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Animation Software Review: Xara Designer Pro 6

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Animation Software Review: Xara Designer Pro 6

The Bottom Line

Although it's a fully-featured design program, Xara Designer Pro 6 is just that: a design program with some animation features. I wouldn't recommend it for animators unless you're seeking something suited for web content production. For that, Xara Designer's perfect.
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  • Easy to create 3D graphics.
  • Animation is a simple process.
  • Exports to GIF or Flash format.


  • No timeline; this is presented as a pro, but doesn't seem like one to me.
  • No onion-skinning. Anyone used to traditional animation will find this frustrating.


  • Richly-featured design program with animation functionality.
  • Features multiple effects and image manipulation capabilities.
  • Allows detailed vector drawing and frame-by-frame animation.

Guide Review - Animation Software Review: Xara Designer Pro 6

I haven't looked at a Xara product in years - but they managed to talk me into it by telling me that Xara Designer Pro 6 now lets you produce animated GIFs and Flash animations. While Xara Designer is capable of multiple graphics and 3D design functions, my primary interest is in the animation capabilities, so that's what we'll focus on here.

Overall it's hard to find the animation functions amidst everything else; I had to poke for a bit to figure out that you have to open a new file specifically as an animation, rather than starting with a new document with the freedom to turn it into anything you want. Once you get stared, though, it's not hard to figure out. Basically you have a list of frames, and the freedom to draw or import images to each; there are various graphic design effects that can also be applied to your animation frames.

Within a few minutes of tinkering I'd figured out how to turn a simple rectangle into a dynamic, easily repositioned 3D cube (a definite advantage; it's a nifty feature) - and then created a ten-frame animation of that cube moving around the stage and rotating into different positions. The animations can be exported as animated GIFs of varying quality, or as Flash movies.

The lack of a timeline is a serious detriment. Xara presents this as a pro: instead of the timeline, it uses a Frame Gallery that looks much like the layer managers in multiple other programs. I'm not a fan of it, really; even though you can set the duration of each frame in the Frame Gallery, it's really not a comfortable visual representation of your animation timeline. If you're just assembling static images into an animation with each set to remain for a certain time, though, it's workable.

Another thing I'd like to see is onion-skinning. I'm a little dependent on it; I'd like to be able to see what I'm doing in successive frames rather than just hopping from frame-to-frame. Lack of onion-skinning makes this unsuited for traditional animation; really the toolset is more suited for producing simple animated graphics for website enhancements, rather than anything truly complex.

Then again, it doesn't aim for anything higher - so for what it offers, it's a decent program. I'd definitely say it's better suited for web and graphic designers than animators.

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