Xara3D 6 review
The developer of Xara3D is also behind Xara X1, widely regarded as the most efficient, creative and affordable 2D drawing package available. The same focus on creativity and value is apparent in the company’s value 3D offering, Xara3D.
However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. At just $45, you can’t expect a full 3D modeller and you certainly don’t get one. Instead, Xara3D concentrates almost exclusively on handling 3D text, particularly focusing on the creation of web graphics.
When you create a new file, it appears complete with dummy text in place. Once you’ve replaced this with your own, Xara3D’s speed soon becomes apparent. Simply drag to reposition your text, shadows and lighting within 3D space, fully rendered and in real-time. This release allows you to drag the depth of extrusion and bevel too, leading to an incredibly interactive feel. This hands-on approach makes the whole process of creative experimentation intuitive and enjoyable, although you can’t make all edits directly on your graphic.
Previously, other settings such as the choice of bevel type (there are no less than 27 on offer) were handled via a series of idiosyncratic and ugly docker panels, but the interface has been completely reworked. The redesigned Option Bars – Colour, Extrude, Design, Bevels, Shadow, Texture and Animation – are all neatly docked down the right of the screen and are selected in turn by clicking on their title. It’s a lot neater and more streamlined than version 5, but it does mean you’re now limited to having just one Option Bar open at a time unless you undock them.
Apart from the new interface, the other fundamental change is that the default 3D text is now surrounded by an accompanying 3D oval border. This is part of a general move to incorporate a shape with your text, creating a more integrated design. Besides the basic standalone text, there are four new options to choose from – Button, Board, Board with Holes and the new default, Border – depending on whether the text is flat on the object, embossed on it, drilled through it or surrounded by it. As you’d expect, as soon as you select an option the document window updates instantly and, as you have exactly the same formatting control over your object as you do for your text, you’ll be producing striking logos or web buttons in no time.
Xara3D 6 provides the most common and useful object shapes – rounded rectangles, ovals and so on – from a drop-down in the new Design Options Bar or, using the Design Picker, you can choose from a number of more advanced options: spheres, crosses, splats and so on. You can also load your own files in XAR, WEB, WMF or EMF format and, when you register, Xara provides a free copy of its Webster 2 application (as sold for $49) to help you create them. Xara X1 users can now simply copy and paste their vector shapes into Xara3D too. Even better, you can also copy and paste your 3D designs back into Xara X1. The results look excellent – right down to partially transparent shadows – although this is only possible because the 3D object is pasted as a rasterised bitmap.
Once you’ve got your basic design looking the way you want it, you can bring it to life with the Animation Options Bar. Again, this provides the most common options from a drop-down – Rotate, Fade, Pulsate – while more advanced options – Combined effects, Individual character animation and so on – are available from the Animation Picker. There’s no keyframing capability so you’re stuck with the preset animations on offer, but there’s no question that these can be striking, particularly when many of them involve different effects for the text and object. As with static objects, Xara3D lets you interactively reposition text, object, shadows and lighting and even resize bevels and extrusions as the animation is playing onscreen.