Often overshadowed by better-known applications, Xara Xtreme Pro is a graphics program with something to prove. This latest release – faster and more powerful than its predecessor – deserves more of the spotlight.
Xara Xtreme 4.0 – which comes in Standard and Pro versions – mixes vector illustration, bitmap editing, animation and web design tools. Xara Xtreme Pro 4.0 now sports an integrated Photo Tool that lets you make basic edits in the main document window rather than a separate editor window.
And while Xara Xtreme Pro 4.0 isn't a straight replacement for a program such as Photoshop - it lacks pixel-editing tools for starters - it has big advantages. The changes you make are non-destructive so you can go back and edit them later. In a way it's like Photoshop's Adjustment layers, but easier to use. Resulting file sizes are smaller too.
But what's striking about Xara Xtreme Pro 4.0, whether working with vectors or bitmaps, is its speed. It's hard to accurately measure the developer's claim that it's up to 10 times faster than other graphics software. But it's certainly more responsive than Illustrator, which can get bogged down on detailed illustrations. Performance was helped on our test machine by the fact that the Pro version of Xara Xtreme 4.0 supports multicore processors.
Xara Xtreme Pro 4.0's speed is put to use in a new extrude tool that can press out text or objects by dragging on their side, with the preview adjusting in real-time – it's ideal for basic 3D work if not full modelling.
Xara Xtreme Pro 4.0 is also a functional page layout editor. While again not a match for dedicated applications – we found it difficult to manage multiple-column layouts and there's no way to manage styles – it does at least support pro-level features such as text kerning and you can now flow around shapes easily by setting the object to repel text below it. While Xtreme Pro has long been able to create multipage documents, this capability now extends to the standard version too.
Xara Xtreme Pro 4.0's new web-editing tools can turn such multipage documents into an HTML website. It makes a good job too. CSS styles are used to replicate the positioning of page elements and while the underlying code created isn't the cleanest, reproduction is accurate. For small sites that you need to produce quickly, this could be a godsend.