Two-D or 3-D? -- That is the question. And one well asked of modest-priced business software that promotes an ability to draw three-dimensional presentation-quality graphs. Many such promises are fulfilled only in 2-D, with an ersatz third dimension consisting merely of cartoonlike shadowing. The reason for this is understandable: manipulating the variables of two axes (sales volume per month, for example) is simple enough even in a budget package, but tacking on a third axis (sales volume per month, broken down by region) adds spatial complexities solved at more developmental expense.

That's not to say it can't be done on the cheap. 3-D Charts to Go! (Bloc Publishing, Coral Gables, FL, 305-445-0903; 800-888-2562) delivers true height-by-width-by-depth renderings for a two-dimensional $100 bill. A recently released version running under Microsoft Windows converts imported or on-the-spot data into a dazzling display of bar, line, pie, and area graphs, together with headlines and other illustrative decor. Projected or printed as vivid representations of how your business is doing, they can't help impressing viewers -- your backers, for instance.

It's so much fun you'll want to dust off a mouse and create designs in the privacy of your own office. Images can be spun around, pumped up, shrunk, recolored, elongated, compacted, crosshatched, viewed from above and below, made to unfold from the center, added to, subtracted from, combined, and so on till the clock strikes 5. The backers can wait.

-- Robert A. Mamis