Total Xaos helps deal with chaos of using Photoshop art plug-in

The Total Xaos, pronounced like chaos, plug-in trio now runs under Microsoft Windows 95
and Windows NT. The applications are Paint Alchemy 2.0, TypeCaster 1.15 and Terrazzo 2.0.
Also on the CD-ROM is Fresco, a collection of 80 royalty-free backgrounds.


To install, double-click the CD's setup icon. The installer gives you the option to
install the plug-ins as a group or individually. The user guide comes in three sections,
each having a table of contents, tutorial and index. But only TypeCaster has online help
files.


Like Kai's Power Tools, Paint Alchemy 2 has capabilities that far exceed those of a
single-purpose plug-in. There are more than 100 predefined styles, and one of eight brush
selections applied to each style gives more than 800 total variations. You can make your
own styles and brushes for reuse.


Paint Alchemy puts simple, intuitive tools in your hand to invent new styles or modify
old ones. Pop-up palettes vary the coverage, color variation, brush angle, brush size and
opacity. You control each parameter by interactive sliders or by direct value entry.


The brushes are 128- by 128-pixel, single-channel, grayscale .bmp images at
72-pixel-per-inch resolution. White areas are opaque, and black areas are transparent.
Gray areas vary in transparency.


Paint Alchemy brushes give the effect of smearing paint over an underlying image. You
can limit the effect to areas selected by the magic wand or apply it over the whole image.
The controls are excellent.


TypeCaster 1.15 manufactures 3-D text for your images. It controls every aspect of
size, position, lighting, texture and bevel. TypeCaster renders PostScript Type 1 as well
as TrueType fonts, but you must have Adobe Type Manager installed to use Type 1 fonts.


Before starting TypeCaster, make a fresh layer in Photoshop so you can make
alterations. You cannot change or delete a TypeCaster element drawn on a background layer.


The main TypeCaster window has tools to zoom and pan the view window; move, rotate,
resize and extrude text; and preview text portions. The plug-in has a help menu that
explains tool icons and keyboard shortcuts.


Terrazzo is for anyone who wants fantastic backgrounds for Web pages. Remember all the
patterns in old-fashioned kaleidoscopes? That gives you an idea of what you can do with
Terrazzo.


Begin by opening a source image and select the Terrazzo plug-in filter. The interface
displays an image of the source file at the left, a single tile at the center and a
preview of the complete pattern at right.


I wish Total Xaos had online help and tool tips in addition to TypeCaster's help
screen. Also, I suspect one of the three plug-ins has a memory leak. After three or four
hours of filter applications, my ordinarily stable Win95 test system slowed to a crawl.
When I rebooted, it came back to normal.


William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Ocean Shores, Wash.


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