Vixen is a great program for controlling Christmas lights which features the ability to set up your display, assign your controllers, and sequence effects to your lights. You should use Vixen for your first display if you don’t mind keeping things simple and want to keep options at a minimum.
As I’ve said before (but will certainly say again), if you’re looking to find a program to sequence and control your Christmas lights, both xLights and Vixen are great picks….but for different needs!
I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a researcher, and when I was first getting into the hobby, the information I found was “everyone likes xLights more, but some people really love Vixen”…and I wondered why!
So, I tried them both, and have used both to sequence displays, and they are both great programs. Both Vixen and xLights can make a great Christmas lights display.
But if everyone loves xLights, why even consider Vixen? Here is why you should consider Vixen for your Christmas lights:
Why You Should Use Vixen to Control Your Christmas Lights
A Simpler Workflow
I actually prefer Vixen when I’m working with smaller displays, or if I want to make a simpler show.
Even though sometimes the interface can feel clunky, with different windows, I love the way that it keeps things separate.
Once I have my display set up in the preview window, I can close it so that I don’t mess it up as I’m programming songs. While you can change your display later as needed, it’s not easy to get to so that you don’t mess it up!
For a lot of people, this can be a big win. After all, do you completely re-invent your display every year? Probably not! In which case, you only need to access the display setup for a few minutes each year to make changes – then it hides away.
I also have to access a different window to patch or assign my pixels to controllers. Again, this keeps me from messing it up once I set it up, and hides it away since it’s not something that I need to work with often!
I also appreciate how simple it is to drop in and sequence your songs with the excellent built-in effects in Vixen. While you do get a lot of customization options, it’s not overwhelming.
Vixen definitely wins in the “complexity” game, as it is a much simpler and much less intimidating interface to work with.
Differences Between xLights and Vixen
I think the best way to sum up the difference between the programs is “Simple” (Vixen) vs. “Complex” (xLights).
Both programs are totally learn-able, and totally usable for beginners.
I think xLights had the edge on patching and assigning your controllers.
But, Vixen’s interface works fine, and if you keep your display similar between years, you won’t have to touch this window much anyways.
In xLights, I appreciate that everything in all in one window, so that I can quickly tab between the different settings that I need to adjust.
In Vixen, I appreciate that everything is in different
I think both are valid approaches, with each having it’s advantages/disadvantages.
The other advantage of separating all of these things into different windows is that it allows you to make the “main area” of whatever you’re doing larger. You’ll especially be thankful for this if you are sequencing on a smaller screen (as I made my first Christmas display on a 13″ laptop!).
Depth of Effects
There is no doubt in my mind that Vixen has “less complex” effects then xLights.
But, at the same time, a lot of the effects are very similar between the 2 programs, and I really like how simple it is to configure the effects in Vixen.
You can tell that the developers of both programs are working from the same general “toolbox” of effect ideas, and many of the same effects can be built in both programs.
The biggest thing I miss from xLights is the ability to create transitions easily. Creating a fade in or fade out can be a little difficult, as you have to open up the intensity curve, modify it with a fade, and then test it to check your timing.
Still, in Vixen I’ve gotten into a good groove of copying my effect, creating a small “transition” effect block, and then applying a curve to it so that it fades in.
Like a lot of my sequences, once you create some fade in’s/out’s, you can copy/paste them throughout your song quite quickly.
Importing Paid/Other User’s Sequences
If you’re going to be purchasing sequences to then import to your specific display, you’re really going to want to use xLights instead of Vixen.
The overall xLights interface is much easier to import sequences with, and Vixen doesn’t really offer any special methods to import someone else’s sequence.
Is it doable? Yes. But it’s not as easy to import a sequence into Vixen as it is with xLights.
Most, if not all paid sequences are for xLights (or Light-O-Rama) as well, and as far as I know, there is no good way to import them into Vixen.
Personally, I like to sequence everything myself, so this isn’t really a big issue.
Exporting for Falcon Player
Even if you do like buying paid sequences, you CAN use a mix of both xLights and Vixen to create your display.
Yes, that’s right! Both programs can export for Falcon players, which are small computers that you can run your display on. Using the “fseq” type file, you literally can program part of your show in Vixen, and part in xLights if you wish!
If you’re looking for a program to sequence your Christmas lights, you might want to give Vixen a look.
Truth be told, these 2 programs have more in common than the average person might think, and you can make pretty much the same show with both programs.
Sure, if you spend the time to really learn xLights, you will sequence faster. So, if you’ll be sequencing often across the long-haul, you might want to spend the time to learn it.
But, if you want a simple show, and you don’t need to re-sequence everything each year, Vixen is an excellent choice.
While it’s not as complex as xLights, it also has the benefit of not being as complex!
And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need!