While the majority of web authoring tools are based on HTML editors, often with a reliance on scripting, Xara has taken a different approach. Not surprisingly, with the company’s background, Xara Web Designer is more design orientated. As a result you can position items within a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) environment either using one of the supplied customisable templates or by creating your own design.
Totally appropriate for a web designer product and in keeping with Xara’s normal practice, Xara Web Designer requires you to download the software from the company’s website. Initially the product arrives as a 30-day trial version. In order to upgrade to the full version of the product you will need to enter an activation code which is supplied on purchase.
Firing up the program immediately confirms the product’s design-based concepts as you are faced by a work area framed within various tool bars and a colour palette. As mentioned earlier you can either work from one of the templates associated with Web Designer or create your own design. There are over a hundred templates, some of which have been designated as suitable for communication, holiday, legal, music, reflections or writer subject matter.
Although there is a gallery that can be used to preview thumbnails of the types of pages making up each of the templates, you will need to download the template pack before you can access the various offerings. This additional download consists of a 53.1MB file and requires a separate installation process. Once this has been completed, you can then make your choice from the provided templates.
Depending upon your needs, you can cherry pick the most appropriate template or pick and mix individual pages from various templates. With this latter approach, the software will offer to automatically match the colours, based on the first page chosen, for a themed look. If a certain colour does not appeal then you have the choice to change it either for the current page or global through all the pages making up the site. You can reposition and customise any of the elements of individual pages through methods such as drag and drop.
Taking the option to create your own design gives you a choice of working in VGA, SVGA, XGA plus animation or starting with a blank photo environment. You can insert photos, vector graphics, and text. Pages can be embellished with headers & footers, buttons with rollovers and pop-up effects plus include Flash animations and add widgets such as YouTube movies, news feeds, Google maps and Picasa photo albums. While on the subject of photos, Xara Web Designer allows you to adjust the contrast and brightness of photos plus blur, sharpen, crop and overlay images with text.
Although there is a range of features relating to text, I was unable to discover a method of opening or importing a text file into this software. The only options available were to use cut & paste or by typing directly into a text box with a spell check as you type facility. Once entered, text can be fitted to a curve, aligned in columns or flowed around irregular shapes.
There is a wide range of support for image and graphic formats. Along with the previously mentioned Design gallery for templates, there are also layer, bitmap, line and fill galleries with varying amounts of content to which you can add your own contributions.
Xara Web Designer has the ability to display your work in preview mode before you decide to publish it to your assigned website by entering the appropriate information into a tabbed dialogue box. This product is aimed more at those who are comfortable working within a graphics environment. However even some traditional web designers might be prepared to change their working habits and sample the delights on offer with this software. The product requires Windows XP or Vista with 256MB of RAM and 100MB of hard disk space. Xara has priced Web Designer at £39.
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