Xara X. Chapter 1

This month we kick off the first series of Xara X feature reviews. Over the coming month's, and for as long as it takes, your editor will attempt to explain how Xara X works. Many of you old timers will know much of this already, but with Xara X's sure-to-be newfound fame, we're going to have a lot of new users who are going to need all the help we can give them. And, if you are like me, you just might learn a thing or two you didn't know, and rediscover a few things you already knew, but have long forgotten.

Shown here is a one half-sized image of the Xara X window.

I have added colored rectangles to highlight the different areas.

On the very top of the screen are the standard Windows pull-down menus. The most important of these is the Help menu. If you ever get lost and need help with something, this is the first place to look. The area outlined in red is known as the Infobar. The information shown here is context-sensitive, which means that the information changes depending upon the selected tool or effect. Beneath the Infobar is the Standard Toolbar which includes many features common to most functions. The area in orange contains the Galleries. On the left is the Main Toolbar. Current users will see some new tools have been added. The area along the bottom of the page is the screen palette. The square colors are Xara's standard named colors and shades of black to white. The diamond shaped colors are Web safe colors that display consistently on all computer platforms.

This month we'll begin by looking at the Pull-down menus and a brief explanation of what is contained within each one.

Many of Xara's Toolbars are known as "tear off" toolbars because you can physically drag them from their docked position and onto the screen as I have done here with the Main Toolbar, which is normally docked on the left side of the screen. Mac users will appreciate this as most Macintosh applications have similar floating palettes or menus. Dragging on the outside edges allows you to custom configure the floating toolbars making them wider or taller as desired. You can drag a floating palette anywhere on the screen or drag it to any edge and dock it.

From top to bottom, from left to right the tools are: Selector Tool, Freehand and Brush Tool, Shape Editor Tool, Pen Tool , Rectangle Tool, Ellipse Tool, Quick Shapes Tool, Blend Tool, Contour Tool, Button and Nav Bar Tool, Fill Tool, Transparency Tool, Mould Tool, Text Tool, Shadow Tool, Bevel Tool, Push Tool, and Zoom Tool.

Brief Tool descriptions:

  • Selector Tool Use to select an object or group of objects. Click on any object to select, hold down the Shift key and click to select multiple objects, or drag a rectangle around a group of objects to "marquee" select the objects.
  • Freehand and Brush Tool Use to draw freehand curves. The smoothness setting on the Infobar determines the smoothness of the curve. Custom brush shapes are also created with this tool and can be edited when the brush stroke and the Freehand and Brush Tool are selected.
  • Shape Editor Tool Use to edit open or closed paths. Drag a straight line to convert it to a curve. Add and delete points. Use to edit Bezier curves.
  • Pen Tool Creates straight line segments. Can also create Bezier curves.
  • Rectangle Tool Click and drag to create a rectangle. Hold down Ctrl key to constrain rectangle to a square.
  • Ellipse Tool Click and drag to create an ellipse. Hold down Ctrl key to constrain ellipse to a circle.
  • Quick Shape Tool Use to create polygons and stars. Convert polygons to stars and stars to polygons, circles to squares and so forth.
  • Blend Tool Click on one object and drag to a second object to create a blend. Click and drag to a third (or more if desired) object to create a multiple blend.
  • Contour Tool Click and drag outward to interactively add concentric rings to the outside, or click and drag inward to add rings to the inside.
  • Button and Nav Bar Tool Creates Web buttons and navigation bars with mouse roll over effects. Can manually or automatically create up to four button states.
  • Fill Tool Use to create fountain fills, bitmap fills, fractal fills and other fills other than solid color fills.
  • Transparency Tool Adds a multitude of different transparency effects with the same set of options as the Fill Tool.
  • Mould Tool Applies any of several flat-sided and curved-sided envelope shapes to an object or group of objects that permits the entire object to be shaped at one time. Envelopes may be reedited unless Converted to Editable Shapes.
  • Text Tool Used to create and edit text.
  • Shadow Tool Click and drag an object to interactively add one of three shadow types. Object does not have to be selected.
  • Bevel Tool Adds an Interactive Beveled shape to an object.
  • Push Tool Moves the screen around the contents.
  • Zoom Tool Click to magnify an object or drag a rectangle around an object or group of objects to zoom to a specific area.