Alien Skin Software's filters just beg to be used in gleefully creating mischief, but retain enough legitimate uses to justify their purchase. Xenofex 2 offers revamped old favourites, as well as brand-new filters.

This set boasts 14 filters. The Rounded Rectangle, Origami, Stamper, Shower Door, and Distress filters have been replaced with Cracks, Rip Open, and Burnt Edges. Most are self explanatory (what do you think Little Fluffy Clouds does?), but can often be combined in creative ways for unique effects.

Even the Flag filter, which we feared would look cheesy, was surprisingly realistic - real enough for web work, at least. Flag and Crumple both feature a pseudo-3D distortion, which warps or crinkles your image to depict its dimensions more accurately (and to show off the lighting effects, presumably). Electrify and Lightning - two similar effects with different implementations - allow you to select the colour, amount of branching, and other variables involved in whipping up some electricity, and were fun to use.

Of all the software filters here, Constellation and Puzzle seemed like the ones we'd use least frequently, but if you're in the business of making puzzle websites, you'll like the ability to knock out random pieces and fiddle with the connectors, groove width, and highlight size of your puzzle bits. That's the thing about Xenofex - the components perform well, but would you use them more often than every few months?

One small disappointment: the manual. In addition to its false claims of five new filters, it's littered with typos. But the fact that we've noted them at all is a testament to how little we found to complain about in Xenofex 2. Mark Sparrow