Xara X

Don't assume Xara X is a print lightweight. Complex vector graphics are Xara's specialty. The freehand curve editing tools offer a "retroactive smoothing" slide control, which guarantees even your mistakes will look good, and a useful "paste-together" option makes it easy to tack bits on to selected objects. In another neat trick, objects in an image can be assigned names, then called out and edited by name from the gallery list. Feathering, transparency, drop shadow and blend tools are all fully interactive - effects are adjusted with slide controls directly on the image, rather than through dialogue boxes. Applying a complex highlighted fill with a three or four colour blend is easy and intuitive.

Transparency, bevel and shadow icons appear in the main tool bar, simple tools that make Xara X ideal for creating quick and easy posters and flyers with a creative edge. With a modest amount of artistic talent, you can have professional-looking results minutes after you open the box. The challenge will be to avoid overusing the quick and slick Xara tricks.

Xara has always claimed to have the most sophisticated rendering engine in the industry. I think it's right. Even on a slow PC, there's none of the familiar re-draw lag - soft-edged drop shadows slide out behind complex objects without the slightest hesitation, and complex fills appear in an instant. That adds up to a creative process with a lot less frustration. Highly recommended.

Xara X

Price: $US149 by online order

Supplier: Xara Ltd

URL: www.xara.com

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Phil Campbell

PC World

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