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Xara X review:

Xara X

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The Good Renders and redraws quickly; automatic antialiasing ensures cleaner onscreen images; low price.

The Bad Difficult interface for newbies; help topics need updating and more examples and illustrations; no spelling checker or thesaurus.

The Bottom Line Inexpensive and fast, this competent vector-based design app is best for experienced print- or Web-based designers.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall

Review Sections

Xara X, a substantial upgrade to Corel Xara, makes it easier than ever for experienced designers to fashion impressive illustrations for desktop publishing, professional printing, or the Web. For one thing, Xara's familiar interface and speedy rendering can save learning and drawing time. And at less than $150, Xara X won't break your bank. (Other, more sophisticated illustration apps, such as Adobe Illustrator, can cost hundreds more.) For newbies, Xara X takes some getting used to. Still, Xara X is a fine choice for those who dabble in both print and Web graphics. If money is no object, Adobe LiveMotion is a more sophisticated choice for serious artists who deal with Flash animation. Xara X, a substantial upgrade to Corel Xara, makes it easier than ever for experienced designers to fashion impressive illustrations for desktop publishing, professional printing, or the Web. For one thing, Xara's familiar interface and speedy rendering can save learning and drawing time. And at less than $150, Xara X won't break your bank. (Other, more sophisticated illustration apps, such as Adobe Illustrator, can cost hundreds more.) For newbies, Xara X takes some getting used to. Still, Xara X is a fine choice for those who dabble in both print and Web graphics. If money is no object, Adobe LiveMotion is a more sophisticated choice for serious artists who deal with Flash animation.

A familiar face for illustrators
Xara costs the same for a boxed CD or a 6.46MB download--click here for a free 30-day trial version. Installation takes mere minutes and doesn't require a restart.

Like most graphics illustration packages, Xara X's work window takes up the middle of your screen. A horizontal command menu perches across the top, a vertical toolbar sits on the left, and a color selection palette lies across the bottom. To start your project, select the type of document you want to create, either animation or a vector drawing, then build your design by drawing or importing objects and images.

Features
Xara X's interface feels cleaner than those of other illustration apps, such as Adobe Illustrator. To minimize onscreen clutter, Xara doesn't display its palettes or toolbars by default. Instead, you must click one of the left-hand buttons (including Text, Color, Texture, and Size) to activate the palettes.

Xara X also introduces several useful features, including JavaScript rollover buttons, automatic antialiasing to help smooth the screen appearance of curved object edges, and easy integration with Macromedia's popular Web authoring app Dreamweaver. You can now create an image in Xara X, export it to Dreamweaver, and continue to edit that image at any time in the future. Note: This interoperability applies only to Dreamweaver 3.0 and above.

The program also gives you access to a slew of prefabricated objects, including thousands of clip-art images and photographs--some of extremely high quality--and scores of decorative and conservative fonts.

Applying fills, such as colors and textures, doesn't take much time at all, since you can simply drag and drop them onto your image. As you do so, Xara renders the effects on the object itself, and Xara's fast rendering engine means that this process can take seconds rather than minutes. Keep in mind, though, that we ran these tests on a Pentium 4 GeForce4 Ti 4600 PC, so slower PCs might experience longer waits.

Requires a little know-how
With Xara X, adding and manipulating text is easy, and the text remains editable indefinitely. (It took Photoshop years to add this function.) However, handling text is not this program's strongest suit. Keep a dictionary handy; you won't find an integrated spelling checker or thesaurus. And there's no way to wrap text around the boundaries of a complex object for, say, creating an intricate company logo; although you can kern (respace) text to follow the path of simple curves.

Experienced designers should have little trouble working within this no-nonsense environment; it looks and operates like most other illustration tools. If you're new to design software, however, you may find yourself at a loss. The work space gives you some good hints: anytime you mouse over a tool icon, pop-up hints appear. And if you click a tool, the Bezier pen, for instance, a context-sensitive toolbar appears at the top of the screen. But, overall, Xara X doesn't hold your hand.

Safe for print and Web
By default, the app saves your finished work files in its native XAR format, but Xara X also supports common multipurpose graphic formats, such as GIF, JPEG, BMP, and PNG, in addition to specific formats, such as AI (Adobe Illustrator), CMX (CorelDraw) and SWF (Macromedia Flash). We had no problems exporting in any format. Xara also lets you "slice" your images into sections to reduce the size and complexity for easier online management and downloads.

Considering its functionality and versatility, Xara X runs a tight ship. At less than 20MB, it takes up a fraction of the space demanded by Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. The program is fast, too; we experienced no frustrating delays or rendering pauses, even when creating complex blends or manipulating busy images.

Lots of support, yet not enough
Since Xara X can be baffling to newcomers, newbies should start by visiting the help files. Even then, you may come away with more questions than answers: many of the written instructions desperately need updates, illustrations, and examples. To Xara's credit, an included CD contains an informative introductory movie and smaller instructional videos that offer some much needed guidance.

Xara X features a wide range of online customer support options, including illustrated tutorials, forums, FAQs, and links to several user-created sites. To reach a live technician, send your question via Xara's technical support form. We submitted a query at the developer's Web site and received a workable solution within 48 hours. You won't find any free phone support here, unfortunately, and the only telephone number provided is in the U.K.

Xara X delivers many of the amenities of high-end graphics packages at a fraction of the cost. You'll start out slowly, but Xara X is wonderfully efficient and very fast once you get the hang of it. Whether you're into graphics design, be it for hard-copy printing or Web applications, you'll find much to like in Xara X.



With Xara X, creating sophisticated graphic designs for print or the Web is fast and surprisingly easy. Just be sure to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the program first.

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