Jack Stack

Jack | Joe Workman | $24.95

The Jack stack has been sat at the top of the ‘Popular’ table on the developer’s website almost from the day it came out, so we thought we’d go back and take a look at why this stack has proved such a hit.

As the Swiss Army knife logo suggests, Jack is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ stack and takes many of the layout features you’ll find in other developers’ individual stacks, and combines them into a single one. The result is a stack that gives you fine control over positioning, height and width, borders, backgrounds, shading, shadows and transparency – plus a load of other stuff we’ll come to later (including on-hover animations).

If you’re going to use Jack, it’s as well to get into the habit of ignoring Stacks’ own built-in layout controls, because Jack comes with its own (there are about a gazillion settings, actually) and if you start mixing and matching the two, things will get confusing very quickly.

The basic layout features you’d expect are all in place, so it’s possible to control the min/max height and width of anything you put inside Jack, rotate it, round the corners, change the opacity, add a border or use one of the supplied images as a border to create a frame. Never having been a fan of frames, we’re unconvinced by some of these effects, but they’re there if you want them.

Much more interesting is the ability to add a background image and then set it to ‘Fixed Position’ so that any content scrolls over the image to create an instant smooth and impressive parallax effect; background images can be dropped into the well locally or warehoused on your web server. Jack also supports solid colour and gradient backgrounds and there’s plenty of control with the latter with the ability to set colours, gradient type, origin points, opacity and much more. You can add drop-shadows and inset-shadows to Jack and there’s also the option to add ‘Special Shadows’ including our personal favourite, raised corners.

All of this makes Jack an extremely flexible layout stack, but the real fun begins when you start to combine multiple Jack stacks on the same page and experiment by putting them inside each other and then fiddling with the various settings. Here you’ll need to use the special ‘restrain yourself’ setting so as to avoid effect overload.

In addition, since version 4.01, Jack has included a companion stack called Jack Hover which lets you animate borders, backgrounds, shadows and even the shape of the stack itself in order to produce animations that transform a square panel of text into a round one, or a blue box into one with an image behind it, or one where the background becomes opaque on hover and the shadow colour changes or… you get the idea.

At $24.95, Jack’s not the cheapest Rapidweaver addon around but it packs so much power and flexibility into a single stack that it deserves its place at the top of that ‘Popular’ list and it’s now taken its place with a handful of other stacks into our Stacks 3 Favorites library. Mark this one ‘Definitely Worth Investigating’.

Rob Beattie

Rob Beattie is a freelance copywriter who designs sites using Rapidweaver. He's been reviewing computer hardware, software and web services since 1981. Yes...that long. And he's also the author of 101 Things to Do in a Shed , Fishing: A Very Peculiar History , and The Bluffer's Guide to Fishing

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