Vector function in Xara Xtreme is excellent
In Xara Xtreme its called "bitmap tracing", and the ease, tweak-ability, speed and for the clean results - is one of the reasons I initially purchased the software in the first place, having tested the free download version originally.
It does a far better job than Adobe Streamline, and the built-in vectorization in other drawing programs like Corel, that I've used.
In fact I can adjust the tracing level so the results look more like an oil painting than a raster or vector image.
You can trace in monochrome, grayscale, limited color or full color and offer multiple passes in order to capture highly detailed bitmap images. Once processing is completed it shows a thumbnail of the finished trace - if it looks wrong, then make adjustments and trace again. Once right insert image, done.
Not trying to keep on promoting Xara, but these nice little functional proggies you find all seem to have functions existing in Xara, so no need for me to use something else. 8)
Cool I just read an article on Vector Magic...
SitePoint is a web developers newsletter, that I receive from time to time... and this was the top article in todays newsletter:
Vector Magic: Stanford's AutoTracer Bullet
Ah, you've got to love those wonderful geeks at Stanford.
Lock 'em in a room with a computer, a case of Red Bull, and two bags of Skittles, and they'll invent Google before lunch, then go on to solve one of the most intractable problems of graphic design software in the afternoon.
Whatever you call it -- Autotrace, Live Trace, PowerTRACE -- the ability to convert bitmap images into vector artwork software has been around since at least Adobe Streamline's release in the early 1990s. In fact, I remember spending hours experimenting with Streamline's many dials and sliders trying to get the perfect result back in the day.
How often have I put the practice to work? Not often.
The problem was always twofold:
Problem A. The vector artwork produced was always spectacularly chaotic, inefficient and tangled -- the design equivalent of spaghetti code -- and generally took much longer to clean up than it would have taken to draw the artwork from scratch.
Problem B. The algorithms used to produce the vector shapes invariably impose the same blocky, woodcut effect on all artwork. This was fine if you were looking for a rough-cut, medieval look, but if not... well...
With Creative Suite 2, Adobe mostly eliminated the first issue. Live Trace now does a slick job at cookie-cutting its art into a single-layered, interlocking collection of vectors.
However, it's taken the input of the Stanford geeks to finally nail the second issue.
Vector Magic is an online, Flash-powered tool designed to convert bitmaps to vectors. Operating it is a no-brainer -- everything's handled via a simple wizard.
Using Vector Magic
After uploading your GIF, PNG, or JPG, you need to answer four simple questions.
1. What type of image is your original (i.e. photo, antialiased logo or non-antialiased logo)?
2. How degraded is your original?
Has your image been damaged or degraded by earlier compression?
3. Does your original image employ a limited color palette?
Obviously many logos get their power from the very limited range of colors they use, while photographic images depend on a more granular approach to color in order to maintain realism.
4. If so, which palette is best suited to the result you require?
The application gives you the option to either increase or reduce the color palette before processing begins.
At each step, Vector Magic makes an educated guess at the correct path to take, so if you're unsure, accepting the defaults will work for most images.
When you're happy with the set up, click Finish, and Vector Magic works its ... er ... magic!
Kind of funny reading an article about something I found here first!