3D is everywhere these daysó3D movies, 3D HDTVs, 3D cameras and camcorders. Software is getting into the act, too with 3D showing up in media apps like Roxio Creator 2011. Photoshop CS5 ($699 direct, 5 stars) also offers 3D tools, but that will set you back 7 bills. 3D Image Commander ($29.95, direct) lets you enter the third dimension for considerably less. But before you get your hopes up too much, I should note that this app won't turn your photos into three-dimensional views like you get with Auto3D or TriDef. But it does make adding a few slick effects to your photos a snap, and it offers some basic image-editing abilities, too.
The very usable interface beckons, "Drop Images Here" in a simple window. A left panel is chock full of slider offering choices like 3D Transformation, Stroke, Glow, Reflection, and Shadow. These are stock-and-trade Photoshop techniques that produce a 3D tromp l'oiel effect, while of course not being actual 3D images. At top center is the Render button in the form of a clock. Though 3D Image Commander lacks most photo basics, such as rotation and brightness adjustment, you can crop your image with a click.
One thing that would help: a wizard or tutorial to take you through the process of creating your first embellished images; there's no Help button. There is a short one-page manual on Binerus' website, but how many users will find that?
TypeBusiness, Personal, ProfessionalOS CompatibilityWindows Vista, Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS, Windows 7 More
Blinging Your Pics
You can create some pretty nifty effects very easily with 3D Image Commander. When I dragged my first photo in, it appeared on a transparent background, with beveled edges, and a reflection below. All of these combine to make the image appear as though it's sitting in three-dimensional space. There's also a stroke tool, which lets you create an outline around your image; you can change the stroke's pixel width and color.
Glow and shadow are more Photoshop-like effects that make an image appear to pop off the page. You can change the length, opacity, and offset of the shadow. For the glow effect, which adds a gradated color background to an image to highlight it on the page, you can just choose "blur" and color. Blur really just controls the size and strength of the effect; a bit more control for each would be better.
One of the cooler things you can do with the app is Free Camera; this lets you pull the image around with the mouse on three axes, while the shadow and reflection update in real time. This tool is probably the closest thing to a real 3D feature the app can boast, since you're actually manipulating the image on three axes.
You can superimpose an image or text on your creation, and easily move it around and resize it. And luckily, you can add more than one image or text box; moving them around and resizing them are simple. The paid version adds the ability to apply watermarks to your photos.
The text tool can use any font on your computer, and you can resize it and change the color, but you can't add glows, shadows, strokes, and reflections to the text itself the way you can to the main image.
Effects can be applied to multiple files at once, and you can open multiple files. It's a little bit odd how you do this, though: You modify one image, and then click the render button, and then choose Save All. All the photos will have the same treatment applied, even though you didn't do anything to them before the Save process.
The program does have some weak spots, though: It has no undo or reset button, and a few more photo basics like rotation and brightness wouldn't hurt, either. Hitting the Clear button would remove my photo, and there was no way to undo the removal aside from adding the photo all over again. Also, a couple of times during my use of 3D Image Commander, I was presented with an "unable to create thread" error message, but this didn't close the program, which I could still use after closing the message dialog, perhaps a side-effect of running 64-bit Windows.
Outputting Your Images
You can save to a .3dic file for later use in this app, but you'll want to hit Render to output to PNG, JPG, GIF, or BMP, which can be viewed in any photo software. The result has what looks like a background page, with its own shadow. It would be nice if you could add a decent amount of text on this page, since promotional literature is probably one of the apps biggest use cases. Some other output options, like uploading or attaching to an e-mail, would also make 3D Image Commander more appealing.
Commanding 3D Images?
3DImage Commander makes it extremely you create some interesting 3D effects with your photos. They're things that anyone handy in Photoshop can do in a few steps, but if you're not willing to drop $700 and learn a complex app, this little app gets it done. But $30 still seems high for the few effects this app gets you. It could use some tutorials, I wish it let you build composites from multiple images and apply transformations to added text. Its curling and rotating effects exceed what you get in standard photo editors like Picasa (Free, 4 stars) or Windows Live Photo Gallery (Free, 4 stars), but you'll definitely want another photo app to complement this one.