The appeal of the webpage design tools in Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 9 is boosted with the integration of Google Fonts, which can be browsed using the Font Finder and applied as any normal system font. These web fonts are presented in a live preview slider showing the fonts at different sizes before you choose to install them. See all graphic design software reviews.
Adding a font in this way makes it available across the application - and as the fonts are TrueType they can also be used with print-based documents.
There's a nice ability to use any graphic for the bullet or number in a text list. Graphics saved to the clipboard can be applied as a bullet by right-clicking the list on the page and choosing 'Paste as list bullet' or 'Paste as list number' from the menu. Preset bullet designs can be found in the Designs Gallery, part of a substantial clipart design and template library that comes with the program.
Special effects are the bread and butter of consumer photo apps, particularly since the growth in the use of filters on smartphone cameras. The 11 new creative photo effects in this version fit the bill nicely. Available as Live Effect plug-ins (you can also access any folders of Photoshop plug-ins on your system), they include self-explanatory filters and 'looks' like Fake HDR, Tilt Shift, Thermal (as in thermal imaging), Pencil and Sepia.
Colours are served further by the Color Splash effect, which keeps specific areas of the image as colour and drops the rest into monochrome, while Color Mix switches around the red/green/blue colour channels.
Finally, Polarised Greyscale will apply colour filters then convert the image into greyscale, so heightening contrast.
Lomo will apply a processed lo-fi look to an image, Little Planet spins the image into a whirl that looks more like a super-extreme fisheye lens effect, while Orton applies a nicely surreal blur with warm colour. It's a welcome clutch of filters – all of which are fully editable after application.
Lomo, Orton and some other new additions do also appear in the cross-platform Adobe Photoshop Elements, although it comes in at twice the price. See all software reviews.
Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 9: new selection tools
There are new selection tools – the Region Painter, which allows you to brush over an area or object that you want to select, is something that has been lacking until now, while Mask Painter tool is a useful addition that can protect an area from being altered.
The latter forms part of the new Advanced Background Erase workflow, the latest in Xara's variation on Adobe's Content-Aware editing tools. It's a three-step process, first roughly defining the area to be erased, then applying a quick mask to the areas to be protected. The Erase Background button does the rest, able to cut out fairly complex objects in the foreground, ready for pasting them onto alternate backgrounds.
For quick cut-outs you'll find that there's still a bit of clean up to be done, but it's far more rapid than selecting by hand or using a Pen tool method.
Other nice quick creative touches include Shape Painter, which enables you to draw over an existing shape to enlarge it, add new areas or adjust the shape or outline.
Another occurs when you drag a colour onto a group of elements like clipart or buttons - a popup shows a list of all the colours in the group, so you can just pick the one you want to change. Neat, quick and simple. See also: Professional editing software reviews.