The little software that could: with a new version and a new name, Xara Xtreme is better than ever. Watch out, big fellas!
Xaraâ€™s newest incarnation of their vector software, Xara Xtreme, is hot. Itâ€™s fast. It has some great features and is easy to learn, and it is a joy to use. With clever use of clones, interactive transparency and fills, photo realistic compositions are possible as well as any other drawing task for which you would normally use vector software.
The interface is clean, giving you lots of area to work, and the context sensitive info bar puts the tool options within easy reach.
The Line Gallery, Layers Gallery and more are one click away in the menu bar, and the Font Gallery has the fonts divided up into type. Want a thin font? Browse the Thin Fonts folder. Want a script font? Browse the Script Fonts folder.
The vector tools in Xara Xtreme are easy to use. Draw a shape with the Shape tools and use the Shape Editor Tool to edit the points and Bezier handles. Draw custom shapes with the Shape Editor, Pen Tool, or Pencil Tool. Draw with the Freehand Brush Tool. The interactive transparency and fill tools make it easy to get the look you want. All of these combine to give you absolute control over your ilustrations.
What can be done in Xara Xtreme?
Xara Xtreme comes with a wide variety of brushes that can be applied to any path, and you can alter them, or draw and save your own. They can also be shared with others and edited to meet specific needs.
With the use of clones, transparency and fills, you can create realistic images. Check out the Xara Xtreme Gallery to see examples of what can be accomplished with this program.
Xaraâ€™s picture editor can be used to edit photos from within Xara Xtreme or used standalone. While not as robust as a bitmap editor as Photoshop, there are some very good tools here for simple edits, even including a red eye removal tool. And it is just as fast as the rest of the program.
New Live Effects
One of the best new features in Xara Xtreme is Live Effects. These are effects that can be applied to bitmaps or vector shapes, and they remain editable. You can remove effects, even effects that were applied first. In a few short steps I created a pile of potato chips. (Or maybe since Xara Xtreme is a product of the UK, I should call them crisps!)
1. Draw an ellipse with a light yellow solid fill. Drag with the left mouse button and click with the right to drop a copy. Do this several times so you can make several chips.
2. Select one chip and then click the Live Effects tool in the toolbox. Itâ€™s above the hand tool and look like a plug. Click the New button in the info bar and from the popup menu choose Redfield Jama 3D. Inside the Jama 3D filter choose Jalousie. Experiment with the settings and when you are satisfied, click OK. Now you have a ripple chip.
Select this chip with the Selector Tool, and Edit > Copy Ellipse. Now select the remaining yellow ellipses and go to Edit > Paste Attributes to apply the same live effects to them.
3. Select one of the chips you just pasted the attributes on, and then choose the Live Effect tool in the toolbox. Go back to the Info Bar and choose
New > Av Bros > Av Bros Page Curl 2.0 for Xara. Experiment with the curl settings and when youâ€™re satisfied, click OK. Repeat for your other chips so you can have different curls on the chips and pile them up.
How fast was that? Xara Xtreme allows for all kinds of special effects quickly and easily.
Learning the Software: Help Abounds
For those coming from Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia FreeHand, XaraXtreme has a bit of a learning curve, but with the many movies you can download from the help menu, much of your questions will be answered just by watching. The browser-based searchable help is very good, and the Help menu links to the Xara Xtreme forum and the Xara Xtreme web page, so if youâ€™re online while you work, help is never more than a click away.
The Status Line at the bottom of the program windows always describes what actions are currently possible and what they will do. It is a great way to learn what the tools do, and if you move the pointer over buttons and controls, it explains those too, going a step above the usual Tool Tips, although it has those as well.
A premiere web site for Xara enthusiasts is The Xara Xone. With a large user base and a huge website with 8 years of tutorials archived, new users do not have to be afraid of learning this program. This site has a lot to offer. Go to XaraXone and download tutorials dating back to 1996, along with other resources like the Workbooks full of practical advice on using the program features and tools as well as tips and tutorials. Even though most of these are for versions of Xara prior to XaraXtreme, most of the info still applies and will help your understanding of how the software works. There are new tutorials posted monthly. This wreath is a December 2005 tutorial by Gary Priester and was very easy to follow, even for someone new to the program, because he even links to the Workbooks where basic skills are discussed.
Open Source Version is Coming
At this time, Xara Xtreme is only available for the Windows platform, but if you read my article Xara Xtreme Takes on the Giants withXara Xtreme for Linux and Mac earlier this year you know already the exciting news Xara announced on October 11, 2005. Currently under development is an open source version allowing users of the Mac, Unix, and Linux to use this software. To me this is fantastic news: as a user of both the Mac and Windows platform, anytime an app crosses over so I can use it on both platforms makes me happy. Because of the quality and versatility of this software, that announcement is especially welcome news. To keep up on development, read the Xara Xtreme LX sub-forum at Talkgraphics.com.
The system requirements are minimal, allowing users with older computers to run the program easily.
Microsoft Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
Pentium processor or better
20Mb available hard disk space
Minimum screen resolution of 640×480
Pricing and Availability
One of the reasons many people do not get into vector drawing is finding good vector software you can afford. Xara Xtreme is a solution for that too. As low as $79 USD, it is a bargain.
Xara Xtreme Retail sells for $89, plus shipping and VAT where applicable, and includes instant unlock of the trial, plus a CD with the Xtreme software, more than 80 demo movies, full help, 17 plug-ins, more than 3000 images including clipart, example illustrations and template graphics, 200 photos, 500 textures, 250 Truetype and PostScript fonts. A printed Quick Reference Card. Plus an extra Xara Xone CD containing a PDF manual and more than 80 HTML tutorials featuring step by step creation of images and Hints & Tips.
Xara Xtreme CD Only sells for $79 plus shipping and VAT where applicable, and includes instant unlock of the trial, plus a CD with the Xtreme software, more than 80 demo movies, full help, 17 plug-ins, more than 3000 images including clipart, example illustrations and template graphics, 200 photos, 500 textures, 250 Truetype and PostScript fonts.
A 200 page printed manual is also available for $29
Purchase Xara Xtreme here.
This software is a great addition to any graphic artistâ€™s toolbox. It also is an excellent application for someone who wants to learn a vector program. I give this one 5 stars!