Pros: Fast; affordable; Vista support; optimized for multiprocessor systems; streamlined panoramas; extrusion, blend, contour and shadow tools; enhanced imaging.
Cons: Windows only; some workflow and Vista-related gripes.
Xara Xtreme is a fast alternative to the likes of CorelDraw. With version 4.0, it has made the leap to Windows Vista. It further improves on the previous version (reviewed here) by expanding its photo compositing, DTP and Web offerings, and adding more live effects.
As well as the Pro version, there’s also Xara Xtreme, which costs a quarter of the Pro version’s price, but has fewer, less specialized features.
Pro’s standout features include a tool that automatically stitches together up to six photographs into a single panorama (below). This process was quick and painless, and results were surprisingly good, though there were a few minor errors. Image support in Xara Xtreme includes TIFF and PSD (including Layers) import and export, while Xtreme Pro adds Raw support.
Web export has been improved: documents can be saved out as complete HTML pages, compliant with XHTML and CSS standards. This is particularly useful when combined with transparency effects and rotated text on pages, and with Xtreme’s support for multi-page documents. There’s live text flow, with an image repel feature, as well as a WYSIWYG Font menu and Unicode support.
Another stylish feature is the 3D Extrude tool. This provides live on-canvas 3D dragging, turning 2D shapes into 3D extruded objects. Once complete, the object can be rotated in 3D space, complete with integral lighting effects. Other useful tools are Transparency, Bevel, Contour and Shadow – all are fairly self-explanatory, but, again, quick and efficient, while the Blend tool turns any two shapes into a linked hybrid.