Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7 review

£70
Price when reviewed

As its name suggests, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7 is a design application that provides integrated bitmap and vector handling. As such there are plenty of similarities to Real-Draw Pro, with both offering exceptional creative power. In practice, however, the two prove very different.

Xara first appeared for Windows 15 years ago and, until recently, it looked it. Nowadays, Xara’s working environment is much more modern and efficient, and this latest release improves things further with tabbed document windows, improved context-sensitive commands, and a new gallery system complete with flyout panels that can be docked and grouped however you want.

Xara’s galleries are primarily used for quickly selecting content options such as bitmap fills, outlines, fonts and so on, but the Pages & Layers Gallery is different. Used for the ongoing organisation of your current project, it’s the only gallery pinned open by default. Xara 7 also now defaults to displaying one page at a time; to move between pages, you simply click on the gallery’s preview thumbnails.

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7

The Pages & Layers Gallery isn’t only used for managing and navigating pages, however. Double-clicking any thumbnail now opens the gallery wider to let you work with layers; double-clicking on each layer lets you work with the groups and objects that make it up. You can also now double-click on a group on the canvas and it will then open into a new tabbed window, making it possible to work on grouped objects in isolation, free from group-level attributes such as transparency.

Also helping with organisation is Xara 7’s new Magic Snap capability. Switch it on and, when you move or resize objects, Xara will indicate when the corners, edges or centre of your current selection are aligning with those of any object in the current view. You can also switch on angled snapping, which can snap lines whatever their alignment.

Further organisational control comes from Xara 7’s new pasting capabilities. As well as copying and pasting objects and formatting attributes, you can now paste position, or size, or replace the current selection. You can also quickly copy and paste whole pages both within and between projects.

As well as its vector control, Xara prides itself on its bitmap handling. With the program’s blistering speed, its “zero-memory” handling of image copies and its non-destructive adjustments and transparency handling, Xara can both enhance individual images and quickly build up advanced photo compositions. What Xara doesn’t offer is the integrated, hands-on pixel-based painting that proves so valuable in Real-Draw Pro.

Details

Software subcategory Graphics/design software

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