Our look is the result of reader comments, our own experimentation, and feedback from distribution channels. Distinctive covers complement our distinctive approach to technical topics, breathing personality and life into potentially dry subjects.

The animal on the cover of BLAST is a coelacanth.The modern coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae, is the sole living representative of Actinista, an ancient family of lobe-finned fish. The first live coelacanth was discovered off the east coast of South Africa in 1938 and caused a stir in the scientific community because they were believed to have been extinct for approximately 80 million years. A second, closely related species of coelacanths was found off the coast of Sulawesi in 1998.

Coelacanths grow to about 6 feet long; weigh up to 150 pounds; and are covered with bony, dark blue scales flecked with white. Coelacanths are unlike other living fish in that they have a three-lobed tail, fleshy fins, and a partially developed vertebral column. They are the only living vertebrate with a functional intercranial joint. It's this joint that allows the coelacanth's jaws to open exceptionally wide when inhaling its prey. Coelacanths are opportunistic predators (they eat whatever they can find) and are ovoviviparous (they give birth to live young).

From an evolutionary perspective, coelacanths are unique, and they provide a key perspective on the evolution of many different genes in vertebrate species. With their front and rear paired fins, which move in a similar fashion to the arms and legs of land vertebrates, coelacanths may be one of the closest links to those vertebrates that first crawled out of the sea to live on land more than 350 million years ago.

Mary Anne Weeks Mayo was the production editor and proofreader, and Ann Schirmer was the copyeditor for BLAST. Derek DiMatteo, and Darren Kelly provided quality control. Lucie Haskins wrote the index.

Emma Colby designed the cover of this book, based on a series design by Edie Freedman. The cover image is an original illustration created by Lorrie LeJeune. Emma produced the cover layout with QuarkXPress 4.1 using Adobe's ITC Garamond font.

David Futato designed the interior layout. This book was converted by Julie Hawks to FrameMaker 5.5.6 with a format conversion tool created by Erik Ray, Jason McIntosh, Neil Walls, and Mike Sierra that uses Perl and XML technologies. The text font is Linotype Birka; the heading font is Adobe Myriad Condensed; and the code font is LucasFont's TheSans Mono Condensed. The illustrations that appear in the book were produced by Robert Romano and Jessamyn Read using Macromedia FreeHand 9 and Adobe Photoshop 6. This colophon was compiled by Lorrie LeJeune.

The online edition of this book was created by the Safari production group (John Chodacki, Becki Maisch, and Madeleine Newell) using a set of Frame-to-XML conversion and cleanup tools written and maintained by Erik Ray, Benn Salter, John Chodacki, and Jeff Liggett.