By: Michel Plungjan
Good things come in small packages - Xara3D is one of them.
Xara3D's author claims:
"Xara3D is designed to be a program that does one thing, and does it supremely well, that is dead simple to use, and costs very little. It's designed to be small enough to be easily downloaded from the Internet.
Xara3D produces high quality three-dimensional text images and nothing else. These images would typically be used on Web pages although they can be used anywhere. Xara3D can create animated rotating 3D images with absolute ease (AVI movie or GIF)."
This turned out to be absolutely true. A few seconds after I had downloaded the program, I was up and running and had created my first 3D image in minutes without consulting the manual.
Note that the house is included in one of the three free fonts and that the flag I used was just lying around on my hard disk.
Xara3D can take up to eighty characters of text (or glyphs) in any of the fonts you have installed and treat it like you had a woodcarver sitting in your PC.
It can extrude and bevel with 15 different bevelling types in any depth.
It can animate - rotating 360 or 180 horizontally or vertically with the possibility to rotate the 3 light sources only. This can create some interesting effects, and makes attractive image rollovers as easy as changing any of the Bevel, Extrusion, Colour, Texture, Lights (position and/or colour) or Animation effects. You can change text options such as point size, tracking and kerning, as well as outlining the text. Any bitmap can be applied to the face and sides of the text as a texture, and there are several samples included for you to choose from.
You can choose your colour depth when exporting to GIF format, allowing for smaller file sizes, and you can also export to the newer PNG format, with full alpha-channel anti-aliasing.
The very small, almost unnecessary help file covers the possibilities in enough detail to get going and has links to the many examples at the Xara website.
Xara3D has unlimited undo/redo and all the toolbars, dialog boxes and colour pickers can be docked or float freely (as you can see from the screenshot above). It even supports MMX, so it will run faster on compatible processors.
I found it quite difficult to change the size of the entire image, rather than just the text. Resizing the window has an intuitive and immediate effect on the image but is fiddly to get exact, so it would be nice to be able to enter the width and height (for example, in pixels) directly, and have those values used on the export screen where one CAN enter the values.
When exporting to bitmap/animation, I would like to be able to set the parameters before choosing a filename, because it is there the width and height of the image is decided along with any cropping and transparency options and I prefer names that reflect the size and transparency.
A possible feature for the future might be a simple frame or border around the image that you create - this could then be used to create attractive navigation buttons for your Web pages.
The installation really ought to ask where to put the program shortcut. Xara3D installs itself above the line in the Startup folder but because X is higher in the alphabet than W it moved Windows Explorer one up - not welcome.
I also think it should be more obvious that the Save-As feature is saving in the proprietary x3d format (Xara does not import images except as textures) and that exporting and NOT saving will make it almost impossible to modify an existing design.
Xara3D is excellent at what is does. It is tiny, starts immediately and is so intuitive that I do not have to re-read a manual if I have been away for a few weeks - It is in my web toolbox and it will stay there.
|A very intuitive, compact and useful little program.|
|Are you interested in buying Xara3D after reading this review? Why not buy it through irt.org? Simply click on the logo to the left. If you're not sure about it, you can download a free 15-day trial of Xara3D and see for yourself.|