okay heres the deal and this helped me solve a problem I have been having for a long time so I am glad you posted it.
1. You want to use surfaces>bevel plus
*** deleted a lot of rambling ***
How to handle the bug that can come up when using bevel and bevel plus...
If you get this error
// Error: Value is out of range: 3 //
when trying to open surfaces>bevel plus options or you get all scrambled popup window for bevel options then go to create>text options and reset it and also go to create>adobe illustrator... options and reset it and things will work again.
I have been having this problem since Maya 8 and the only solutions were to delete my maya folder and let it get regenerated (losing all my custom settings in the process) or manually editing the user preferences file and deleting all lines with anything to do with bevel and bevel plus! What a pain!
Well when I went into maya and tried to import illustrator curves and run a bevel plus this came up again and in researching it I finally found the work around of just reseting those options.
This shows how focused autodesk and alias were on customer issues! This has been around since maya 8! and it's now maya 2010! When will this bug get fixed? Maya 2099? Which if autodesk does not get on the ball will be Modo 2099 and the problem will have never existed! lol
Anyway I hope this gets you back on track and if you still can't get it figured out just post a message and I will record an mp4 video for you.
Bevel plus can generate both nurbs or polygon objects in a single step. The bottom is the letter curves.
The middle is the polygon version unsmoothed. You should never need to smooth objects created this way as you can control the tessellation of the model and ramp it up so it always appears smooth from what ever your camera distance is.
The top is the nurb version that gets generated and it is always smoothed. If you look closely it appears more tessellated then the poly version that is because with nurbs the default hardware tessellation is very low. That being said I usually have to play with the render tessellation to get nurbs looking correct. That is why I usually always generate polys. I rarely need to change the settings from default.
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Sir Isaac Newton, 1675