Photo Stack

Photo stack | Nick Cates Design | $39.00

Photo is a comprehensive, yet easy to use responsive gallery stack that thinks it’s a lightbox that thinks it’s a slideshow; and this ability to display photos in a wide range of different ways makes it a very attractive and flexible stack.

You can get started with Photo in a few seconds. Drag the Photo Base stack onto a Stacks 3 page and then drop in the Photo Group stack. By default this is set to display three images as square thumbs with rounded corners and a hover effect – just drag your photos into the provided image wells (Photo automatically creates low-res thumbs of the full size pictures) and you’re done. Preview the page and you’ll see a neat row of thumbs that spans whatever container they’re sitting inside, which then expand to an attractive lightbox/slideshow when a visitor clicks on one. Photo offers plenty of control over the way the thumbnail grid is displayed, including the corner radius, spacing, the number of columns it spans (1-5) as well as the way captions work – here you can specify when they display (on hover, always, hide) where they’re positioned, font-size, emphasis, colour, background and hover background. If you have images of different dimensions – and it’s important to display them to reflect this – you can also switch to a masonry-style layout. Each individual photo in the gallery can carry an album name and a caption (you can use this as the Alt and Title tag to save time) and it’s possible to specify whether the image is local or warehoused (stored on your web server, for example); if you choose the latter you’ll need to create thumbnails for each image manually and upload those as well.

The lightbox itself is elegant and reasonably flexible. There’s a choice between light and dark themes, and you can set the overall opacity, image radius, padding, whether zoom is enabled (see below) and whether to switch on basic image protection (which will be enough to deter the casual right mouse clicker). The album and caption name float into view just after the enlarged photo appears and if the photo is larger than the current screen size, you’ll see a ‘+’ icon at the top left – click this and you’ll then be able to move around the full picture either using the mouse pointer or by swiping on a touch screen. The lightbox behaves very well on smaller screens, the controls move to the bottom and swiping and zooming work a treat; it also supports more sophisticated gestures, so you can swipe down to zoom in, then swipe down again to close the lightbox completely. Similarly, the thumbnail grid re-jigs gracefully, depending on the device being used.

So, Photo is a good choice if you want a collection of thumbnails that open up into a linked, lightboxed gallery. However, it can also be used to display individual thumbs that each open their own gallery, so you could have thumbs representing different hotel rooms, for example, which when clicked open separate galleries showing a virtual tour of each room. This is easy to set up (just make sure that each Photo Group has a unique name) and offers all of the customsation features we’ve discussed above.

There are a couple of other major features worth mentioning.

First, you can set up a gallery and attach it to a link – a text link, a button, whatever you like – thus effectively creating a hidden gallery; this is great when space is tight or when you want to create very discreet lightboxed galleries. Second, you can use Photo to create ‘batch’ galleries that display photos stored in a folder on a web server. That means it’s possible for a client to upload a new sequence of photos to the server via FTP and – so long as they’re named in sequence photo1.jpg, photo2.jpg and so on – these will be picked up by the stack and displayed as thumbs and a gallery. There are some caveats – you can’t use either captions or ALT tags for images displayed like this, and you have to specify an exact number of images: too many and some won’t display, too few and you’ll have empty thumbnails – but it’s a handy, quick and dirty way to get images up onto a site quickly that will be appreciated by photographers who want to show clients early rushes of a particular photo shoot.

The latest update of Photo has added support for Joe Workman’s popular Total CMS stacks which means it can be used to allow clients to create and control galleries and lightboxes from within a web browser, Like the Batch feature, there’s no control over captions when Photo’s used like this, but the extra flexibility is very attractive and will find a wide range of applications. Setting up a gallery like this just requires the revelant CMS ID (if you’ve used Total CMS you’ll know how simple this is) and if the developers could just work out a way of weaving in caption support, then this would be even better. Note that Photo also supports the as-yet unreleased galleries that will be part of the Total CMS Blog – again, this feature lifts both products onto a whole other level.

The Photo stack isn’t cheap, but it’s immensely powerful, extremely versatile, looks great with minimal tweaking and is a good solution for Rapidweaver beginners and power users alike. The inclusion of support for Batch galleries will make it attractive for photographers who want to preview a shoot to clients quickly, and the ability to work alongside Total CMS opens up a wide range of possibilities for anyone who needs to build a site that clients can update themselves. Overall, Photo is a brilliant product and highly recommended.

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