Dev Depot: Layerstyles, CSS Layers Made Easy

Stephen Yagielowicz

A free, browser-based visual coding tool with a familiar graphics editor-styled layout, LayerStyles quickly generates CSS to match your project’s desired look and feel.

Despite the widespread availability of sophisticated coding tools, many designers prefer a hands-on approach that allows them to obtain the right look, with the right structure, to suit their project’s needs — but there’s nothing wrong with having a little help, or taking a few shortcuts…

Many designers prefer a hands-on approach that allows them to obtain the right look, with the right structure, to suit their project’s needs.

Layer Styles (www.layerstyles.org), an Open Source project authored by Felix Niklas and available on Github, is a Firefox 4.0, Safari 5 and Chrome 11 compatible tool that is “…just like your favorite graphics editor but in your browser [and] it creates CSS.”

In concept and in use, it is as simple as it gets, yet it is a timesaving tool allowing rapid prototyping of CSS layer code using a visual WYSIWYG interface. A welcome addition to the tool’s flexibility allows users to toggle between RGB and hexadecimal coding values, depending upon their CSS preferences, while the “copy” button instantly places the finished CSS on the user’s clipboard.

LayerStyles enables users to style drop and inner shadows, backgrounds, borders and border radius, quickly defining an element’s visual properties. Controls for dimensional values such as height and width are not included.

Although well structured, it is important to note that LayerStyles offers rich CSS formatting using vendor-specific prefixes that will prevent the code from validating — a concern for coders seeking to maintain standards compliance.

For example, adding a linear gradient to the layer generates CSS coding that includes linear-gradient, -moz-linear-gradient, -ms-lineargradient, -o-linear-gradient and -webkit-linear-gradient — which while providing the best performance in each targeted browser family, is not valid code under W3C standards.

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