The early years

The early years will not mean much to those outside the UK, as the computers we developed for were very UK centric.

For the first 12 years we didn't develop software for the early IBM PC, simply because it was a lousy architecture, lousy processor and ran bad software (in our opinion at the time). It was successful for one reason only - the letters IBM. The Apple II computer was much more up our street, but was too expensive in the UK, and didn't sell enough. Remember back in those days there was no Internet and software had to be packaged and distributed the traditional way and so we couldn't consider a computer that didn't have any significant UK market.

So the computers we developed for - the BBC Micro and later the Acorn 32-bit RISC based machines - were much more Apple like in many ways.

ROMs

The BBC Micro was unusual in that you could install ROM chips inside, and that's how we shipped our software. This has the great advantage that the software became permanently installed in the computer, had instant start-up and required no RAM.

Xara (then called Computer Concepts) grew to become the largest developer for the Acorn computer - first the BBC Micro and then the Acorn Risc based computers. The second time around (Archimedes) we had to start again from scratch, as we'd spent a year or two developing Atari ST software.



The Atari ST

This was a revolutionary computer in its day. Perhaps the first affordable 32-bit architecture (68000 processor was a delight to work with, compared to x86 based processors in IBM PCs). It had a Mac-like desktop. It had loads of RAM - 128KBytes to be exact. Isn't it extraordinary to consider that 128k BYTES of memory was regarded as a large amount, and even more amazing to think that a great many software packages, including word processors and even DTP packages could be written to work in that space!

We developed only a few packages for the Atari ST. The main one was Fast BASIC, a BBC-Basic like basic interpreter / compiler. BBC Basic was widely regarded as one of the best Basic dialects around - clean and modular. It included an inline assembler, which was hugely important for us because most of our programs were written in assembly language. The version we did for the Atari ST came on a ROM cartridge that you plugged in the side.



Archimedes

We knew about Acorn's RISC developments from the very beginning. The BBC Micro used the 6502 8-bit processor which was very simple, but very fast (for the time). Acorn wanted to find a 32-bit replacement and, for one reason and another, decided to develop their own brand new 32-bit architecture, that had the simplicity of the 6502, but was true 32-bit. What they created was not only the first affordable 32-bit processor, but the fastest chip around, by a large margin. It easily beat the rather poor 8086 16-bit processor that powered the IBM PC at the time.

So once Acorn announced their first computer, it was off Atari, and back to developing Acorn software. That computer was simply the most advanced, from a hardware and software point of view, and we had to work on it.

We created a wide range of products for the Acorn Risc computers, including hardware products such as the LaserDirect, which was the world's first sub £1000 600-dpi laser printer. In 1990 we also developed our own Postscript clone (ShowPage) which was the beginning of a line of products taking us to Xara Designer Pro today.

But despite having world beating technology, poor management doomed Acorn. We could see this coming from the start and knew we would have to switch platform in order to survive.



Why not the Apple Mac

So in the early 1990s we had to make a decision. Develop for Apple Mac or IBM PC? We knew about project Cairo (which become Windows95) and had Windows NT, the direct predecessor to Windows XP. This was a very decent 32-bit operating system, and most of our objections to the PC had gone by then. It had a good 32-bit OS, huge improvements to graphics and processor speed.

And Apple were in deep trouble. Steve Jobs had been kicked out of his company, and was developing the NeXT computer. Ask pretty much anyone at the time what the future of Apple was, and the answer was pretty unanimous: it had no future. No one could have anticipated that eventually Steve Jobs would get the company back and bring his NeXT software with him (which would eventually become the current Mac OSX ) and that he would transform Apple into a company worth more than Microsoft and Intel combined.

So maybe we made a mistake in not developing for the Mac from day one. Are we going do it now?? There's no Mac version imminent but we're not saying never!

Windows

A couple of our products on the Acorn platform stood out - and won awards when compared against the competition on the Mac and PC. Impression, a powerful DTP product, compared favourably with Quark Xpress; and Artworks a vector graphics product, competed well against very early versions of CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator. Many Mac and Windows owners asked, sometimes begged us to port these products to their platform.

So project Camelot was started in the early nineties, which was a ground-up rewrite of Artworks, but designed to be able to provide all the features of Impression our DTP package as well one day.

Xara was born

And this was when the company name changed to Xara - when we started working on PCs. The old name was not just boring, but there were a number of other "Computer Concepts" companies around the world. Xara was going global and we had to have a new brand.

Where did the name come from? I saw a girl called Zara on TV and thought that was an unusual name. But decided to make it bit more unusual by putting an X in place of the Z, so a bit like Xerox. This had the benefit of being short, unusual, most importantly trademarkable around the world, and one where we could get the domain name. The downside is that we're always at the end of any alphabetical list!

Project Camelot

Originally released as Xara Studio, the marketing rights were snapped up by Corel (who had something like 90% market share in the Windows market at the time), and re-branded and sold as CorelXARA. And although Corel wanted to buy the company or at least have access to the source code, we provided neither. Corel had a simple marketing licence to the product, and so that's how CorelXARA came about.

But after 5 years of them not selling and promoting our product as we would have liked we came to a mutual agreement to terminate the deal. So Xara regained all marketing rights to the product and started developing it again. That become Xara X, then Xara Xtreme and finally in two (classic and pro) versions Xara Photo & Graphic Designer and Designer Pro and the basis of Xara Web Designer.

MAGIX & International Expansion

In 2007 the company was purchased by the German multi-media company MAGIX AG. Xara continues as a separate company, but is now part of the MAGIX group and has seen rapid international expansion as a result. We have the same world class team of developers working on the design products that are our strength, but benefit from the considerable marketing and development resources of MAGIX.

Xara titles are now available under the MAGIX brand in German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Russian and Turkish, with more to come. Our software is also sold in retail stores throughout Europe.

Take on the world

So what next? It's simple: we intend to offer our customers the best web and graphic design products and services in the world, all over the world!

Charles Moir
CEO and founder
Xara Group Ltd

Product Timeline

  • Several small utilities for the Acorn Atom
    Acorn Atom
  • Space Invaders
    Game
    Acorn Atom
  • Wordwise
    Word Processor
    BBC Micro
  • Snake
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • SpaceHawks
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Code Race
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Asteriod Belt
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Dissasembler
    6502 programmer utility
    BBC Micro
  • Logo 2
    Logo graphics language
    BBC Micro
  • Cube
    Rubik's cube
    BBC Micro
  • Adventure
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Fruit Machine
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Sound Idea

    BBC Micro
  • Chess
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Reversi
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Android Attack
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Games Galore
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Swarm
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Draughts
    Game
    BBC Micro
  • Beebcalc
    Spreadsheet
    BBC Micro
  • Graphics ROM
    Graphics utilities
    BBC Micro
  • Disc Doctor
    Disc utility
    BBC Micro
  • Gremlin
    Programmer utility
    BBC Micro
  • Sidewise Extension Board
    Add extra ROMs
    BBC Micro
  • Caretaker
    Utility
    BBC Micro
  • Wordwise Plus
    Updated word processor with programming language
    BBC Micro
  • Printmaster
    Printing utility
    BBC Micro
  • Communicator
    Terminal emulator
    BBC Micro
  • Termi II
    Terminal emulator
    BBC Micro
  • Speech System
    Speech synthesiser
    BBC Micro
  • Acclerator
    BBC Basic compiler
    BBC Micro
  • Inter-Sheet
    Integrated Office suite
    BBC Micro
  • Inter-Chart
    Integrated Office suite
    BBC Micro
  • Inter-Word
    Integrated Office suite
    BBC Micro
  • Fast ASM
    68000 Assembler and editor
    Atari ST
  • Fast Basic
    BBC-like Basic interpreter / compiler
    Atari ST
  • Back Pack
    A set of general utilities
    Atari ST
  • Calligrapher
    DTP package - aborted
    Atari ST
  • Spellmaster
    Spell checker
    BBC Micro
  • Inter-Word
    Integrated Office suite
    Archimedes
  • Inter-Sheet
    Integrated Office suite
    Archimedes
  • Inter-Chart
    Integrated Office suite
    Archimedes
  • Wordwise Plus
    Word processor
    Archimedes
  • ROM podule
    Allow ROMs to be plugged into Archimedes
    Archimedes
  • Mega 3
    Word, Sheet & Chart
    Archimedes
  • ARM Assembly Language
    book
    Archimedes
  • Inter-Base
    Integrated Office suite
    BBC Micro
  • Impression
    DTP package
    Archimedes
  • Spellmaster Z88
    Text editor with spell check as you type.
    Sinclair Z88
  • DTP at a glance
    Book
    BBC Micro
  • Impression 2
    Updated DTP package
    Archimedes
  • Impression Junior
    As it suggests
    Archimedes
  • Equasor
    Equation editor
    Archimedes
  • ShowPage
    Postscript emulator
    Archimedes
  • LaserDirect
    Direct drive 600dpi laser printer
    Archimedes
  • Scanlight
    Scanner
    Archimedes
  • SpellMaster
    Spell checker
    Archimedes
  • Fax Pack
    Fax software and hardware
    Archimedes
  • Impression Bizz Supplement
    supplement to Impression
    Archimedes
  • Compression
    General ZIP like compression utility
    Archimedes
  • Impression Borders
    Fancy borders for frames
    Archimedes
  • Font discs
    Font packs
    Archimedes
  • ArtWorks
    Vector graphics - direct ancestor of Xara Designer
    Archimedes
  • Colourcard
    Graphics card
    Archimedes
  • TurboDrivers
    Printer drivers
    Archimedes
  • Canon inkjet printers
    Printer & printer drivers
    Archimedes
  • A3000 expansion box
    Extra expansion card capacity
    Archimedes
  • Hawk V9
    Video capture
    Archimedes
  • Chroma Genlock
    Chrome locking video board
    Archimedes
  • Impression Style
    Word processor style DTP
    Archimedes
  • Impression Publisher
    Heavyweight DTP
    Archimedes
  • Audioworks
    Sound editing utility
    Archimedes
  • Wordworks
    Dictionary / Thesarus
    Archimedes
  • MacFS
    Mac disc reading utility
    Archimedes
  • ClipArt CDs
    clipart from Artworks contests
    Archimedes
  • Graphics Loaders
    Import / export filters
    Archimedes
  • Eagle M2
    Video capture board
    Archimedes
  • ScanLight Video
    Video capture board
    Archimedes
  • MidiMax
    Midi expansion card
    Archimedes
  • GreyHawk
    Greyscale video capture
    Archimedes
  • Pioneer CD drives
    CD Rom drive
    Archimedes
  • Impression Publisher Plus
    Even more heavyweight DTP
    Archimedes
  • Formulix
    Advanced formula / equation editor
    Archimedes
  • Lark card
    Sound card
    Archimedes
  • TV Tuner
    TV tuner card
    Archimedes
  • Movie Majic
    Movie editing software
    Archimedes
  • Wacom ArtPads
    Tablet and driver software
    Archimedes
  • Xara Studio
    Vector graphics
    Windows
  • Eidoscope
    Video editing software
    Archimedes
  • CorelXARA
    Corel branded Xara Studio
    Windows
  • Xara Networks
    Corporate ISP
    All
  • Various Artworks tools (Easox pressure, Arranger, Precision, later Hatch)
    Archimedes
  • Text Loaders & Savers
    RTF & Word Perfect loaders/savers
    Archimedes
  • Webster
    Cut down vector graphics
    Windows
  • Xara3D
    3D text & animations
    Windows
  • Xara Webstyle
    Template based web graphics
    Windows
  • Xara X
    New CorelXARA under our own brand
    Windows
  • Xara Online
    Online Web Services
    All
  • Menu Maker
    DHTML menus for websites
    Windows
  • ScreenMaker
    3D screen saver maker
    Windows
  • Xara Xtreme LX
    Open Source Xara Xtreme
    Linux
  • Xara Xtreme Pro
    Pro version of Xara X
    Windows
  • MAGIX
    Xara titles begin to appear in many different languages under the MAGIX brand
    Windows
  • Xara Web Designer
    New web design title
    Windows
  • Photo & Graphic Designer
    Xtreme, renamed and updated
    Windows
  • Xara Designer Pro
    Xtreme Pro, renamed and updated
    Windows
  • Web Designer Premium
    Pro version of Web Designer
    Windows
  • Page & Layout Designer
    New page layout & DTP title
    Windows




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