£ Free full download, worth £28
Platform: Windows XP
License: Time limited demo
Number of downloads: 6396
Ever wondered why illustration software often seems so inflexible, slow, difficult to use? So did Xara. They decided to do something about it, too, and Xara XS is the impressive result: it just could be one of the best drawing programs you've ever used.
Take the interface, for instance. While the competition drown you in floating palettes and flyout options, Xara XS takes a much cleaner and less intimidating approach. Open the program and it looks little more complicated than Windows Paint, encouraging you to start experimenting right away.
Don't think that "simple" means "basic", though, because there's plenty of power available when you need it. You could draw with a range of pre-set QuickShapes (rectangles, circles, ellipses, stars), perhaps, or opt for freehand tools, which come with a wide range of brushes for interesting artistic effects (and it's easy to create more). Both Freehand and Shape objects can easily be moved around and resized by dragging their handles.
Any object you create can then be manipulated with the powerful tools on offer. The highly customisable Transparency tool adds great effects in seconds; there's a Fill option to flood objects with pre-set fills or designs, or a bitmap of your own; a Blend tool to merge objects together; a Mould tool that distorts options around a pre-set shape, and more. Plus of course all of these options work with any text objects you create, making it simple to create stylish headings, logos and just about any other text effects you can imagine.
A super-fast rendering engine means there's no waiting around to see the results of a tool, either. Even images with complex layers of fills, blends and transparencies will be updated right away.
Note, ignore the 'time limited demo' reference on this page. Obtain your serial code by clicking 'Register this Copy' within the splash screen, when you start Xara XS.
This download and upgrade promotional offer will be taken offline and made unavailble on the 4th of January 2007.
UPGRADE OFFER - save over 40% on Xara Xtreme
Xara Xtreme takes everything you'll find in XS, and adds a whole lot more. Like some major new effects, for instance. A Bevel tool gives any object an apparently raised edge, customisable with different bevel types, size, light angle and elevation. The Shadow tool offers even more control and produces some ultra-realistic effects, while the Feather tool smoothly blends objects together.
Elsewhere you'll find the Picture Editor gets new effects and features. Try the new Live Effects tool. This lets you use Xara and Adobe plugins to produce a wide range of professional visual effects.
If you want to go even further, take a look at the brand new Xara Xtreme Pro, which supports output to Adobe Flash, importing Adobe PSD documents, Pantone colour support and so much more.
The list price for Xara Xtreme is about $79 (about £40), but as a special deal, you can upgrade for only around $49 (about £25), saving over 40%. Xara Xtreme Pro is available for $169 (about £86) rather than the normal retail price of $199 (about £102).
To take advantage of this special promotional upgrade offer, either select the 'upgrade' button on the initial startup screen within Xara XS or go to www.xara.com/products/xtreme/upgrade.asp and enter your registration email and password to get the special price.