TesselMania!™ is a stand-alone tessellation creation program. It will run under DOS, Windows 3.1 ~ WinXP, and Macintosh (68030, 68040 or Power Mac system 7.1 or later). Its drawing toolkit is only slightly less comprehensive than MS Paint (the pixel-based drawing program that comes with MS Windows). These tools and the tools specific to tessellation are above average for a standalone tessellation program. However, users accustomed to the extensive toolkits in powerful drawing programs like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, and GIMP may feel frustrated by working with Tesselmania!'s comparatively small toolkit. Those graphics power-users may prefer to look for tessellation plug-ins for their favorite graphics-drawing programs.
Of special note to Windows users: It will work under Windows 95 through XP, though its Windows compatibility shows signs of near-obsolescence. Most Windows users will have to tweak the desktop shortcut's compatibility properties to make it run. We do not expect it to run under Windows Vista.
To create a tessellation, one must start by choosing a vague pattern from a menu of flips, rotations, and offsets. This can be the most daunting area for a newcomer, though TesselMania makes a heroic effort to explain the choices by offering examples and diagrams.
The next step is looking at a simple shape (square, rectangle, triangle, hexagon) on a plain white background. In this stage, it's tempting to go straight to the drawing tools, but I don't recommend it. Instead, use the arrow and pushpin tools at the top of the menu bar to distort the shape of the basic tile. Leave the drawing and coloring for later.
In this stage, you can resize and reproportion the tile... a feature that I greeted with a happy sigh, because it seems so essential yet it's missing from the vast majority of other standalone tessellation programs. Thank you, Tesselmania! Without this feature, all your rectangles are squares; drawing a tall, thin tessellation is impossible; all your cats and snakes will be short and fat.
To manipulate the outer edge of your tile, use the arrow-shaped tool for resizing sides and sliding the image left, right, up, and down. Use the pushpin -shaped tool to click on the borderline, thus creating a "turning point", rather like putting a pin into a string. Also use the pushpin to drag existing "turning points" to new locations. Use the scissors-shaped tool to remove "turning points".
The three main tools you use in this stage will only work in "normal viewing size". They will not work when you click on the "view large version" buttons (x2, x4, x8), so wear your reading glasses.
Now you can optionally begin filling in the interior of the tile with lines, color-fills, and patterns. If you choose to adjust the outline of the tile during this stage, notice that the interior does NOT squish, expand, or move to match the altered outline.
Once your tile is finished, click on the  button to see the completed pattern. Notice that many of the repeating tiles will be in colors that you didn't choose. Yellow parts of your original design, for example, will become bluish purple in some of the other tiles. Let's call this the "anti-pattern". The reason for this "antipattern" is so that it's easy to see where one tile stops and the neighboring tiles begin. You may have to experiment to find colors that look good even in Tesselmania's anti-pattern. This color distortion is neither optional nor adjustable.
Once you're done making a pattern, you choose how to save your masterpiece.
If you plan on working on this pattern again in TesselMania, then use FILE >> SAVE.
However, in its free "trial" version, the FILE >> SAVE menu will only allow you to save in Tesselmania's unique *.TSS format, which is incompatible with all other programs of any type. The lack of a JPEG, PNG, GIF, EPS, AI or other common picture format is a serious intentional shortcoming in the free trial version of TesselMania. The free version which Tessellations.org reviewed did not say what file formats are available in the non-free version, but I expect they include GIF and do not include *.PNG.
To save the picture in the more traditional formats, you can print it out or use a Screenshot to copy-and-paste the picture into another program like GIMP, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, PaintShop Pro, OpenOffice, MS Word, Powerpoint, or any of a hundred other programs, and then save it. I tested this technique, and had no problem using the PrintScreen key on my keyboard to copy the entire current screen, then paste it into a few other programs...even better, I'm happy to report that I was able to easily use SnagIt (a feature-rich screenshot program) to record one of TesselMania's built-in animation features as a movie file.
Those animations are some of Tesselmania's most unexpected and entertaining features. See my recording of one here.
Initial setup (installation) is simple, but will not explain how to set up compatibility with Windows versions beyond Win98. For that, please consult Jill Britton's webpage (listed at the end of this article).
If this software gets updated in the near future and upgrades a few features, we can expect it to be very popular. Without a rewrite, however, I do not expect it to run under Windows Vista, which premieres in 2007. Inexperienced Windows users may be frustrated by dealing with its reliance on very old Windows and hardware standards. On the other hand, if you're using an older PC, this will be a blessing-- it can run on a PC with as little as Win95, Win3.x, or DOS 5.0, 256-color display, less than 5 megabytes of RAM and less than 10megabytes of free hard disk space.
Cost = $39.95 home version; $79.00 school version. There is a free trial version with limited "save" features) downloadable from http://britton.disted.camosun.bc.ca/jbtessinst.htm (with setup instructions)
There are several books about Tesselmania (and used versions of Tesselmania on CD) at Amazon.comThere is a separate but similarly-named product on the market called "TesselMania! Deluxe" It appears to be by the same author and to include many more kid-friendly features, but we have not been able to locate a copy for review. If you know where we can find a copy for review or where copies are being sold, please contact us.)
~~Seth B. 2006/12/12