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History: 1981-2011

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.


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.


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!


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 in the world, all over the world!

Charles Moir
CEO and founder
Xara Group Ltd

Product Timeline

1981 Several small utilities for the Acorn Atom Acorn Atom
1981 Space Invaders Game Acorn Atom
1982 Wordwise Word Processor BBC Micro
1982 Snake Game BBC Micro
1982 SpaceHawks Game BBC Micro
1982 Code Race Game BBC Micro
1982 Asteriod Belt Game BBC Micro
1982 Dissasembler 6502 programmer utility BBC Micro
1982 Logo 2 Logo graphics language BBC Micro
1982 Cube Rubik's cube BBC Micro
1982 Adventure Game BBC Micro
1982 Fruit Machine Game BBC Micro
1982 Sound Idea
BBC Micro
1982 Chess Game BBC Micro
1982 Reversi Game BBC Micro
1983 Android Attack Game BBC Micro
1983 Games Galore Game BBC Micro
1983 Swarm Game BBC Micro
1983 Draughts Game BBC Micro
1983 Beebcalc Spreadsheet BBC Micro
1983 Graphics ROM Graphics utilities BBC Micro
1983 Disc Doctor Disc utility BBC Micro
1983 Gremlin Programmer utility BBC Micro
1984 Sidewise Extension Board Add extra ROMs BBC Micro
1984 Caretaker Utility BBC Micro
1984 Wordwise Plus Updated word processor with programming language BBC Micro
1984 Printmaster Printing utility BBC Micro
1984 Communicator Terminal emulator BBC Micro
1984 Termi II Terminal emulator BBC Micro
1985 Speech System Speech synthesiser BBC Micro
1985 Acclerator BBC Basic compiler BBC Micro
1985 Inter-Sheet Integrated Office suite BBC Micro
1985 Inter-Chart Integrated Office suite BBC Micro
1986 Inter-Word Integrated Office suite BBC Micro
1986 Fast ASM 68000 Assembler and editor Atari ST
1986 Fast Basic BBC-like Basic interpreter / compiler Atari ST
1986 Back Pack A set of general utilities Atari ST
1987 Calligrapher DTP package - aborted Atari ST
1987 Spellmaster Spell checker BBC Micro
1987 Inter-Word Integrated Office suite Archimedes
1987 Inter-Sheet Integrated Office suite Archimedes
1987 Inter-Chart Integrated Office suite Archimedes
1987 Wordwise Plus Word processor Archimedes
1987 ROM podule Allow ROMs to be plugged into Archimedes Archimedes
1987 Mega 3 Word, Sheet & Chart Archimedes
1987 ARM Assembly Language book Archimedes
1988 Inter-Base Integrated Office suite BBC Micro
1988 Impression DTP package Archimedes
1988 Spellmaster Z88 Text editor with spell check as you type. Sinclair Z88
1989 DTP at a glance Book BBC Micro
1990 Impression 2 Updated DTP package Archimedes
1990 Impression Junior As it suggests Archimedes
1990 Equasor Equation editor Archimedes
1990 ShowPage Postscript emulator Archimedes
1990 LaserDirect Direct drive 600dpi laser printer Archimedes
1990 Scanlight Scanner Archimedes
1990 SpellMaster Spell checker Archimedes
1990 Fax Pack Fax software and hardware Archimedes
1991 Impression Bizz Supplement supplement to Impression Archimedes
1991 Compression General ZIP like compression utility Archimedes
1991 Impression Borders Fancy borders for frames Archimedes
1991 Font discs Font packs Archimedes
1992 ArtWorks Vector graphics - direct ancestor of Xara Designer Archimedes
1992 Colourcard Graphics card Archimedes
1992 TurboDrivers Printer drivers Archimedes
1992 Canon inkjet printers Printer & printer drivers Archimedes
1993 A3000 expansion box Extra expansion card capacity Archimedes
1993 Hawk V9 Video capture Archimedes
1993 Chroma Genlock Chrome locking video board Archimedes
1994 Impression Style Word processor style DTP Archimedes
1994 Impression Publisher Heavyweight DTP Archimedes
1994 Audioworks Sound editing utility Archimedes
1994 Wordworks Dictionary / Thesarus Archimedes
1994 MacFS Mac disc reading utility Archimedes
1994 ClipArt CDs clipart from Artworks contests Archimedes
1994 Graphics Loaders Import / export filters Archimedes
1994 Eagle M2 Video capture board Archimedes
1994 ScanLight Video Video capture board Archimedes
1994 MidiMax Midi expansion card Archimedes
1994 GreyHawk Greyscale video capture Archimedes
1994 Pioneer CD drives CD Rom drive Archimedes
1994 Impression Publisher Plus Even more heavyweight DTP Archimedes
1994 Formulix Advanced formula / equation editor Archimedes
1994 Lark card Sound card Archimedes
1994 TV Tuner TV tuner card Archimedes
1994 Movie Majic Movie editing software Archimedes
1994 Wacom ArtPads Tablet and driver software Archimedes
1994 Xara Studio Vector graphics Windows
1995 Eidoscope Video editing software Archimedes
1995 CorelXARA Corel branded Xara Studio Windows
1995 Xara Networks Corporate ISP All
1996 Various Artworks tools (Easox pressure, Arranger, Precision, later Hatch) Archimedes
1996 Text Loaders & Savers RTF & Word Perfect loaders/savers Archimedes
1996 Webster Cut down vector graphics Windows
1997 Xara3D 3D text & animations Windows
1998 Xara Webstyle Template based web graphics Windows
2000 Xara X New CorelXARA under our own brand Windows
2001 Xara Online Online Web Services All
2002 Menu Maker DHTML menus for websites Windows
2003 ScreenMaker 3D screen saver maker Windows
2006 Xara Xtreme LX Open Source Xara Xtreme Linux
2006 Xara Xtreme Pro Pro version of Xara X Windows
2007 MAGIX Xara titles begin to appear in many different languages under the MAGIX brand Windows
2009 Xara Web Designer New web design title Windows
2010 Photo & Graphic Designer Xtreme, renamed and updated Windows
2010 Xara Designer Pro Xtreme Pro, renamed and updated Windows
2011 Web Designer Premium Pro version of Web Designer Windows

Registered in England and Wales: Company registration number 3097032: Registered Office: Vantage, Victoria Street, Basingstoke, RG21 3BT: Company HQ: Gaddesden Place, Hemel Hempstead, HP2 6EX: VAT registration number 814038749