For a long time I have used Corel Draw for producing and editing vector graphics (editable and scaleable with no loss of quality). However for some time I have on the lookout for an alternative. Not because Corel Draw isn’t an excellent product, it is. However as I have eluded before Corel often has stability problems with it’s Draw software, which gets tiring, in addition Corel Draw can be quite resource hungry. It had been my original intent to try and find an open source package, to supplement Corel Draw on less complicated projects, however many such offerings such as The Gimp just didn’t really do it for me. Anyway to cut a long story short I stumbled across Xara Xtreme 4 in my Google results for vector graphic programs, and I must say, so far, I am quite pleased that I did.

I have used several Xara offerings in the dim and distant past such as Xara 3d and Webstyle, which whilst quite good fun at the time, never really seemed to suit a purpose. So I wasn’t really expecting much from Xara Xtreme. Xara’s website claim that their drawing package produces some of the smallest graphic files with no loss of quality, which, if true, is a good thing when it comes to optimising graphics for web design. I have not yet done a like for like comparison, however the graphic files that I have produced seem suitably small.

Features like, extrude, shadow, emboss, transparency, blend and 3D are very accessible and intuitive and can be used very quickly and easily by anyone. Xara Xtreme also has some other tricks up it’s sleeve including functions to animate .gifs, create simple flash, simple photo editing and an almost hidden feature to create HTML navigation bars and buttons. One annoying thing about the application is that the Menu bar is totally proprietry, and does not even attempt to intergrate with standard windows icons, therefore it takes a certain amount of familiarity of knowing where everything is until you are efficient with the package. On the whole I have found it to be a bit of a gem, and whilst I am only on day 12 of my 30 day trial, I am giving serious thought to purchasing it. For those interested in purchase it comes in two flavours, a standard at approx £45 and a pro version at approx £100. For me the standard version does all I need from it, it’s quick, functional, produces some great results and ultimately uses far less system resource than other comparable programs. Nifty!

Then I made an even more exciting discovery Xara Xtreme is open source

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It’s kind of my mid years resolution to start writing a blog.  I spend a lot of time surfing the internet, using different operating systems and software, researching new technology (well new to me anyway) and generally looking for useful snippets that will aid me in my various interests.  A year ago I started a small web design and graphic design studio, with the aim of providing a low cost solution for small businesses and organisations to express themselves and advertise via the internet.  I have had a steady stream of contracts ranging from web design and web hosting, graphic design, photography and PC support contracts.  Yet I have also put in a lot of hard work into getting everything up and running, and with a small budget I have had to be resourceful with the hardware and software that I have purchased and implemented, made some good choices and some not so good choices, and perhaps in hindsight would have done somethings slightly different.

I thought that it would be nice to share my experiences to others who may be going down the same path, and henceforth start blogging about my experiences (and frustrations).