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Update on Xara's OS Vector Graphics Project 134

Posted by Zonk
from the vectoring-in dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We first heard from Xara when they announced their plan to release their crown jewels, the Xara X source code under GPL. Now, 5 scant months since going Open Source, Xara has released Xara Xtreme Linux 0.7, a very functional, robust illustration program. What this means for the Linux Desktop is significant: a true professional grade graphics package. And for a glimpse at what Xara can do, you owe it to yourself to see the new Xara Xtreme Linux Screenshot gallery with amazing, unbelievable vector graphic art."
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Update on Xara's OS Vector Graphics Project

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  • by gardyloo (512791) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @05:47PM (#15973836)
    ... and the server seems to be showing a very impressive vector graphic of a blank page. What great rendering!
  • by Optic7 (688717) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @05:51PM (#15973855)
    I haven't used Xara extreme yet, but I have seen artists say that it's better than Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand (which is what this software competes with) in terms of performance, (some?) features, and ease of use. Sounds like a great new software in Linux' arsenal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BiggyP (466507)
      I've given it a quick prod and i'm reasonably impressed, though the lack of a usable SVG filter makes it fairly useless to me at the moment. The thing that intrigues me most is what, if anything, other FOSS graphics project are going to make of all this newly opened code.

      One other thing, I see that Xara Xtreme will only be available for free on Linux, OSX and Windows users will have to continue to pay a, albeit small, fee to use it. What's going to happen when someone takes this app, designed from the start
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Indeed. If their rendering code is significantly faster than Cairo (as their performance page seems to suggest), maybe some Xara technology will make its way into the mainstream Linux desktop?

        I guess Xara will get some benefits from going OSS, but I'm not sure what yet. Perhaps they can release their enhanced/professional version under a different license. As an example, I'm running StarOffice 8, on Novell SLED 10, with ATI binary drivers for XGL support. Yes, there are free alternatives, but this system do
        • Xara Software used to be the UK's Computer Concepts who produced Impression DTP software and Artworks vector graphics package in the early nineties for the Acorn 32-bit computer range (The Acorn who created the ARM chip and spun off the IP to create the ARM company). Artworks [wikipedia.org] as ported to Win32 and performed 5x faster using its own redraw routines than Corel Draw using Windows' GDI. That port of Artworks was licensed and sold by Corel as Corel Xara. I'm not surprised that they have good rendering code
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by remi de (997740)
          Perhaps, this information is useful for you: There was a discussion about the question if Xara's Rendering Engine could be useful in other projects together with a statement of the CIO of Xara Ltd: http://www.talkgraphics.com/showthread.php?t=22409 &page=2 [talkgraphics.com]. Furthermore there was a discussion, if it's possible to build Xara's Rendering Engine in the Linux kernel as a new graphics engine: http://www.talkgraphics.com/showthread.php?p=16158 2#post161582 [talkgraphics.com]. - Remi
    • by mad.frog (525085)
      Sadly, that's now "Adobe FreeHand"...
      • by DarkManaX (527621)
        Well, I doubt we'll see Adobe give up Illustrator... hopefully it wont end up all thrown together... because when you combine 'Illustrator' with 'Freehand' you end up with 'Frustrator'
  • coral to the rescue (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 24, 2006 @05:54PM (#15973881)
  • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yaho ... m minus math_god> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @05:55PM (#15973884) Homepage Journal
    Just tried the Windoze version for a quickie look at features. No SVG support. As more of the OSS community and others start to create and deliver vector graphics in SVG (check out all the SVGs in Wikimedia Commons or OpenClipart.org), any illustration program without it will gradually lose its user base. It's not that SVG is so wonderful, but it's becoming a necessary tool to have in your arsenal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ahg (134088)
      I haven't had a chance to try it yet... but does it do Postscript/EPS? While SVG may be the OSS choice of format, and may be great for web use too - If OSS wants to make it in the professional graphics & publishing world, it really needs to compete on Adobe's turf where Postscript still reigns supreme. I'd rather see Postscript today, and SVG support to follow than the other way around. (The OSS community is also more likely to find contributors to do SVG support than Postscript... it's the itch more
      • by Tet (2721)
        does it do Postscript/EPS?

        It exports to EPSF, but can't import from it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Knuckles (8964)
      This is +4 interesting? Heck, the story is about this software being GPL'ed and thus the possibility of adding missing features. Yeah, we'll wake you up when all the coders have delivered the work to your doorstep for free.
      • by gbulmash (688770) *
        How many GPL projects reach 1.0 or get those features added? I've been looking for a solution to deal with ImageMagick in PHP. iMagick stopped development at v 0.9.3 in 1994. MagickWand for PHP... last I checked the discussion forums for it at imagemagick.org a couple of weeks ago, the developer in charge of it had dropped off the radar in January and hasn't been responding to e-mails from the group moderators.

        I tried the time-limited trial of the $79 closed-source version for Windows and it wasn't up
    • by fuxoft (161836) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @07:10PM (#15974337) Homepage
      Well, if you'd tried the Linux version, you'd find out it DOES support SVG... It's still in early stages but they are working on full support and new builds are published daily...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vhogemann (797994)
      I've read that Xara is in contact with the Inkscape team, so I guess that we'll see SVG capabilities on Xara Xtreme soon. A quick look at the project roadmap shows that a SVG import/export filter is planned.
  • Full opensource ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yupa (751893)
    IIRC the core of Xara Xtreme were put on some binary only libs. Did these libraries were released in a opensource license in new version ?
    • Re:Full opensource ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tet (2721) <slashdot@astraEI ... minus physicist> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @06:11PM (#15973996) Homepage Journal
      IIRC the core of Xara Xtreme were put on some binary only libs.

      Kind of. There are two renderers. They've open sourced the slower one, and are keeping the faster one closed, for now, at least. The software is fully functional, but it's slower than the closed source version (although still fast enough -- it's comparable to inkscape for the things for which I've been using it.

      FWIW, I'm using 0.7 right now, and it's very impressive. There are still a few graphical glitches, and some things that I find easier to do in inkscape/sodipodi. Conversely, there are some things that I can do in Xara that are all but impossible in inkscape. Feathered variable transparency rocks my world. I think it's great that we have both options. Each have their strengths and weaknesses, and I use both for my projects.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Skinkie (815924)
        On the inscape list there were talks about the rendermachines of Xara before. Especially using Xara's one versus upcomming Cairo. One thing I remembered was this render of Xara was full software without real hardware support. On the mailinglist people mentioned the use of it on tiny devices such as linux running Nokia's. Smaller hardware, bigger performance difference.

        These guys made a great rendermachine, it is cool to see they get help from the community to get more users, but also more developers. I hope
      • "They've open sourced the slower one, and are keeping the faster one closed"

        they're probably ashamed of the faster: it must be one big ugly hack to be so much better than most competitors'...

        Imagine open-sourcing such a mess and try to evolve it by the chaotic nature of patch-applying open-source development... :P
        • by Tet (2721)
          they're probably ashamed of the faster: it must be one big ugly hack to be so much better than most competitors'...

          It's written in assembly language, IIRC...

  • The Google cache ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ClickOnThis (137803) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @05:58PM (#15973905) Journal
    ... is right here [72.14.203.104] and still appears to be building. But at least it's not on fire.
  • by thisisauniqueid (825395) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @06:04PM (#15973947)
    "An anonymous reader" writes: ...crown jewels...5 scant months...a very functional, robust illustration program...a true professional grade graphics package...you owe it to yourself to see the new Xara Xtreme Linux Screenshot gallery...with amazing, unbelievable vector graphic art

    Could "An anonymous reader" possibly be Xara?

    Check out the source code, this thing is a monolith. I think I'm sticking to Inkscape for now, though I wish the Xara team the best of luck, and it was a nice gesture to release the source code under the GPL.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Could "An anonymous reader" possibly be Xara?"

      You think it if was Xara they would have better prepared themselves for the slashdotting.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Tim Browse (9263)

        "Could "An anonymous reader" possibly be Xara?"

        I worked at Xara a few years back, and a more cynical person than I would say that the copy style used in the submission seems strangely familiar, especially bits like "you owe it to yourself". :-)

        You think it if was Xara they would have better prepared themselves for the slashdotting.

        I worked at Xara a few years back, and a more cynical person than I would say that...well, you can probably see where I'm going with this.

  • Good to see ./ has still is "magic touch". It's been a while since we slashdotted.
  • Useless without article... Didn't even make it past 10 comments, site down, mirrordot down, coral cache down, and google cache down...
  • Looks interesting (Score:4, Informative)

    by also-rr (980579) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @06:12PM (#15974007) Homepage
    Wikipedia has more [wikipedia.org] on Xara (of course).

    I'm a huge fan of vector drawing, even to the point of using Inkscape to animate stuff [revis.co.uk]. I can't wait to try this out, especially if it has better support for frame generation.
    • by also-rr (980579)
      There is also Synfig (link to screenshot) [synfig.com] for Linux/OS X which is a vector package aimed at animators. I haven't come accross it before, although it was linked frm the Slashdot article, so I'll be back with a review in, uh, 12-20 hours. Pass the jolt please :)
  • But unfortunately, the server doesn't owe it to me.
  • *Poof*

    Anyone got mirrors?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 24, 2006 @06:25PM (#15974077)
    I'm probably going to make the server burn a little more by piquing Mac user interest in addition to Linux, but, as gleaned from the google cache of the text [72.14.203.104] (the images are still roiling in flames on a server somewhere), they are using wxWidgets [wikipedia.org], and they say they're looking for developers and testers for Mac OS too. I guess a port there is not far off. Presumably other platforms are possible too.
    • ... but they have stated since early on that it is on the backburner until they make more significant progress with the Linux version (after which there will presumably be less to do with getting the code to run on OSX). It makes sense, if it means they will have less concurrent re-work of similar code (and bugs) to work through so that writing the Mac version is more of a port than a rework.

      It's also not unthinkable that the same app could even be backported to Windows, although that seems highly unlik

  • Does it have a bitmap tracer and if so how good is it. I do tons of manual vector tracing since all or most suck badly.
    • Adobe's pretty much screwed Illustrator. Then they bought Macromedia and tanked Freehand. It's good to see the OS community stepping into fill the gap.

      2 cents,

      QueenB
    • It's good for creating a stylised sort of look to stuff but there will never be a 100% solution to replacing manual tracing: Software just isn't good enough, it seems, to do the job as well as a human can.

      That said, the best software I've ever used for doing traces is Adobe Streamline, but that product seems to be abandoned (maybe it's part of Illustrator now? I don't know) and that's not saying much. I can usually trace out/recreate wordmarks and logotype etc. faster than I can get a tracing program to

      • by njh (24312)
        Have you used the tracing built into inkscape?
        • by codepunk (167897)
          Yes and out of all of them it is the worst not because the tracer sucks but the way it is incorporated into the program. The tracer dialog with it's lack of a decent preview or tracing dialog is it's major downfall.
  • by isolationism (782170) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @06:47PM (#15974184) Homepage

    ... But they're a relatively small shop, which is probably the only reason they're having anything to do with Linux at all (trying to get leverage in a growing niche market). I'm sure they like the press regardless, but I'm guessing nobody's in the office now that it's nearly midnight in Britain.

    I am doubtless one of the reasons that Xara LX exists at all -- I wrote their product manager a couple years ago to state I intended to switch to Linux, and would really love it if their product could at least run under WINE; at the time they said they had no intentions on working on a Linux version in the future and that "Linux users seem to expect everything for free". That they are upping the ante and actually making a Linux version that is indeed free is puzzling, but I'm not complaining: I've bought every revision of the software since 1.0 back in the 90s and still prefer it to Inkscape, Illustrator, and all the other competitors on the block.

    My only beefs, if I could be said to have any:

    • Inkscape has more intelligent handling of shapes. For example, the corner radius of a rounded corner is preserved once a shape is resized; in Xara it changes proportional to the altered dimensions from the original shape. Yuck.
    • Inkscape also has a kick-ass calligraphy tool, which isn't useless -- I've already used it to design a product logo for a very real product of a relatively large company. No other vector-based tool for calligraphy comes close.
    • I dearly, sorely wish that Xara would figure out how to get SVG support into Xara. It's a glaring omission that isn't going to fly with the Linux crowd. At all. And it's annoying not to have it in Windows, either. Strangely enough, SVG support was one of the excuses I was given by Xara's product manager for not making a Linux version of Xara (e.g. SVG had priority). I wonder how that's shifted now, and if SVG support is still on the agenda, and for which version(s) of their software.
    • Finally, I know that Xara had earlier pledged to support another open-source application named UberConverter [scratchcomputing.com] which was supposed to be the Rosetta stone to format interoperability. According to the status page, "xar" file read and write capability is there (at least for the LX format) -- so when is the result going to be integrated directly into Xara?

    All told, though, I am grateful to Xara for their decision -- and to all the developers who have contributed to the success of the project. If I could code my way out of a proverbial wet paper bag I would have helped by now, but unfortunately I am one of those individuals who is happy to use Xara's products without having the faintest idea of how to make them (or make them better, in this case).

    • "I am doubtless one of the reasons that Xara LX exists at all" You, and a number people including me who have been begging Xara to start porting to GNU/Linux for years and years. I even offered my help several times :-). I bought Xara 1.5, bought Xara 2.0 and yes even bought Xara Xtreme several months ago :-D. "I dearly, sorely wish that Xara would figure out how to get SVG support into Xara. " Xara is supporting ( http://www.technologynewsdaily.com/node/1468 [technologynewsdaily.com] ) a project called Uber-converter ^H^H^H^H..
    • Finally, I know that Xara had earlier pledged to support another open-source application named UberConverter [scratchcomputing.com] which was supposed to be the Rosetta stone to format interoperability. According to the status page, "xar" file read and write capability is there (at least for the LX format) -- so when is the result going to be integrated directly into Xara?

      Oops, overlooked that one :-) Personally I prefer to have this *not* intergrated directly into any program. I prefer to have those c

    • I have no experience with Xara or Inkscape, but...

      It sounds like if it Xara is -scaling- the vector, then it very well should be scaling the rounding as well. If it is -redimensioning- the vector's width/height/whatever-property, then it's a different matter altogether.

      You'll see this in something like CAD applications where changing the dimensions of a rect is a whole different thing from scaling the rect.
    • by Tim Browse (9263) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @07:55PM (#15974589)

      I dearly, sorely wish that Xara would figure out how to get SVG support into Xara. It's a glaring omission that isn't going to fly with the Linux crowd. At all. And it's annoying not to have it in Windows, either. Strangely enough, SVG support was one of the excuses I was given by Xara's product manager for not making a Linux version of Xara (e.g. SVG had priority). I wonder how that's shifted now, and if SVG support is still on the agenda, and for which version(s) of their software.

      Well, it's a tricky thing, because Xara does some rampant* things with vectors, that are often hard to reproduce in other formats. Speaking as the person who designed the original file format filter (import/export) system, I'd have to say that writing a basic SVG exporter isn't hard, and would cover a lot of cases. However, it wouldn't cope with some of the fancier features very well (or at all) - handling everything properly is a lot of work. And producing something that 'kind of' works results in a poor user experience, which is something Xara (the company and product) tries to avoid.

      But it would be nice to have a basic exporter for people who want SVG, as I still find Xara the easiest program to use for knocking up diagrams and illustrations (I admit I may be susceptible to some bias here). I still remember trying Visio (when it first came out!) to produce some architecture diagrams for Xara, and wishing that I had a good diagram/illustration package to use for the purpose (talk about catch-22). I try Visio every couple of years, but the UI is still akin to being poked in the eye with a sharp yacht.

      * I use the word advisedly, as any of the original Xara developers will know :-)

      • ... But probably not more so than exporting any other vector format from Xara -- take AI, EPS, or PDF for example, and they're already handling those. But I'm being rude:

        Speaking as the person who designed the original file format filter (import/export) system

        I'm honoured to make your acquaintance, Tim -- and I agree, Xara certainly does some "vector-banging" that other software probably didn't do at the time, and doesn't do still -- but packages like Inkscape seem nearly equally capable to Xara in ma

        • by Tim Browse (9263)

          Firstly, my comment was really just to say that SVG export is not amazingly difficult, but it is time-consuming. Xara as a company has (I assume this is still true) finite resources. Simply wanting to do something doesn't mean they can achieve it as soon as they might like.

          Secondly, it's been a long time since I worked at Xara or on their products, so the chances of you offending me are vanishingly small :-)

          (Aside: I'm fed up of using 'Xara' to refer to the company and the product, and the product nam

          • by zero-one (79216)
            I remember seeing the "stately home" message back when I worked at Xara and I always wondered who put that there. I worked at Xara during the second wave of development [zero-one-zero.com]. What was the context for the message - did things drag on a bit during the first version like they did for Xara X (one year of development and one year of beta testing and missed release dates)?
            Jon
            • by Tim Browse (9263)

              What was the context for the message

              I just needed to type some text into the dialog editor for the error dialog. It was just one of the first things that popped into my head - we were working in a big house in the country, after all. It was only a few months into the project at the time, so there was no satire intended :-). Similarly for the buttons on that dialog - I believe the defaults were 'Peng', 'F'tang', 'Ni!' etc. Just the first things I thought of.

              The point was that it was 'impossible' to se

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kimvette (919543)
      I just downloaded and installed it (Gotta love Autopackage, Linux is becoming downright easy to the point where many things are easier than Windows!) and I have to say after playing with it for two minutes: this program is incredible. Who needs Inkscape? In dealing with layers, Inkscape is an exercise in futility, and there is far less control in exporting to specific bitmap sizes than I am used to in Adobe apps.

      Like Inkscape, Gimp, Krita, and other OSS programs, it is missing layer effects (a huge benefit
      • ... And frankly, much of what makes it so nice to work with has been around since version 1.0. There are too many features to list out, but just a few of the things I love about it:

        • Unlike the big guy out there, Xara can actually export a bitmap of exactly what you see on the screen. Not something similar, not something pretty close: exactly what is there, pixel for pixel. Why Illustrator still can't do this is utterly beyond me; Xara has been doing it since version 1.0.
        • Ever have a drawing that needed g
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Inkscape [inkscape.org] seems to be a pretty capable package already (and it supports svg)
  • Fedora Extras (Score:5, Informative)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @06:55PM (#15974246) Homepage
    For Fedora folks, XaraLX and XaraLX-examples are in the Extras repository, which is enabled by default. Just:

    yum -y install XaraLX and XaraLX-examples
    • Haven't checked Sarge, but it's in Sid, version is 0.7r1692-2. An 8 MB download with the extras and SVG packages. Package: xaralx. I've tested it for five minutes, and I'm rather impressed.
    • The new version is missing from the Ubuntu repositories. It's not in the repository for the upcoming 6.10 (Edgy) release, which goes into Feature Freeze next week [ubuntu.com]. Hopefully, it'll still make it in. I believe packages in the Universe repository, which Xara falls under, can be upgraded right up until Edgy reaches beta.
  • Debian debs (Score:3, Informative)

    by 51mon (566265) <Simon@technocool.net> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @07:48PM (#15974544) Homepage
    As no one with Debian uses it, or looks in it, but XaraLX is in "non-free" for Etch and Sid. Looks like the maintainer upgraded it to 0.7 in Sid, Etch is 0.6 currently.

  • Now THIS [blogspot.com] is some amazing photorealistic vector artwork.
  • Running the 0.7 version under Fedora (build 1560) and it looks good so far but haven't done a great deal with it. It's still missing a lot of the bells and whistles (animation, color management), but basic functionality is there. Xara EPS exports open right up in Ghostscript/Scribus so it's already useful on some level.

    Apparently, the crew over at Inkscape http://www.inkscape.org/ [inkscape.org] are collaborating in some way with the Xara people so it will be interesting to see if/how this changes/improves either app.

  • I don't mean to start a "this is better" thread, but does anyone know of a review showing the strengths and weaknesses of Xara vs. Inkscape (besides the latter supporting SVG). In other words, if I'm looking for a vector graphics tool on Linux (used to use Illustrator on Windows before moving to Linux) which should I use?
    • I've had a lot of trouble trying to print from Inkscape (in Windows). Xara is miles ahead in that department -- and that's using a version from 2002 or so. Also, Xara is FAST - for simple drawings, it doesn't matter, but the bigger the image gets, the longer Inkscape takes to render. Oh, and the bitmap tracer in Xara (@2002) is awesome.

      That's not to say that Inkscape isn't a great program -- it is.
    • by ishmalius (153450) on Friday August 25, 2006 @04:36AM (#15976467)
      "Xara vs Inkscape" is a silly notion. I have been a member of the Inkscape project for years now; since before it began. We have recently started collaborating with the Xara guys. Inkscape and Xara have a wonderful relationship. There is no "vs." We are basically attacking the problem from different angles, that's all.
  • Superb GUI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wysiwia (932559) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:19AM (#15976310) Homepage
    As others already have mentioned Xara has a superb GUI and is easy usable. This is due the fact that Xara tries to be wyoGuide conformant (see http://wyoguide.sf.net/projectlist.php [sf.net]).

    O. Wyss

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