By: Swati Sani
Xara Web Style is a program dedicated to creating graphics for your web page: from headings in 2D and 3D to backgrounds, buttons, bullets and dividers. This is achieved by changing the various properties of the supplied templates.
The Webstyle installation is a breeze. The CD option consumed only 6.5 MB on my space-starved hard disk (Full install is 21.5 MB). The first thing that struck me when I started WebStyle - and which I found attractive - was the distinctly feminine interface, with pastel shades and curvaceous buttons, rather than the usual dull grey boxes with rectangular buttons (though there are some of them in there!).
The opening screen gives you a choice of image type, such as heading, button etc. After you have chosen the item you want, a screen similar to the one shown below comes up (depending on the option chosen).
Creating a graphic of your choice is just a matter of choosing the template that you want and then using the buttons on the left hand side of the screen to change its various attributes to your liking. The things that you can change include the text and font properties, the colour of various areas of the image, its texture, shadows and size.
The preview window constantly shows the work you are doing, updating any changes you make in real time. As you can see there are plenty of styles to choose from and the buttons on the left let you manipulate all the things you would like to change in the graphic. Most of these buttons have both simple and advanced options. The advanced options let you fine-tune your graphic to exact specifications and the simple options allow you to manipulate it quickly.
I particularly liked the shadow option which allowed me to fine-tune the offset of the shadow in pixels. It also gave control over features like colour of the shadow, amount of blurring, and whether the shadow is on a wall or floor. There are literally hundreds of button styles to choose from, and with a little bit of thought and the full colour manipulation you can have pretty decent rollover effects - see the pair of buttons that I made.
The overall design of the software is intuitive and has been given due care. For example, while saving your work you are given the option of saving the image as a GIF or a JPEG (if you are not done you can still save your work in the proprietary WebStyle format and continue later). You can also preview your work in your Web browser from here, which is a great help.
While designing buttons, the size of the button automatically adjusts to the length of your text. However, a Lock Button Size option has been thoughtfully provided so that your "Home" and "Feedback" buttons can be of the same size!
The help file included is detailed enough and complete. In fact I revamped my site using Xara WebStyle within half an hour flat.
BUT - and a big BUT - I was not able to create the simple navigational menu which is at the bottom of my page using WebStyle or for that matter, the star graphic that is also there. Basically, the type and range of graphics you can produce with it is limited (well, you can only do so much!). In short, you cannot create original graphics on Xara WebStyle. There is always the risk that the graphics you create with it will look the same as those on someone else's site; however Xara says that with over one thousand templates on the Webstyle CD and with the many different possible alterations, you'd have to be pretty unlucky to find something on another site which you recognised as the same template.
Webstyle does not allow any manipulation of the template design itself. This means that if you want the text in your graphic to be just that much more extruded, or the button to be a bit more curving then you will have to purchase the more elaborate Xara Webster and/or Xara 3D. Fifteen day trial copies of these programs are provided on the WebStyle CD - good salesmanship I would say!
So what is my verdict? - Xara WebStyle is much more than a clip-art collection, but a whole lot less than a "proper" drawing program (which it does not purport to be anyway). If you happen to be one of those "graphically challenged" programmers with a phobia for doing computer artwork, then I would say "Go for it!".
|Go for it if designing graphics is not your strong point.|
|Are you interested in buying Webstyle after reading this review? Why not buy it through irt.org? Simply click on the logo to the left. From here you can download a trial version of Webstyle or just buy it online straight away. If you do, you will be sent a CD containing all the extra templates etc.|