October 1997

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Web Graphics Tools and Techniques, by Peter Kentie, Peachpit Press, $39.95

This book discusses Web design essentials including multimedia and interactive capacities. For graphic designers who already work with formatting and drawing software, creating interactive productions can be a serious obstacle, not to mention the effective use of a programming language such as Java. The author covers all aspects of a Web site with clearly marked topics that give you instant access to important information. He includes all the important HTML tags available to make your site both functional and pleasing as well as information on all the current techniques than an HTML programmer has to mater, including formatting tables, converting copy to HTML files, understanding how to use GIF and JPEG image file formats, integrating typography into design, creating backgrounds, and designing effective Web page navigational devices. For those coming from a print background, the sections on Web typography are especially pertinent and the author gives the fonts that work effectively with the sample artwork.Best of all, he provides you with a companion Web site in which you can get the Web pages specially created for the book (http://www.kentie.com), making the book not only an excellent source of information, but an interactive tutorial as well.


Extensis VectorTools, Extensis Corp.

This package is a series of powerful plug-ins for Illustrator and FreeHand that make your work faster, easier, and more efficient. You will find the usual Extensis Navigator palette and customizable toolbars along with commands for creating 3D effects from 2D artwork. The three shapes on the left were created with single keystrokes in the VectorShape palette. This suite of 11 tools also includes powerful color controls for editing curves, brightness/contrast, changing color to grayscale and applying selected paths with a random color. You can even create either real duo/tri/quadtones or simulated ones from the artwork. In Illustrator the VectorColor palette is also used to edit gradient colors. Create styles based on any Fill and Stroke attribute and modify the style globally. You can even import and export styles for use in other documents.The TypeStyles function is available only for FreeHand, however, but the VectorCaps palette is available in Illustrator to convert text to upper and lower case, sentence or title caps or to randomly set characters to uppercase. You may not use all the features of this marvelous toolbox, but many of them reflect user demands over many upgrades to Illustrator and FreeHand. Like all Extensis products, VectorTools works seamlessly with an application and rarely, if ever, causes compatibility problems.


Sick of seeing the same QuarkXPress (bitmapped) frames appearing around boxes in publications? Create frames like a grownup using FRAEMZ XT PS from Shadetree Marketing. This collection of four libraries containing 400 borders for text and picture boxes will take you a professional lifetime to use up. Not only do they run the gamut from stylized boxes and curved designs to stars and choo-choo trains, but they're PostScript! They're also customizable which means you can colorize them with any color in the XPress Colors palette (which you can't do with QuarkXPress frames) and separate those colors just as you would any color image. FRAEMZ XT PS also has the ability to create a drop shadow of any border or frame as well as being able to change the sizw of the corners or size, giving you extended design options. Using FRAEMX XT is as easy as selecting it from the Utilites menu, choosing a frame, accepting the default or changing the size of sides or corners. You can also preview your frame before the PostScript file is created. And who said that XPress wasn't fun?!

Preparing Web Graphics, Lynda Weinman, New Riders, $39.99

If the two key words to preparing Web graphics are "small" and "fast," this is the book to teach you how to do just that. Whether you're working with continuous tone images or with line drawings, you'll learn how to best prepare them for the Web so that they load quickly and retain their color over multiple browsers and platforms. Background tiles (to seam or not to seam?) links, frames, buttons, rules, animation and typography are all covered in the author's brisk, clear style. Like her earlier landmark book, Designing Web Graphics, this book poses all the right questions you should ask and then answers them clearly and with oh, so many helpful illustrations and screen shots. Best of all, however, is the understanding you'll gain about how Web graphics work and how you can enhance your website efficiently and effectively.


Photoshop 4 for Macintosh, by Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas, Peachpit Press, $19.95

Like the other books in the Visual QuickStart series, this one covering the latest version of Photoshop does an excellent job in getting you comfortable with this complex program whether you are a novice or experienced user. Without drowning you in color theory and photographic jargon, it tells you what you need to know to make your pictures work in print and on the Web.It gives excellent explanations of the more complex new features in Photoshop 4 like layer masks and the Actions palette while its chapter on Web output is an excellent introduction to color, file formats, and multimedia on the Web. If you're new to Photoshop, this is an excellent book to start with. If you're familiar with Photoshop but still frightened of it, let this book scare the spooks away.


America Online for Macintosh, by Maria Langer, Peachpit Press, $16.95

For the millions of us who downloaded AOL or installed it from the freebie CD, this is the manual that AOL should have written. Whatever you need to know to use AOL effectively is in this Visual QuickStart book that like all the others in this exceptional series is designed to make you comfortable and efficient with the application. Whether you want to insert a hyperlink in a mail message, participate in a live chat, access newsgroups or the Internet, you'll find the instructions for doing so in easy, step-by-step instructions. And since the author was able to make even Word 6 comprehensible to the masses, you can only imagine what she can do with an application designed for human beings.


HTML for the World Wide Web, by Elizabeth Castro Peachpit Press, $17.95

Good news for HTML programmers! Elizabeth Castro's HTML for the World Wide Web (Peachpit Press, $17.95) has been expanded and the second edition new includes programming HTML 3.2, Netscape Communicator, and MS Explorer extensions. This Visual QuickStart book gives you all the code, tips, and tricks to write Web pages with graphics, sound, and video. Even if you use Adobe PageMill or Claris HomePage, you will still want to tweak those pages so they display and behave the way you want. To do this, you still have to have some knowledge of HTML code and this book does an excellent job of providing clear, consise instructions for working with HTML By limiting each section to one function and then giving step-by-step instructions along side of clearly marked screen shots and code listings, the book will make you proficient in producing exactly what you want easily and quickly.