Xara Xtreme

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, May 2006
Published by: Xara Group Limited
Requires: Microsoft Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium processor or better, 128MB RAM, 20MB available hard disk space
MSRP: US$79.00, UK£50

The Xara product has been around for several years and it is by far one of the fastest illustration applications on the market. Many pros overlook this program in favor of the more expensive and more powerful Adobe Illustrator or one of the other long standing competitive products such as Freehand and Canvas. However, as a solution Xara Xtreme is one of the most reasonably priced among these products and on the whole it is just as versatile as any of them. One of the most interesting developments at Xara Group is the recently announced plan to release Xara Xtreme versions for Linux and Mac OS X as well as the recent open source availability of the Xara LX source code.

Xara has gone through several incarnations, first as an independent product called Xara Studio, then as a licensed product from Corel, and now relaunched independently as Xara Xtreme. The price point is really attractive and considering that Xara Xtreme is capable of facilitating the creation of excellent artwork, it will be of very definite interest to the amateur and hobbyist who can't afford the much higher price of the better known professional products. In support of the decision to purchase and use Xtreme, Xara Group does an excellent job of product promotion and education. One look at the Xtreme Gallery and you'll be impressed with what Xara users have produced with this versatile product. The online demos provide some excellent user education and cover a wide range of features.

Working with Xara Xtreme is very similar to working with any of the other illustration programs on the market. The available tools and its interface closely match the paradigms familiar to digital illustrators. Xara Xtreme actually consist of two components: the core Xtreme illustration engine, and the Xara Picture Editor for editing photos. Xtreme is also bundled with a host of content, templates and effects plug-ins.

Using Xara you can create and edit web graphics, illustrations, edit and apply effects to photographs. Its capabilities are extremely impressive and its performance is blindingly fast. I've seen effects rendering in a lot of different software and there aren't many that come close to how fast Xara is.

Xara Group has greatly improved PDF support thus enabling fairly seamless exchange of projects between Xara and Illustrator. This is further enhanced by broad support for many file other file types as well including Illustrator files.

Xara Xtreme's live effect capability is awesome and facilitates the application of Adobe Photoshop and Xara Plug-ins to both vector files and raster based graphics such as photos. This capability then allows modifications to be made while maintaining the effect.

The drawing tools are really quite enjoyable to use, allowing you to draw freehand with a mouse. If you use a graphics tablet you even have a pressure sensitivity setting in Xtreme which allows you define the size or even the opacity of a brush through the pressure sensitive stylus.

Although impressive, I did find the user interface (UI) needed a little work. It is a bright and colorful UI which definitely appears to be more at home with consumers rather than professional applications.

There were also several features which could be refined and enhanced. I would love to see an intelligent autosmooth capability which could be applied to clean up illustrations which have been converted from bitmaps.

Cons: User Interface needs polishing up. Some of the file filters need updating.

Pros: Comprehensive toolset. Blindingly fast. Excellent price point. Tablet support. Cross platform support is an excellent move. Plug-in support. Fast autotracing. Nice selection of content and plug-ins. I highly recommend this powerful and versatile illustration tool to anyone who is budget conscious but doesn't want to sacrifice quality. It competes very favorably and more than delivers when compared to the more expensive alternatives.

KSN Product Rating:

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