Xara are a web graphics
software company who make three very useful products that many webmasters
have fallen in love with the last few years: Xara 3D (which generates
3D images in a snap), Xara Webstyle (which allows you to generate
many common graphics like buttons, bullets etc quickly and easily without
any particular skills or background in graphic design) and Xara Webster
(which will allow you to generate small, optimised web graphics and some
interesting special effects with just a few mouse-clicks). All three products
are available for downloading off Xara's site as 15-day trialware, and all
of them retail for less than $US40. We've always been impressed with these
nifty little programs - which are now in their 2nd and 3rd versions - and
you may be too.
Alien Skin Eye Candy
Alien Skin Software
formerly produced the Black Box filter set for Adobe Photoshop. This
product contained 10 bolt-on filters that greatly extended the power of the
filters supplied with Adobe's program, allowing users to achieve effects
in a few mouse clicks that would be tedious, time-consuming or (in some cases)
completely impossible otherwise. Black Box then matured into Eye Candy, and
the Skins added a further 11 filters to the range. The software
is available for both Macintosh and Windows platforms and has now been extended
to work with many, many other graphics programs, including MacroMedia's
Fireworks. A free download is available so you can preview the effects that
this product can create (two filters are supplied free - but if you want
to unlock the other 19 you'll need to buy it).
TextPad ASCII Editor
If you do any work with Perl
scripts, you'll probably need a pure ASCII text editor sooner or later -
especially if you introduce a carriage return or some other "invisible" character
into the script (and you only need one of these in a file to
make your script fall over!). While most Windows users have access to NotePad
or WordPad, neither of these is really very helpful when it comes to
tracking down these sort of high-bit character errors - but TextPad (a shareware
editor from the UK) most certainly is! This marvellous editor will allow
you to see all the "invisible" characters in a text file or script with a
single mouse-click so that you can remove them - and it's saved our
bacon on several occasions when a script has accidentally become corrupted.
TextPad is also a remarkably powerful editor with a wide array of other features
that well repay its small registration fee, and one we can highly recommend.
Don't touch a Perl script without it!