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Software Review: Xara Photo and Graphic Designer v9

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boxSThere are certainly a lot of choices when you’re looking for art tools for your computer.  Between Apple’s Mac computers and Windows-based PCs there are innumerable options.  There is 3D, 2D, animation, and just about anything else you can think of.  Xara Photo and Graphic Designer probably isn’t the first software suite that comes to mind, but there are some advantages to this long-running package, at least for some users.

While Corel and Adobe are better known names when it comes to graphics software, Xara has been around a long time.  At one time Xara was actually released under the Corel brand.  Specialized vector graphics programs like CorelDraw, Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator, and even the free Gimp software, while powerful tools, require a lot of study to be able to use proficiently.  Yes, there are simpler tools, but it’s really somewhere in the middle that most of us find ourselves.  That’s where Xara Photo and Graphic Designer for Windows PC really shines.

While I was reviewing Xara Photo and Graphic Designer I actually found myself needing to create some product sheets.  These sheets required a variety of photos and accompanying text with some light artistic embellishments. Though I own and use Photoshop, Gimp, and Microsoft Office Professional, this software was exactly what I needed.  Typically, I would use Microsoft Office for this type of task, but the combination of graphic and text tools offered greater versatility than I was used to. It only took me about 10 minutes of messing around before I was zipping through my task and exporting to pdf.

MagicEraseA second benefit was that I didn’t have to permanently alter my original images.  Most of Xara’s photo editing tools are non-destructive or use parametric image editing.  This non-destructive technique allows you to adjust or even remove edits at any point without affecting the original image. Photo edits are stored as the parameters to be changed (such as brightness or blend levels) rather than the altered pixels.  This makes for a faster and more memory-efficient program and also allows for a near-infinite undo.  While there aren’t nearly as many choices as you’d find in a dedicated vector graphics program, there were more than you’d find in a typical photo editing program.

There are a number of new features in Xara Photo and Graphic Designer v9.  The advanced healing brush remove blemishes with a single click, and there are new mask and selection tools to let you enclose a region or area to paint or enhance the image’s brightness, sharpness, or color temperature. Also new is the advanced background erase, where you can easily extract people or objects in the foreground and place them on alternate backgrounds.  For the text part of your work, the software now offers Google Font support.  This lets you browse, preview and install any of the 600-plus Google Fonts.  There are also a huge number of template designs and a good amount of clip art to help you get started.

MinaXara Photo and Graphic Designer v9 isn’t the most robust vector graphics program out there.  If you’re an artist, you’re probably better off studying the industry standard tools, though for the price, you could give Xara a shot.  This software is really made for graphic design work – putting together presentation-quality pages, brochures, or even websites.  As a lifelong Office user, I was pleasantly surprised at how Xara Photo and Graphic Designer improved my graphic design workflow.  With one program I was able to design great-looking product sheets and manipulate the photos for them.  My only wish is that it could export a complete document to a file other than pdf, though nearly every image type, html and flash are supported.

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.
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