Xara Designer Pro 365 and Web Designer 365 Premium continue to amaze with their capabilities

It’s been not quite a year since my last review of Xara Designer Pro 365 and but so much is being added, it seemed like time to do an update. As you’ll recall from that review, the new Update Service model was to allow for random updates, available to everyone, as soon as they were ready. No more waiting for the next year’s version to come out. Well, those updates have been rolling out — almost too many to count, but we’ll touch on some of the ones I’ve used as we do this review.

To recap ever so slightly, Xara offers four versions: Designer Pro X365 (the do everything version); Web Designer 365 Premium; Page & Layout Designer 11; and Photo & Graphic Designer 365. A good part of this review will be based around the improvements to web design, both in Designer Pro and Web Designer. By the way, all the business theme options that used to be extra with Web Designer have now been included at no cost.

Both of them also now include Online Designer, enabling you to create and edit websites, photos and documents even when away from the computer where you have Xara installed. The online interface is quite intuitive once you understand the system. Here’s a quick overview video:

Most surprising to me, your clients can then also do some limited editing to your creations if you allow — even without them having Xara installed.

Remember that with all the programs, they are primarily vector based, so your artwork can be scaled up or down without losing quality. In this example, the second smallest pin was the original creation and the other three were all stretched or contracted versions of the first — with no loss in sharpness.

Responsive web sites

Both Designer Pro and Web Designer come with an abundant supply of templates for creating websites. I find the one page websites to be extremely useful; both because they are quick to create and because they load fast for your viewers. Many templates are provided to get you started and then you can add or deduct elements to suit your individual needs.

Here’s a quick website I put together for our church. I started with the Hipster Theme, a single page website template. I dropped out a number of the sections I didn’t want and in less than an hour, I uploaded and started using this to publicize their 5K race.

When you begin to edit the file in Xara, you’ll notice that two files open — one will be your site as it looks on a laptop and the other as it will look on a phone or tablet. As you update one, the other updates, but you can specify which items appear in each. Very flexible and very useful. Truly mobile responsive.

Check out the full web site at the link above and look at both versions — one from your phone and one from your laptop or desktop. Different, but both with all the essential information.

Photo editing

The whole photo manipulation sequence has been improved, making it easier to grab and edit individual photos with a series of handles.

Grouping of photos in smart grids

Ideal for any time when you need to put together a quick collage of images, there are now 16:9 templates that are ideal to add to video projects. Here, I just dragged in five images and without resizing them, Xara automatically made them fit as close as possible to their original proportions. One trick to keep in mind: if you want a large collage, drag the template to a larger size before you start filling it with photos. The photos are still bitmap images, so you cannot stretch them like you can most of the Xara vector elements.

Filters

There are now dozens upon dozens of filters and overlays that can be applied to photos, including transparencies, vignettes, textures, gradients as well as color and B&W filters. In the graphic below, the center frame is normal and all the others use the same photo, with various filters applied.

Presentations

If you work with a lot of PowerPoint presentations and the like, you’ll also find lots of help with the vector based smart graphic components available in the Content Catalog. In this example, the stock graphic showed two timeline markers, but by dragging the appropriate marker, it automatically added the three more I needed. It could have just as easily added 20 more, had I needed them.

I’ve just touched the surface with all that’s new, but suffice it to say, if it was a good deal last year, it’s an even more bountiful deal this year. If your design work is primarily web based, check out Xara Web Designer Premium, but if you get involved in all types of graphics as well as web, the Designer Pro X365 will be your favorite tool.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the software from Xara to complete this review.



Originally published at Doug Bardwell.

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