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.
Another nice touch is the ability to drop bitmap fills onto objects, in much the same way as you might apply textures in a modern 3D application. However this doesn’t fully work with extrusions – only the original 2D face of the object can be filled in this way.
The selection tools are still fiddly, so it’s essential to select precisely, or to make full use of the layers palette to assign objects to different layers. However, there is a new method in the form of Scribble Selection, which you apply by holding down ‘Alt’ and drawing over objects with a freehand line. This also works in conjunction with modifier keys – ‘Shift’ for extend selection and ‘Ctrl’ for select inside.
Version 3.0 was only guaranteed to run on Windows XP, so it’s good to see Xtreme running on the more polished Vista. However, the application at first prompted a Data Execution Prevention (DEP) warning and had to be shut down. Adding it to Vista’s ‘safe’ list seemed to remedy this.
That aside, Xara Xtreme Pro is a noticeably fast application, and you can see it taking full advantage of a multiprocessor system. The application is also highly customizable, offering a plethora of options for onscreen quality, effects (some Photoshop plug-ins can be used) and editing controls. It’s still no match for any of the standalone Adobe tools on a per-feature basis, but for the price, it compares well with the entire Creative Suite.