idea in mind when you want your message to be outstanding. In short, look to Xara to provide opportunities to display a unique and distinct style - be it simple and classic or off-the wall and attention grabbing.
Again a basic 8-12 screen website can be put together in less than a day with these processes and tools. However, there is one downside to the method - the HTML generated by Xara Xtreme is pretty complex using lots of "busy" CSS. Busy CSS is where the web developer uses numerous CSS style= statements to make the page look very polished. But the downside is that just about everyline has some unique HTML and/or CSS applied. This can be very challenging to maintain, especially if many devlopers using other web tools may need to make changes to your site. Xara Web HTML is very powerful, but it also almost demands exclusive use of Xara for web pages created by it. The Screenshot below shows and example of the busy HTML+CSS of which I speak.
In sum, Xara Xtreme is strong and useful for a broad range of DTP and text+image processing tasks. So the rule of thumb might be Xara is not for a books, manuals and complex papers on the DTP side; and not for a website that is going to have several different editors/maintainers - otherwise lay on MacDuff and use Xara for text-oriented graphic designs.
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