XaoS isn’t like most fractal programs, where you draw a little rectangle around the area you are interested in and wait for the image to redraw. Instead, you point at the area you are interested in and hold down the button to zoom into the fractal in one fluid, continuous motion. It’s like you’re flying into the fractal. Gone too far? No problem! Hold down the right button to zoom back out. Want to line up the perfect shot? Just hold down the middle button and drag and drop to reposition the image. This type of freedom really gives you a much better “feel” for the fractal than any static fractal program.
XaoS’s zooming algorithm is fast, even if your computer isn’t. XaoS was developed to perform well way back in the days of the 486, so today, almost any computer will give you excellent, smooth rendering at a high frame rate. Advanced optimizations like boundary detection, solid guessing, periodicity checking, and unrolled calculation loops are utilized for the highest possible speed. SMP is also supported to take advantage of today’s multiprocessor machines.
The animated tutorials included with XaoS are a great way to learn about the concepts behind fractals as well as familiarize yourself with the unique features XaoS provides. The tutorials use animation and pictures to explain the math behind fractals in a way that you won’t need an advanced math degree to understand.
These tutorials make XaoS ideally suited to a classroom setting. The vivid pictures and animations can really bring to life a dry topic such as complex numbers. In addition, XaoS’s well-documented and easy-to-learn scripting language makes it possible to create your own tutorials.
Topics covered include:
- An introduction to fractal concepts
- An overview of different fractal types
- Coverage of the math behind fractals
- Demonstration of XaoS’s various features
The gallery contains several MPEG movies demonstrating the first few chapters of the tutorials.
As of version 3.2.2, XaoS can draw 24 different types of fractals. From classic fractals like Mandelbrot (powers 2-6), Newton, Barnsley, Sierpenski’s Triangle, and the Koch Snowflake, to lesser-known fractals like Catseye and Spidron Hornflake, there are enough fractals for an almost limitless variety of images.
Both the “Mandelbrot” and “Julia” varieties can be displayed for most formulas, and XaoS includes a real-time morphing Julia viewer so that you can find the perfect Julia set or examine the complex relationships between different parts of the Mandelbrot and the corresponding Julia set.
In addition, all fractal formulas can be plotted on 6 different planes, including mu (standard), 1/mu (inverted), lambda, and more. Plotting the same formula on a different plane can yield many different shapes distinct from the original formula.
From version 3.3 you can create your own formulas as well.
- Two types of edge detection
- Pseudo-3D projections
- Star field generator
- Random dot stereograms (aka Magic Eye)
- Motion blur for animations
- Palette emulation to allow color cycling on true-color displays
- True color emulation that provides dithering on 256-color displays
XaoS allows you to color your fractals using a wide variety of algorithms. It provides 10 outer coloring modes, 10 inner coloring modes, and 10 additional true-color coloring modes. These include classic coloring methods such as iterations, biomorphs, binary decomposition, as well as some modes that are unique to XaoS.
Three different algorithms are provided for generating random palettes. In addition, once you find a palette that you like, you can recall that palette at any time by entering 3 simple numeric parameters.
XaoS also supports color cycling in order to add some pizazz to your animations.
XaoS supports 256 color, hi color, true color, and black & white graphics modes. Dithering is provided on devices without a user defined palette.
XaoS allows you to save and replay your fractal creations in several different ways:
- Save your fractal as a PNG image for use on your desktop or sharing with others.
- Save your current fractal parameters, including location, palette, filters, and so on to a parameter file. You can reload this file later to revisit your favorite fractals.
- Record your fractal animations to an animation file. These can be replayed later, or combined to create your own tutorials or presentations. These files are saved in a simple and well-documented text format that can be modified with any text editor.
XaoS includes detailed online help. This includes basic documentation for absolute beginners, as well as advanced coverage of all of XaoS’s features. A hacker’s guide is also included for those who want to help with XaoS’s development. In addition, more than 50 example fractals are included in the standard package.
XaoS speaks your language. The menus and dialog boxes as well as the animated tutorials are available in English, French, Czech, German, Spanish, Romanian and Hungarian languages. If you find that XaoS doesn’t speak your native tongue, we welcome translations to new languages. You don’t have to be a programmer to make a translation–just fill out a translation file.
XaoS runs on many different platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and all other POSIX systems. Even aging platforms such as OS/2, Plan 9, BeoS and DOS are supported. Several drivers are provided for UNIX, including X11, SVGAlib, and an AAlib driver that provides high quality ascii art rendering.
XaoS contains many additional features to make exploring fractals more enjoyable:
- Autopilot mode automatically detects interesting parts of a fractal and zooms in on them. All you have to do is sit back and watch.
- Real-time image rotation allows you to line up the fractal for the perfect screenshot. It also looks great in animations.
- Dynamic resolution detects when your computer’s CPU is bogging down with a calculation and automatically reduces the resolution so that the animation remains fluid.
- Unlimited undo and redo allows you to explore and experiment with your fractals, secure in the knowledge that you can return to a previous state at any time.
- Extensive command line options allow you to control almost all aspects of XaoS via the command line. Use this feature to automate XaoS via shell scripts.