Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Xara Open Source - Sleeping Beauty

 You just can't imagine what fairytale may happen in the industry, while you just do common things like hacking, building, and debugging... Anyway, as any fairytale, it started long time ago. I first saw a demo of Xara Studio when CPUs were 100MHz and Windows just turned 95. Don't hold your breath - software was better those days, but not really magic, so you've got to recognize and remember when you see a miracle. Xara, a vector graphics editor, was exactly such miracle. CorelDRAW the Third was king of the hill those times, which ruled without inspiration, though did its job. Well, Xara brought real fresh spirit into the area of graphics design - not only it brought anti-aliasing support, it was also real-time. And there was streamlined and logical UI and set of advanced graphics tools, like blending shapes - also realtime.

So, Xara showed that you can do great software if you like, to stand out of the crowd and make a difference. I remember it since then. And today I found out that Xara was open-sourced! "They must be crazy to have done that" - was first thought which occured to me when I saw the site. But this is fairytale, remember, and evil sourcerers must have kept me in parallel world - it turned that happened long ago, the first wave of commercial companies opening up their projects, and it had been dead few years by now, and epithaph written. So, they weren't mad after all, they didn't open up their low-level graphics lib which on 100MHz behaved better than Adobe Flash does now on 4-core 2GHz CPU. And community guys were too lazy to port it to multitude of other graphics engines, so project's dead.

But what amazes me is that open-source site is up and nicely running, docs are there, etc. just timestamps are old. And mailing lists are quiet. And the temple is full of ancient scrolls suggesting checking if SVN works by telneting to a port. Hush, this is fairytale. It's all working, it's not dead, it's sleeping. Sleeping Beauty.

So, apparently, as the site is running smooth, the company apparently does well. I checked Wikipedia - they do, and keep amaze their users (content-based bitmap resizing is what I saw with a corner of my eye). I don't know how to treat this case. I can't say "better they wouldn't have opened it up". I can't say "they must have opened up their gfx lib". It's not the case that everything should be open, and such applied software as Xara clearly should bring its owners a direct value. So, I better be amazed by Xara and its creators for the second time, it's nice to know they have tried. Not only they tried - they did it. I installed  it on Ubuntu and it looks and works great, even though it's not maintained much any longer (well, there's Ununtu developers' merit to that too).

What amazed me is that, even though I tried, I found no attempts to resurrect it. Well, I found this, but it didn't get much beyond changing a preference dir name. It also used some ancient systems like SVN and imported some history-less archives. Well-well. I'm finishing git svn clone now, to push to gitorious, for git be more comfortable bed for the sleep...


UPDATE 2012-10: There's revived project to port Xara to Cairo: https://github.com/eradman/xara-cairo

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