2nd November 2002
Xara WebStyle 3 is the latest version of Xara's entry level product for quickly creating graphics elements for your website. Xara is most famous for it's vector graphics software XaraX and 3D software Xara3D. WebStyle 3 takes code from both these packages and offers a wide selection of 1000+ customizable templates for creating anything from buttons and banners to fully-functional drop-down DHTML menus.
The interface itself feels like a webpage and is essentially a step-by-step wizard. It opens up on a sort of "homepage" that lets you select the type of graphic to create. Alternatively you can select from the menu of "links" on the left side menu. The tutorial button starts one of 7 high-quality tutorials that guide you through performing 7 different tasks including loading previously saved work and making buttons.
As you can see from the shot above WebStyle happily creates NavBars & Menus, ThemeSets (these are complete sets of consistent looking buttons, headings, navbars etc.), Buttons, Photos (you can apply very basic blur/sharpen, tint, contrast, saturation, brightness, crop your image and place your image on a background texture), Backgrounds, Bullets, Headings, 3D Headings, Dividers, Logos and BannerAds.
Clicking on any of the graphics types takes you to a list of templates in that category for customization. Aside from the Photos and Backgrounds sections, the other options are based on templates built using XaraX or Xara3D and this means they are vector and can be scaled, colored and customized without loosing quality. You can also apply Xara X professional-quality drop shadows/glows with feathering and perspective settings (for making the element look like it is standing up on a floor).
For example to create a button it's as easy as clicking on the Buttons category on the "homepage"...
...Then selecting the desired template. You can easily filter the templates based on the types of designs desired...
...then select the text button (from the left menu), enter the text for your button and select the font, text size and other standard settings...
...then select the color button and set colors for your button. You can change the color of each part of the button. In the template I have selected you can customize the color of the text, gradient, page background and the little red light...
...then select the texture button and choose a background texture for your button if desired.
...as this button has a bevel you can select the bevel button and set the bevel. You can choose from a wide range of bevels (including round, flat, chiseled, Ridge, Frame, Point and Ruffle) and other bevel options such as contrast, depth and light source direction.
...then select the shadow button and use the powerful shadow features to add an optional drop shadow...
...then select the size button and scale the button to the exact size desired. As the template remains vector, it is fully scalable without loss of quality. The text automatically scales with the button...
...then select the NavBars button to create navigational bars (more than one button of the same type) and optionally add DHTML popup menus to each button. You can go back to the Color section to change the colors for each button state (i.e. Off, Over, Selected). Disappointingly, you can only set color settings for the DHTML popup menus and not change other attributes such as the padding or outline for each menu item...
...finally select the Save button to save your graphic and optionally export the images and script to disk. You can choose JPEG, GIF or PNG for the final image and Xara WebStyle 3 offers a live preview of the compression settings selected. Then it's just a matter of clicking "Save Graphic..." and selecting where to save to.
There is a similar process for creating other types of graphics. As you can see WebStyle 3 is very easy to use and delivers a variety of graphic types.
Xara Webstyle 3 offers some compelling new features for owners of previous versions of WebStyle. Specifically you can now insert graphics directly from Dreamweaver or FrontPage. This works well and you can even re-edit the original graphic—Webstyle is launched and loads your graphic project.
Xara WebStyle 3 also offers easy tools for inserting a thumbnail with popup. Simply select Photo from the main menu, load your photo or other image and go to the Thumbnail section. This is very useful for quickly inserting photo thumbnails and adding larger versions in a popup window. Xara WebStyle 3 even makes the popup window the correct size for the larger version of the photo.
DHTML menus and NavBars are also new features of WebStyle 3. I would like to see more customization in future releases including spacing, padding and even using buttons as the actual menu items instead of just text.
Of course there are also hundreds of new templates so there is more chances of finding just the right element for the job.
Xara WebStyle 3 is a fast, high-quality piece of software for entry level users to efficiently create all sorts of elements for their websites. Keeping everything in original vector format means templates have high quality output even after scaling and customization. Users should have a lot of fun customizing the 3D headings and various other template designs. The online help and tutorial videos are excellent and even without these resources the interface is intuitive and easy to follow.
Professionals however may not be as impressed. There are a few tools that may be useful such as the thumbnail with larger popup feature and DHTML navigation bars. Successfully integration with FrontPage and Dreamweaver makes these tools readily accessible. However, generally the other design templates are a little too specific for larger websites and even with extensive customization the resulting images can still look like they are based on canned templates.
A free trial version and more information is available at Xara's website:
• Windows 95/98/Me/2000/NT 4.0/XP
• Intel-compatible MMX processor (PII 233 or higher recommended)
• 64Mb RAM
• 50Mb available hard disk space
For Macintosh ®
• Not Available
Copyright 2002, Tim Carden, All Rights Reserved