Xara Xtreme 5 Pro
In my previous reviews of Xara Xtreme, I've always tried to make it clear that I am looking at the software from the perspective of a long time CorelDRAW user. I don't see myself leaving CorelDRAW anytime soon. Thus, I'm looking for reasons to utilize Xara Xtreme as an additional tool that gives me better tools in areas where CorelDRAW doesn't get the job done. For those who are under the impression that there was a time that Corel owned Xara, that is not correct. Corel had a marketing agreement with Xara to distribute earlier versions of the software. After five years that agreement was terminated by Xara.
One of Xara's strongest features since the early versions is that it is incredibly fast when compared with competing products. That hasn't changed with this version and the ability of the Pro version to use multi core processors will help Xtreme keep the speed crown.
One of the best things about Xara Xtreme is the user interface. Without looking at any of the provided help, I can pretty much figure out how things work since the interface is similar to CorelDRAW. In fact, CorelDRAW got the idea for their Property Bar from earlier versions of Xara Xtreme. Each of the icons in Xara Xtreme is very attractive and in full color. Oh how I wish CorelDRAW would get icons this attractive!
Where CorelDRAW has Dockers, Xara Xtreme has galleries for a number of different things. One of the features I found really exciting in the Fonts gallery was the ability to work with "Disc fonts". I could add any number of folders where I have fonts and have them available for use in Xara Xtreme. For a fontaholic like me, that is really awesome.
A few months ago I did a review of Xara Web Designer. Everything that can be done in Xara Web Designer can also be done in Xara Xtreme. Given CorelDRAW's limited ability to create Web pages, especially those with interactivity, this is a big plus for Xara Xtreme.
After looking over the list of new and improved features, it was the content aware photo scaling that interested me the most. I remember when I first saw a technical demonstration of this feature and it was amazing. The sad part was that the person who invented it was hired soon afterwards by Adobe. I'm not sure how Xara Xtreme is able to use this feature, but I'm sure glad that it is available.
So what exactly is content aware photo scaling? Let's say you have a picture of a person. If you stretch the picture so it is wider and don't adjust the height, the person will look like they have gained weight. With content aware scaling, it will look at the picture and try to find things that can be scaled without harming the photo. So if you stretch a photo using content aware scaling, the person shouldn't look to gain nearly as much weight. Look at the sample below. The original photo is on the left and the scaled photo is on the right. Yes, some of the sky was removed when the image was scaled smaller. You'll also notice that the pole on the telescope was shortened at the same time. I did nothing special to get this effect, it really was incredibly simple. Yet the important parts of the image are nearly unmodified! This is an absolutely killer feature and it worked quite well on pictures I tested. Is it perfect? No. But it is a huge improvement over traditional scaling.
The other big feature that jumped out to me was the ability to anchor graphics (vector or bitmap) to text. This is very important if you are doing page layout. Add a couple of paragraphs and the graphic will move down so that the text referencing it isn't on another page. I certainly wouldn't confuse any illustration program for a page layout program, but features like this make it easier to create short newsletters without needing a separate tool.
Any files you create have automatic font embedding. This allows you to share your files with others who may not have all of the same fonts. While CorelDRAW does allow font embedding, it certainly isn't automatic.
I want anyone to take this the wrong way, but CorelDRAW will remain my day to day vector editor. I have a twenty plus year history with the product and that is hard to change. Don't let that take away at all from all of the amazing things that can be done in Xara Xtreme. It is fast, easy-to-use and loaded with powerful features. If nothing else, I'll be using the content aware photo scaling on images. I'm sure I'll also use Xara Xtreme to create some Web graphics since it is loaded with great features geared towards designing for the Web. If you aren't sure if Xara Xtreme is for you, download the trial version and give it a try yourself. I think if you spend a few hours in it, you'll find it is a tool you want in your toolbox!
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