Xara Xtreme 3.2 belongs to an increasingly rare breed: it's a vector editing alternative to Adobe's dominant Illustrator. But Vista-compatible Xara Xtreme 3.2 not only costs a fraction of Illustrator's price, it sacrifices few features in doing so.

Xara Xtreme 3.2 contains the drawing tools you would expect, housed in an intuitive layout with tools in easy reach and a handy bar showing options for the currently selected tool. We found Xara Xtreme 3.2 simple to use, with Bezier paths particularly easy to work with. Even better, Xara Xtreme 3.2 is the fastest vector illustration program we've seen. It didn't hesitate even on complex illustrations with hefty gradient fills.

Unusually, Xara Xtreme 3.2 can work with bitmap images as well as line drawings. These can be edited in a window that contains simple tools such as red-eye removal, auto enhancement and crop and rotate functions. Xara Xtreme 3.2's picture editor tracks the edits you make, so you can return to earlier versions even after saving. If you need more power, you can now link to an external editor. When changes to the bitmap element are saved in that application, your Xara Xtreme 3.2 document is automatically updated.

Xara Xtreme 3.2 bundles a basic Flash animation tool. It works like a standard GIF animation tool, even sharing the same interface. It's feature-limited, but for many standard Flash illustrations it should offer all you need. Xara Xtreme 3.2 now imports and exports rich text files from other applications, with fonts, margins and line spacing intact. This goes some way to make up for what is otherwise skeletal text handling. Certainly, if the standard version of Xara Xtreme 3.2 offered multipage features, we could see this being used as a budget layout program.

Xara Xtreme 3.2: Specs

  • 200MHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon processor
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 128MB RAM
  • 100MB hard disk space
  • 200MHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon processor
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 128MB RAM
  • 100MB hard disk space

OUR VERDICT

Despite its new features, Xara Xtreme 3.2 remains intuitive and speedy. The standard version offers excellent value.

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