Xara X

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Features in Common

  • In brief: both are multi-platform and are protected by the GPL. Inkscape is free software; so is Xara Xtreme (currently only partially, as the renderer part of Xara is still closed and binary-only).

Inkscape Advantages


  • completely free and open source (Xara Ltd. refuses to open-source its renderer library)
  • open, text-based, XML-based standardized format (the Xar File Format is a published standard too, but not XML, and not widely adopted)
  • scriptable (rich command line)
  • extendable (perl/python extensions)
  • more localisations
  • ports for OSX and other Unixes, apart from Windows and Linux; all ports have the same functionality (Xara's Linux port is stagnating, only Windows version is being developed)


  • live XML tree editor
  • gaussian blur (not the same as feathering; blurs everything, can be squeezed and rotated)
  • live clones (copies that are linked to the original and update when it's changed)
  • clone tiler (can be used for two-dimensional object scattering with randomization and coloring)
  • tile tracing (tracing anything by a pattern of clones)
  • unclumping (two-dimensional, incremental equidistant distribution of objects)
  • randomizing object positions
  • paint bucket tool to fill any bounded area with a path
  • 3D box tool
  • tweak tool to push, inset, outset, roughen paths and to paint/jitter colors
  • live path effects
  • OCAL integration [Xara can download stuff from its own site only]
  • touch selection
  • baseline snapping, alignment, distribution
  • find dialog (find any object by type, style, id, etc)
  • export and conversion from command line, including batch export with GUI and commandline [Xara has batch export via GUI only, using Names gallery]
  • persistent per-object export hints (filename, resolution)
  • command line query options to examine objects in a drawing
  • command line access to verbs (commands) to automate tasks
  • hierarchical layers, "enter group" command making it a temporary layer
  • pattern fills from arbitrary objects; stock vector patterns
  • gradients/patterns on stroke as well as fill
  • gradient handles can be multiple-selected, selected by marquee, Alt+dragged to smoothly shape, copy/paste styled; gradient can be simplified to remove extra handles
  • transform/not transform switch for patterns and gradients
  • switch to preserve rounded rect corners in transforms
  • scale/rotate/skew any number of objects separately, each around its own center
  • numeric skew (both axes; by angle, %, displacement)
  • editing transform matrix
  • persistent per-object rotation centers
  • pasting of size, width, height
  • simplify-like deletion of nodes
  • node sculpting
  • symmetric nodes
  • different star/polygon rounding (both Xara's and Inkscape's approaches have their advantages)
  • randomized stars
  • spirals
  • easy segment and arc from ellipse
  • the ability to combine color and transparency in a gradient
  • linked offsets and text-on-path remain freely transformable
  • convenient calligraphy pen (sensitive to tablet pressure/tilt, speed and direction, with tremor/wiggle)
  • guided drawing, tracing background in calligraphic
  • flowing text into arbitrary shapes, chaining, exclusion
  • one-command removal of kerns from text
  • rotating characters in text (including text on path)
  • whiteboard (interactive collaborative drawing across the net)
  • connector tool for diagrams
  • automatic diagram layout
  • removing overlaps
  • extension effects for paths: randomize, add nodes, swirl, fractal, function plotter and many others
  • extension effects for colors (inverse, more saturation, replace etc) and text (sentence case, randomize case, replace etc)
  • smoother and more powerful bitmap tracer
  • icon preview
  • masks separate from fill
  • vector import of PDF and CS AI (Xara either fails or imports by rasterization)


  • overall, times more keyboard shortcuts than in xara
  • a large part of all keys are configurable (including Xara emulation option)
  • keys for canvas scrolling (with acceleration)
  • keys for scaling and rotating (including pixel-size)
  • keys for scaling and rotating (including pixel-size) of nodes, including scale/rotate of node groups
  • keys for letterspacing, linespacing, kerning in text (including pixel-size)
  • nodes can be moved with snapping along the adjacent straight line segments or their Bezier controls
  • more snapping options
  • gradient handles can merge and unmerge
  • history of zooms (Xara has a single "previous zoom")
  • zooming by single key (+/-, without ctrl)
  • any kind of zooming (including area) without tool switching
  • "bounding box" per-object selection hints
  • cursor changes over selectable objects
  • node tool optionally highlights mouseovered paths
  • more precision in editable numeric fields

Xara advantages

  • fast renderer
  • blends [Inkscape has limited path+style blending via Interpolate extension]
  • envelopes, including curvilinear and perspective [Inkscape has non-interactive analog via Envelope and Perspective extensions; also non-perspective destructive distortions can be made via node sculpting or tweak tool]
  • linked colors
  • Pantone colors
  • Photoshop plugins/Live effects
  • editing "clipview" clippath without unclipping?
  • integrated Picture Editor for embedded bitmaps
  • can node-edit more than one path at a time
  • brushes along path can be used for object scattering with randomization [Inkscape's pattern-along-path LPE has no randomization]
  • variable stroke width, with selectable profiles or taken from pressure sensitivity [Inkscape can do this via pattern-along-path LPE]
  • dynamic drop shadows [can be emulated in Inkscape via clones+blur or by a single composite filter]
  • feathering objects' edges (not the same as blurring - only inward from edge, like a blurred transparency mask) [can be emulated in Inkscape via clone+blur+mask]
  • more gradient types (conic, 4-point etc) [a limitation of the SVG specification, only linear and radial are defined]
  • bevel tool (outer/inner; join types; size; light angle and elevation; flat/rounded/chiseled etc types (15 in total)) [some of this can be done in Inkscape via filters]
  • "nav bar" tool for buttons (hidden in Xtreme)
  • quick transparency gradients separate from fill [to some extent, can be emulated by SVG masks]
  • gradient profiles [SVG limitation, in Inkscape can be approximated by multistage gradients]
  • rainbow/alt-rainbow gradient options
  • different star/polygon rounding (both Xara's and Inkscape's approaches have their advantages)
  • fractal fill (two preset types, no parameters) [Inkscape has turbulence filter]
  • more input and output formats (including Flash; but not yet SVG)
  • non-AA display mode (note: anti-aliasing is _not_ a significant factor in the speed of Inkscape)
  • linked stretching (autoscaling objects), e.g. stretching button to fit the text

3.2 features:

  • Integrates with external photo editors
  • MS Word copy/paste
  • RTF, raw photo import
    • RTF import can be done via GTK APIs. Raw photo import should use dcraw, or code derived from dcraw.
  • PDF-X export
  • XPS import/export
    • This a royalty-free XML-based PDF replacement format from Microsoft. There is FOSS support for it, i.e. in Okular for KDE4.
  • Multipage
  • Text tool: paragraph spacing, snapping to pixel grid, soft hyphens, smart quotes
  • PSD import/export
    • Would require reverse-engineering Photoshop, as there is no published specification
  • Flash animations
  • Color separations
    • This means producing copies of the original image, each one containing one of the channels. This should probably be postponed after the Cairo move.

Per-feature comparison:

Rectangle tool:


  • Corner radii only in relative units (% of width/height)
  • Can create with rotation ("Radius creation" and "Diameter creation" options)
  • Can edit centre X/Y numerically
  • Can convert to ellipse by doubleclicking center


  • Preview as-you-draw
  • Corner radii only in absolute units
  • A switch to preserve corner radii in scaling

Rotation centers:


  • BAD: looks like once you move a center of an object, ALL objects will use the same center!
  • BAD: does not survive save/reload - all objects are reset to geometric centers. (In other words, the center seems to be the property of the Selector tool, not of objects!)
  • with Ctrl, center snaps to corners/midsides


  • Each object has its own center; if you want to rotate multiple objects around one center, just select them all (taking the object with the center first)
  • Centers persist through save/reload
  • Centers snap to edges and corners/midsides

Bitmap tracer:


  • BAD: all parameters are set in some relative values in the range 1..100, except for "number of passes" which does not correspond to anything quantifiable. There's no way I could find to set explicitly the number of colors.
  • BAD: as a result, tracing a simple line art such as a two-color logo is nearly impossible. Xara almost always creates a bunch of dirt at the fringes due to antialiasing, and shapes get distorted a lot. The Monochrome option seems to be broken.
  • BAD: for photos, there's no stacking option, so full-color traces come out very untidy. The shapes are also more distorted than in Inkscape. If you try to make them less distorted, they start getting pixelated.

Pen tool:


  • you can drag curve and nodes (with snapping and closing) while in the tool (but, strangely, not node handles)


  • live preview of the next segment
  • you can create hor/vert straight line segments with Ctrl
  • length/angle display in statusbar
  • you can easily create disconnected subpaths (starting with Shift)

Path simplification:


  • slider for the just-drawn freehand line (only), to refit both ways (looser or tighter) while it's still selected
  • interactive 0-100% slider in Node tool, looser only but remembers setting while you have the same nodes selected lets you de-simplify back
  • works on selected nodes (actually, ONLY works on selected nodes)


  • Ctrl+L works in any tool, smoothing incrementally with acceleration
  • has wider range and works more gradually
  • works on multiple objects, and on whole object without node selection


Screenshots on the Xara site Page mirror: Web Archive

Screenshot showing Xara Brushes

Screenshot showing Xara Clipart Gallery

Screenshot of Xara depicting a Chevrolet Automobile Screenshot of Xara Wireframe View of Chevrolet Automobile


official site

community site of artists

open source Xara Xtreme

Xar File Format

Xara at Wikipedia

A relevant thread on Talkgraphics

Another relevant thread on Talkgraphics

Yet another relevant thread on Talkgraphics