MagixAG acquired Xara in January 2007 and have released this product with vector graphic technology from the British company allowing the vector graphics side to the system to operate smoothly and speedily on most computers.
When first launching the application, it gives you many options. You could choose to optimise photos, edit them, distort or print them. The Graphic program gives the option of designing cards, letters, CD covers and other literature. You also get the opportunity to design icons, advertisements or navigation elements for web design.
The main page is easy to use.
To start, simply choose the desired project by clicking the icon and selecting from one of the options. Looking at the main screen it is well laid out, the icons are larger than other programs, but this doesn't seem to decrease the appeal. All the usual drop down menus are available to use and other tools such as the Zoom in have a handy slider control. This can zoom in up to 25000x. This also increases the sensitivity and can sometimes move when releasing the mouse button which is a little annoying.
An intriguing tool available is the 1Click button. It can't be missed and, if you click on the down arrow, gives three options of Auto exposure, Auto white balance and Auto colour. These options will scan your image and make any necessary changes that it thinks will improve it. The program is pretty good, it converted the church scene to a more daylight balanced cast, but be careful of unusual colours as in one experiment, a pink rose petal came out blue.
The Isolate tool has the option of using a polygon or magnetic lasso which are, like a lot of the facilities on the program, available on Photoshop and PSP, and it works by cutting out the image by means of copying, then allowing you to move that piece wherever you wish. The advantage of copying it means you don't have a whacking great hole on the image where your lasso has cut something out.
The panorama tool is quite effective as it uses a simple slider system. It blends the images together with one slider, moves them up or down with a second and determines the strength of each image with the third and fourth.
The Panoramic feature blends images easily.
Loading the images is a simple drag and drop process. One thing I like is that whenever an image is manipulated, it is put into a slide viewer along the bottom of the page allowing you to switch between images by clicking on them. It also creates a new image on the slide viewer whether you want to or not, with each editing function. This can be annoying if you make a lot of mistakes as you will get a build up of images, but can also be useful for those who can press cancel instead of apply. The other options are relatively simple for minor changes like Mirror image, Rotation and Crop. The task bar also has Optimise and Creative tabs which incorporate the other tools like Clone but mainly are preset quick connections to getting things done. Closing the window down is easy with the close button at the bottom and will show more tools available. If you have closed down the window by mistake, the options can be found in the drop down menus or you can reopen the window by going to Tasks and Task assistant. I am surprised to see the quick edit tabs in the Edit image in detail screen as I would have placed this in the Quick optimise icon at the start. Still, it's a nice feature and can speed things up.
The tools available on the main page are selection, Magic wand, Crop, Level horizon, Text, Red-eye removal, Soft focus, Darken/brighten areas, Clone, Fill, Gradient, Brush, Pipette and Zoom-in. The Level horizon tool is handy. It is basically a rotation tool that does it perfectly for you. The image will rotate within the frame, so bear this in mind if any points of interest are at the edges of the image as these may get cropped off.
Business cards can get that professional look.
Another feature available is the Graphic section and many options are there including Business card design. Opening the suite gives the same layout as the photo edit section with the exception of the tools being different. These include Freehand, Shape editor, Pen, Rectangle, Ellipse, Quick shape, Text, Fill, Transparency, Shadow, Bevel, Contour, Blend, Mould, Live effect, Push and Zoom-in.
Designing a business card is easy as a selection of pre-designed cards load into the page automatically. Double clicking on the card of choice will load it into the page and the lettering can be changed by selecting the Type tool and changing them. It is possible to load an image of your own onto the page which can be used as a signature image. Basic changes to the templates are easy, for example I used the Fill tool to change the card to black blending the image into the card so it doesn't jump out as much, giving the card a much more professional feel to it.
The centre of an image is lost on the CD.
The other options give the same degree of simplicity and ease of use. The CD design screen gives templates allowing for quick design which is a good idea but there appears to be no blank CD template to use. The closest available is a grey one halfway down the options so is not really catering for those who don't want to use a pre-set template. It is possible to import your own pictures to the CD, but should be done by opening the image and not by importing. Importing does get the image on the page, but it cannot then be integrated onto the CD face. By opening the image separately, I could copy and paste, then push the image to the back allowing me to change the text to what I wanted. One thing I have noticed is that the CD template is not full face, it has a large centre hole meaning that the clear centre of the CD will not have any image there. On the picture I use, the nose and corners of the eyes will totally disappear. Whilst it is not the end of the world, it does limit the amount of images you can use as they will have to be specifically designed to be used on a CD. Programs such as the Pressit CD labelling kit can provide a full face option.
One thing I have discovered whilst covering this program is that there doesn't appear to be an option for returning back to the start. I have scrutinised the menus and cannot find any option except exit which closes the application. This is frustrating if you want to perform more than one action like I did in this review or if you press the wrong button by mistake, it appears that you have to close down the entire application and start again.
The system is easy to use, is well laid out and does have some nice features. The Panoramic effect is nice and their are a lot of programs bundled up together in one package which takes up less space on your hard drive. This seems to be the main benefit of getting this over separate, more powerful systems. There is also an online community available for help which offers tutorials.
The program is great for beginners buying their first editing package with the large icons and step-by-step instructions when using a feature but can also be used by the more advanced user or small businesses. It can be considered a much easier to use alternative to Corel's PSP.
Easy to use interface
Many features in one package
No visible way back to the start screen
No blank templates
Magix Photo & Graphic Designer is priced from £59.99.