Xara Webstyle 3.0 Web design

There's nothing unique about a low-cost software utility that churns out Web graphics. What makes Webstyle 3.0 special is that it handles everything from simple graphics processing to slick JavaScript-enhanced functions. The results are nothing less than fantastic, and it's so easy that a child could use it unaided.

Webstyle 3.0 is a natural progression from previous versions of the program -- all the old features are still there, letting you generate various styled headings (including 3D), customise logos and trawl through templates for bullets, buttons, backgrounds and dividers. You'll also find the excellent banner ad creator, which provides a simple way of customising a large variety of generic readymade animations for style, content and speed, saving the result as highly compressed animated GIFs.

New to this version is the NavBars and Menus section for producing DHTML and JavaScript-enabled navigation bars for your entire Web site, complete with animated drop-down menus. This can be a challenge in most Web design packages, but Webstyle 3.0 makes it incredibly simple -- pick one of the templates, enter your headings and menu texts, style them up and try them out. If you don't like the style, you change it with a single click, instantly updating all your headings.

For the ultimate code-free approach, Webstyle can be launched from within Macromedia Dreamweaver and Microsoft FrontPage. It inserts the code in your HTML file and saves the graphics in your project folder -- no copy-and-paste required.

Also new to this release are some photo-editing tools. These are extremely basic, but that's the whole point: you enhance pictures with simple slider controls and save them at any size with good compression rates. There's also a function for creating thumbnail versions of your images, so you can prepare Web pages with the thumbnails which then link to the full-size pictures. Webstyle 3.0 even generates the page code required to open the pop-up window when the thumbnails are clicked.

User-friendly throughout, Webstyle's program interface is striking in its clarity and usability. It's all a matter of picking templates and styles, switching toggles on and off, selecting items from pop-ups and so on. Everything you do is previewed in real time at full rendered quality using Xara's cutting-edge vector graphics engine, so you don't have to keep jumping out to a Web browser to see what you've done. It's hard to imagine how the interface could be improved, it really is that good. But the real stunner is the quality of the graphics and animations you end up with. Contrary to expectations, for a $159 program, Webstyle 3.0's output is highly compressed and looks fantastic.

Current Webstyle users should note that this version includes several hundred new templates and styles, plus some decent display fonts in TrueType format. No other program makes it so quick and easy to build such professional Web graphics, animations and interactive site menus. It will save you days of work, not just hours. If it could export to Flash format too, we'd offer to have its babies.

Xara Webstyle 3.0

5 stars.

At last, a totally code-free way of producing advanced navigation bars, banners and rollovers plus a whole bunch of other Web graphics. Webstyle 3.0 allows you to create Web sites with visual sparkle, without a team of professional designers to help out. And it's incredibly easy to do.

Price: $159.

Phone: 1800 004 622.

URL: www.softwareshop.com.au.

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