Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 365 is a versatile graphics package which comes packed with editing, illustration and design tools.

A capable photo editor can optimise your image automatically, or gives you full control over brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation, temperature and more. There are strong core features (crop, resize, fix red-eye, shadow/ highlights adjustments), many advanced tools (content aware zooming, photo healing, bitmap > vector conversion), 60+ built-in Live Effects and Photoshop plugin support, while professional options like layer blending, feathering and vector masking help ensure you get precisely the results you need.

The program's illustration abilities start with a host of shape, line and freehand drawing tools. 3D extrusion means you can drag any shape to create a properly lit and rendered 3D version. You're able to customise the results further with transparency, feathering, shadow, bevel and contour tools, or use the blend tool to blend from one shape to another (just drag and drop). There's a lot to learn, but fortunately editing is easy - even freehand work can be tweaked later.

Text features are impressive. You can position and rotate text as you'd like, make it follow a curved path, apply any of the other effects as required. The desktop publishing-type feel continues in the Designs Gallery, where you'll find templates for calendars, greetings cards, invitations, CD/ DVD covers, more. A bundled clipart library also helps, and powerful print and various export options (including PDF and PSD) make it easy to share your creations with others.

Version 12 brings the new "365" branding, which marks the move from yearly to continuous development. Buy the program and you'll now get new features and content as they're developed, for a full year. After that, you can pay for another year, or just keep and use the program forever as it is.

A redesigned photo frame enables easier resizing, rotating, straightening, panning and clipping an image, just by using control handles within the frame itself. No separate dialog boxes, no browsing the menus or toolbars, your attention stays 100% focused on the page.

New Static and Smart Photo Grids help you organise and present your images in a smarter, cleaner way.

Around 30 Photo Filter Pre-sets can apply various lighting, contrast and saturation effects to give your image a brand new look.

If you need more control, the Effects Painter applies effects like Brighten, Dodge and Burn to specific areas of the picture.

Xara's SmartShapes have been extended with new charts, text panels, photo panels and an enhanced Spiral SmartShape.

Elsewhere, the Font Awesome collection has been updated, and you now also get more than 1,500 Google Material Design icons.

Verdict

A hugely capable design tool which comes packed with high-end features, yet remains generally very easy to use and is amazing value for money.