The idea of having fun on your computer may seem a contradiction in terms. You are chained to it all day at work, it is a nightmare when it acts up, and there is so much to learn about it that any recreational use seems a frivolous waste of time and brings on feelings ?of guilt. But having some fun is actually necessary - it makes the user more familiar with the computer, it encourages creativity and relieves stress. Yes, you heard me correctly - fun is necessary. So what is 'fun' and how do you have it with a Mac? Fun is simply doing something new and different, and doing it well. Needless to say, if you are not having fun you are probably doing the same old thing, over and over, and not excelling at it. My favourite fun Mac diversion is the application Studio Artist ( www.synthetik.com US$379). This is essentially a guided art creation machine. It refers to a photo or drawing (or movie, for that matter) and interprets the image, with your guidance, into a work of art. It's hard to explain all that this amazing application does, but the bottom line is that every time I use it I get incredible results. Every new image I make turns out to be excellent, which makes the endeavour fun. Here are a few other highly rated Mac diversions to put into your Fun Folder: Would you like to make an animated movie? Even if stick figures are the limit of your artistic talent you can do so. Check out iChalk ( www.mathgamehouse.com/ichalk/index.html US$9.95). This is a web-based, or network communication tool like iChat, but it uses a chalkboard as a model. You draw, they draw and ideas get exchanged. You can also import images and add text and captions, converting drawings or photos into cartoons. And you can trace images and make your own original drawings. And if that isn't enough, you can draw a sequence of images and convert them into a movie. This is called rotoscoping - it is simple and you guessed it ... fun. If the idea of making animated movies sounds like a hoot, there is a superior application called Stop Motion Studio ( www.loudinc.com/animation/ stopmotionstudio/US$45) that lets you take photos from your digital camera in sequence and sew them into a film. The Oscar-nominated, animated film Wallace and Grommet: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit used this technique. The movie's producers used professional-grade still cameras focused on blobs of clay, shooting, rearranging and then shooting again, until they had a movie. If you can't sculpt clay for your movie you can use Lego, vegetables or wood chips, or you can even animate art supplies. No drawing skills, no paid actors, great results and, of course, a huge amount of fun. This next 'fun' tool is for photo enthusiasts who want to create new ?and different photo art. The application is Panopticum Lens Pro ( www.panopticum.com US$48). Panopticum makes plug-ins for applications that accommodate Photoshop (for photos) and After Effects (for movies). Panopticum's speciality is impressive crystal, glass and optical special effects. The Lens Pro plug-in converts images, either 3D or 2D, into beautiful jewelled objects. At first you will wonder at the possibilities for web buttons, but after ?a few minutes of playing with it you will be inspired to create logos, or even whole art projects. This tool is a little addictive and, of course, a whole lot ?of fun. What could be more different than using red and green 3D glasses to view 3D art? The tool is called Red Green ( www.clauss-net.de/redgreen/index.html US$10) and requires you to take two digital photos, slightly separated, with a digital camera. The application then sews them together and processes them so that you can view the final image with normal 3D glasses. Easy, cool and above all, therapeutic-grade fun. E-mail Dave Horrigan at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Mac queries.