Xara 3D Maker is a versatile design tool that makes it easy to create high quality 3D text and graphics, which you can then use for everything from static documents to website animations or movie credits.

The program is surprisingly easy to use. Start by clicking the Design menu, say, and you're able to choose the type of image you want to create: text only, a button, text extruded from a board, and so on.

Whatever you pick, a sample image immediately appears so you can see if it suits your needs. And as you move your mouse around the work area, so advice appears on the status bar explaining how to carry out various operations ("drag to rotate the text", "alt+drag to reposition", "double click to alter the background colour", and so on). It's all so straightforward that you'll be doing useful creative work within minutes of installing 3D Maker, without ever having to look at the Help file.

The end results are impressive, as you can see simply by browsing the 100 samples bundled with the program. There are stylish static logos; 3D credit sequences that fly off into the distance, Star Wars-style; animated objects, like a beating heart; and text that spins, bounces, rolls, rotates and generally does its very best to catch the eye of the viewer.

And once you've completed your project, it can be exported in a host of ways, ready to share with the world: a static image, animated GIFs or cursors (ANI files), AVI movies, SCR screensaver, and even Flash vector or bitmap files (SWF), for immediate use on your website.

Verdict

Xara 3D Maker's well-designed interface makes it relatively easy to create impressive 3D animations, even if you've no previous experience with this kind of tool