Today I finally decided to check out Xara Xtreme. I paid for it on the 26th of November, using PayPal (I have been begging for that option for ages, and some time ago it became available). The 29th I got a conformation email, and that if I send the details it would be added to my Xara account for download. And a few days ago I finally downloaded it (been quite busy).
First impression: wow, looks really good, and wow, I love the shadow and bevel tool. The latter two make my drawing live so much easier, especially the former. In the past, using Corel Xara 2.0, I used to create two copies of an object, making one very dark gray, and the other light gray. Then I used a blend to make a smooth transition between those two, and finally I tweaked with the transparency tool to get a nice soft shadow. With the shadow tool can be done in a much easier way.
I did some experimenting, and loaded some files I originally made with Corel Xara 2.0. When I did this I noticed that Xara complained. I got the same warning twice:
Xara Xtreme Update cannot write files in the Program Files\Xara Xtreme folder. Please ensure that your account is allowed to do so. If you're not sure ask your system administrator or contact Xara Technical Support.
Now this is very odd. Since I use XP Professional, and of course I don't work normally with Administrator rights. Why on Earth does Xara want a limited user to be able to write files in Program Files\Xara Xtreme? This is wrong. Per user files should be stored in the per user Application Data folder (%APPDATA%).
Another odd thing I noticed was that when I tried to use the Xara Picture Editor (XPE) from within Xara, the XPE window showed several "forbidden" icons. I have no idea if this is normal behavior, but I thought the same as the "helpfull" tooltip was showing when I hovered over those icons: ???.
When I ran the Xara Picture Editor outside of Xara I was greeted with:
Cannot register DLL - DllRegisterServer returned error
It wouldn't amaze me if this error is due to the same programming mistakes as in Xara Xtreme. Anyway, my recommendation is: there is a very good reason why one can create limited user accounts, so please test your software in such an environment.
Finally, one remark about the documentation that comes with Xara Xtreme. I never liked the documentation of a program to be just a list of each tool, and its function. To me that's something you put in an appendix. Instead of "what is it" a better (in my opinion) sort of documentation would be: how to. Luckily there are plenty of how tos on line.
People might wonder why I decided to buy Xara Xtreme, especially those who have heard me stating that Xara (and MSN Messenger) are the programs that keep me from migrating to GNU/Linux.
First of all, Xara Xtreme is available right now for Windows XP Professional. Second: it's cheap. The price is more then right, so I decided not to wait for the Open Source version to come available, also because Xara hopes that a Windows port of the Open Source version is not going to be made.
I do hope that the Open Source version becomes a major success on GNU/Linux and the Mac. The people behind Xara certainly deserve this. The program comes very close to what I consider a perfect application. No tool overkill, extremely simple to use, very quick to grasp.
A related project that might be interesting to you if you're interested in Xara Xtreme or Xara LX is ÜberConverter which promises to become the universal vector-graphics file converter. The work on Chromista, a part of uber-converter, is sponsored by Xara Ltd.