Alias (formerly Alias|Wavefront) announced Maya Personal Learning Edition (PLE) 5 at US computer graphics show Siggraph yesterday.

Maya PLE 5 is a fully functioning version of Maya Complete 5, and is intended for use in non-commercial projects, and to this end is a restricted application.

Maya industry marketing manager Chris Ruffo said: "Alias is committed to offering a complete solution to artists and hobbyists looking to experience the creative power of learning 3D software.

"This free version of Maya PLE now features numerous enhancements to online help and searching, a new beginners self-paced Learning Tool specifically for this version, and an online user community centre offering tutorials, movies and user-to-user discussions. There has never been a better opportunity to explore 3D graphics."

Other features include a new hardware rendering option that uses graphics cards to make near-software quality images faster, a unified rendering workflow, and enhanced animation and paint effects.

The company has also assembled a collection of resources for users new to the software. These are available from Alias' Web site.

Maya PLE 5 is available as part of the Learning Maya Beginner's Guide for $19.99 on the Alias online store.

The software will be made available as a free download from the company's Web site in autumn 2003 for Mac OS X and Windows.