Review of Xara Designer Pro 6

August 28, 2010

If you have followed the various graphics software from Xara, you may have noticed a new name for this release. The product which has gone by the name of Xara Xtreme is now known as Xara Designer Pro and there is also a version known as Magix Photo & Graphic Designer 6 that doesn’t have all of the features of Xara Designer Pro.

Each time I review one of Xara’s graphics products, I always explain that I am evaluating the product as a long-time user of CorelDRAW. Thus I’ll point out the similarities to CorelDRAW found in Xara Designer Pro as well as the unique features. This angle will be different from most reviews, though it is only appropriate since most of my readers are CorelDRAW users.

Let me also dispel the myths that Corel owned Xara at one point. That is not true. Corel had a marketing agreement with Xara for distribution of what was called CorelXara. That agreement was terminated by Xara after five years. The software was always developed by Xara.

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer:

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6 (formerly Xtreme) is quite simply the best value and fastest all-in-one graphics package you’ll find. For drawings or photo work, for print or web graphics, it’s the perfect choice.

Find out more Retail: $89
Xara Designer Pro:

Xara Designer Pro (formerly Xtreme Pro) is our top of the range product and includes all the features and templates of Web Designer and Photo & Graphic Designer. Plus it adds extra features that Pro designers need including support for PDF/X, PANTONE® and color separations, multi-core processor support for extra speed, enhanced import/export filters, a pro version of the photo panorama tool and more.

Find out more Retail: $299

Versions and Pricing

As mentioned above, there are two versions of the software. Magix Photo & Graphic Designer 6 is available for $89. Xara Designer Pro 6 is available for $299 with upgrades from a previous version starting at $129 and upgrades from competing products like CorelDRAW for $199. Lower prices could also be available during sale periods. Upgrades are also available from Magix Photo & Graphic Designer 6 to Xara Designer Pro 6 for those who want to start with the lower-priced product. While this review is about Xara Designer Pro 6, I’ll try to point out which features apply to both products.

User Interface

When working with software for long stretches of time, a good user interface can make it a more pleasant experience. Having tools in the right places can make it much easier to get to the feature you need. Xara Designer Pro excels in this area. It features a nice slate colored interface with absolutely beautiful icons that just pop off of the interface. The overall screen layout is very similar to CorelDRAW which makes it easy for me to sit down and be productive right away. Xara’s infobar works identically to CorelDRAW’s Property Bar. In fact, Corel got inspiration for the Property Bar from CorelXara.

Where CorelDRAW has Dockers, Xara has Galleries. There aren’t nearly as many Galleries as Dockers, though you can’t measure this by pure numbers. I really like the Fill gallery for storing fills that I can easily apply. The Designs gallery is loaded with templates for both print and Web. It even links to the Web to download new designs as they are made available. When I say templates, you might not think of Web widgets and yet a number of them are included for adding interactive elements to a Web design. As an example, there are widgets for adding PayPal buy buttons to your design. The breadth of designs offered is just awesome.

The Page and Layer Gallery has also been enhanced from previous versions. It is very similar to the Object Manager Docker in CorelDRAW. With one glance, I was able to figure out how to do most actions and it just looked really nice. The more I look at Xara Designer Pro’s interface, the more I like it.

What’s New

I’ve already mentioned some of the improvements, but there are a lot more enhancements. A number of the drawing tools have received new and improved functionality. That includes enhanced support for pressure sensitive tablets. When using Sketch Mode in Xara, you’ll find it works really well for creating cartoons.
When a shape is selected, the Infobar shows values for the perimeter and area of the object. This is only possible using macros in CorelDRAW. Text in Xara now supports bulleted and numbered lists. CorelDRAW only has the former. The previous version of Xara Xtreme added content-aware scaling of images. That has been improved and support for content aware zooming has been added.

Those working with photos will appreciate the EXIF viewer, the perspective correction tool and the auto-downsizing of images on import. If you are working with numerous JPEG photos, you can use Optimize all JPEGs to make your files smaller.

One of the biggest differences between Xara’s offering and CorelDRAW is the extensive support for building Web pages and interactive Web elements. This includes the ability to easily create dynamic navigation bars, slideshows and much more. The Web features only appear in Designer Pro 6.

Overall, these are very powerful tools. You’ll have to look at the full feature lists to determine which of the offerings meets your needs. Both feature numerous options for import and export if you need to share files with CorelDRAW or other graphic tools. Not every effect will go in both directions, but you should find many things transfer quite easily. Because so many of my projects are based in CorelDRAW, I’ll use Xara Designer Pro 6 as a complement to CorelDRAW. When I need content for the Web, I’ll turn first to Xara for creating the interactive elements I need. Download the demo of either of these products and give it a test drive. I think you’ll be impressed!

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