Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7 review

Fast vector graphics and simple website creation
Photo of Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7
£69.00

Previously marketed as Xara Xtreme, Photo & Graphic Designer 7 is Xara’s entry-level all-singing, all-dancing vector graphics program, which is at home producing all sorts of illustrative material, including traditional print products like business cards, flyers, CD labels, certificates and vouchers as well as electronic ones like animated banners and even web sites.

Lean and responsive
Like its predecessors, Photo & Graphic Designer is lean and very responsive (a sporty Mazda to PhotoShop’s BMW), and although there’s nothing quite so radical under the hood as the name change might suggest, it still offers a comprehensive set of design tools that are sophisticated enough for a serious designer (you can use PhotoShop plugins, for example), yet accessible enough for the occasional enthusiastic amateur.

Photo & Graphic Designer lets you create attractive text and graphics, layer them, apply transparency effects, beveling, extrusion (use with care on logos please – you’re always millimetres away from producing something rubbish) create blends between objects, gradient fills and so on. In addition, you get five website themes, each with a selection of pre-designed pages, buttons, icons, headers and other graphics, that you can tailor with your own content.

Better object management
Xara’s done some significant work in the way that objects relate to each other when you’re designing something. It’s now easier to create anchored objects that repel text properly, and it’s possible to set margins that repel both vertically and horizontally; object alignment is also easier and more flexible (it uses centres and edges, or even corners that aren’t on the same axis, for example) and the alignment features are accessible with a right-click instead of having to open a dialogue box. All these improvements will speed up your work flow.

Magic erase
There’s also a new feature for photo editing which tries to automate some of the functions of the cloning tool. It’s called Magic erase and is designed to let you remove entire objects from your photos quickly and easily – for example that ugly sign in front of an elegant building, or perhaps those footprints on an otherwise pristine beach. Just lasso round what you want to remove and click Magic erase and it’ll replace the offending object with parts sampled from elsewhere in the image. It’s not a perfect fix-all, but it works OK and you can always tidy up manually afterwards.

Interface improvements
Version 7 – finally – supports tabbed documents, so you can see what’s open at a glance and also allows you to cut, copy and paste entire pages which is very useful for creating long, standardised documents and web sites. We’re still not huge fans of the way Xara arranges the various galleries (templates, bitmaps, brushes, colour schemes and so on) but at least they fly out now when you hover the pointer over them and the new Page & Layer Gallery is a big improvement when it comes to navigating round long publications.

Web page previewing
There are also some minor improvements to the way that Designer previews web pages – you can choose from any of your installed browsers, preview in full-screen and use the new navigation buttons to move between different pages – and it now handles repeated objects (like navigation buttons) more efficiently, so you can edit one and have all the others update at the same time.

Company: Xara

Website: http://www.xara.com/uk

Contact: Xara on 01392 209509

Positives
  • Speed, all round feature set.
Negative
  • Interface is a bit dense.

Verdict
We like Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7. It continues to improve on an already rich set of features, lets you create simple web sites, doesn't require a beast of a PC to do its stuff and is a fantastic all-purpose, cost-effective graphics program for individuals and small businesses. There's also a Pro version available for a hefty £249.00, which includes those shortcut keys designers love as well as including support for Pantones, colour separations, PDF and XPS file export, high-definition photos, panorama creation, and has more web site tools like the ability to code with HTML, create sitemaps, pop ups, slideshows and so on.