Is there anyway to rotate/translate 3D layer elements on the world coordinate?
Check the toolbar at the top. There are different modes for the transform tools - screen/local/world. If you need anything else, you need to provide a more detailed description of your setup.
also, if I want to do a tight track across a sentence of text, what would be the best way to keep relative distance and a smooth / consistent movement?
Don't move the camera, move the text, if possible. For everything else there is no universal recipe. AE's 3D is bitchy by all accounts and you will have to fiddle with adjusting the path handles one way or the other...
thanks mylenium you always come to rescue! ;-)