New Marathia Stacks

It’s been a few months since we last looked at any new products from Marathia, and the stacks vendor has been busy. So we thought we’d kick off 2017 by rounding up some of his new releases. As usual, there’s some good stuff in here.

**[SmartColumns2 Stacks]( – €10.00**

This is actually a small suite of stacks, encompassing two, three and four column versions, each of which delivers the same set of features. In short, they’re designed to allow you to create columns of equal height that are responsive. By default, each column has an equal width (so the three column version has columns 33% wide) but it’s easy to define custom widths in percentages or mix and match fixed width columns with those that carry a percentage value (note: handle fixed and fluid combinations with care); similarly, the gutter can be set to a fixed pixel width or defined as a fluid percentage. Each column in the suite comes with a simple button that lets you vertically position the content to the top, middle or bottom, making it stupid-simple to build, neat, visually balanced column layouts; and each can carry a background colour or image and use a border  (with a radius). In addition, all the SmartColumns stacks make it incredibly easy to position stacked columns on small screens, so you can display them in any order you like (so the third column can go on top, the first column in the middle and the second column on the bottom, for example) which is something that’s proved problematical in the past. and have its content aligned top, middle or bottom, making it an extremely flexible way to present and lay out your content with the minimum of fuss. Highly recommended.

**[BackgroundImageRotator stack]( €8.00**

As the name suggests, this stack allows you to create a full screen slideshow that sits behind your content, comes with 19 different animations, start, stop and pause buttons, as well as the ability to autoplay and set the transition speed between slides in milliseconds. You can overlay content on top – for example a colour wash or another image – and most usefully add text to create both captions and headings (the stack allows you to define the font size, its responsiveness so that behaves well on smaller screens as well as defining the colour, margins and alignment). This makes BackgroundImageRotator one of the quickest ways we know of to set up a classy ‘Coming Soon…’ style splash page. In addition, you get decent control over the position of the controls and the stack also allows you to hide them below a specified screen width so they don’t take up unnecessary space. This is an excellent, easy to use little stack. (Note: if your chosen theme doesn’t support transparency, Marathia has a free [SetOpacity stack]( which you can download.

**[LinkPlus stack]( €5.00**

While many of us have fallen in love with minimalist stylings, where links are only subtly distinguishable from the rest of the main static text, this approach doesn’t necessarily suit all the visitors to our websites. Anyone with a visual impairment for example, may well struggle to work out whether that slightly paler grey text is a link or not – and as we know, when visitors start to puzzle over a page, they’re usually only a few seconds away from clicking off it. In addition, as a website builder, you have a duty to make your site as accessible as possible to all your visitors – which is where the LinkPlus stack comes in. Basically it allows you to make sure your internal and external links are incredibly easy for visitors to identify by letting you change colours, hover backgrounds, add underlines, icons at the end of links and all manner of other visual clues, so that the purpose of the link is clear. We discovered that with some tinkering it was possible to produce links that stood out, but didn’t look like they belonged on a web page from 1996, and while the results won’t be to everyone’s taste, if they make life easier for your visitors, then you should at least consider  taking a look at LinkPlus.

**[ReferMessage stack]( €4.00**

This clever little stack only displays its content when a visitor arrives on the page from a URL that you specify. So, for example, you can set it up so that visitors who find you via a particular forum or blogging platform can see the message, while anyone who arrives via a Google search (or any other way) will not. This makes the ReferMessage stack really useful for offering personalised money-off subscriptions or getting people to sign up to a mailing list that’s particularly relevant to wherever it is they’ve ‘jumped’ in from. You can either specify the URL in the stack’s settings or if you’d rather explain in the message that visitors are seeing this because they’ve arrived via a specific weblink, you can choose the ‘use URL in text’ option and have it displayed in the message. There are some caveats – arriving from an https site to an ‘ordinary’ http site needs a workaround (see [this page]( – but otherwise the stack is straightforward to set up and use; and you can drop in pretty much any content you like.  Finally, if you’ve got Yourhead’s PlusKit, it’ll even work on non-Stacks pages. All in all, an inexpensive and very useful stack.

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.