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Is it (easily) possible to make a lightbox with buttons on the bottom that perform actions when the user clicks them?

Not much more difficult than anywhere else. You make some buttons, attach some event handlers that do {whatever} when they are clicked on. Since you want to operate on the currently displayed picture, a lot will depend on how the slideshow organizes things.

I know there’s a lot of lightboxes for free … many seem to have a license that would require me to show the source code. Are they talking about all of my project’s source code or just their lightbox source code?

The license should say. Some simply require credit and that you make their code available to others; some can only be used in projects that are also open-source. Similarly, some may have restrictions based on personal vs. commercial projects, etc..

…I don’t want to have to show my source code.

Keep your previous question in mind: javascript simply cannot be used unless you send the source code to the user. You either show your source code, or keep it locked up on your hard drive and never use it. There is no middle ground.

If I cannot find a lightbox for free or for sale that meets my needs where can I learn about making one that meets my needs myself?

Just my first impression, and I may be wrong, but seems to me you have a lot you would need to learn about JS before you could produce something with capabilities matching or rivalling existing lightbox scripts. It’s not something you can learn over the course of a few weeks and one tutorial.

If you want to learn javascript, that’s great! Keep in mind that a lightbox will not be the first thing you produce. It’ll take time to get to that point, and there’s a lot to learn on the way.

Can anyone point out any great tutorials that show how to add buttons to the lightbox?
Is it possible to pass image names / values to the lightbox?
Does the lightbox appear in an iframe or new page?

As with question #1, these things will depend almost entirely on the particular lightbox script you choose and how it is designed/ implemented.

Is there a difference between a javascript lightbox and a jquery lightbox?

jQuery and JavaScript are not different languages. jQuery is a javascript code library. jQuery is javascript.

As for compatibility, jQuery does cover a lot of cross-browser stuff for you, but the code you end up with will be a lot heavier as a result. This is a judgement call based on your specific needs and circumstances.

what do you think a fair price is to pay for a custom lightbox that fits my needs? $30.00? $35.00?

Absolutely not. The scripts you’ve seen for sale for similar prices are not “custom lightboxes.” They were developed once, requiring dozens (or even hundreds) of man-hours of work, and are being sold en masse to make up for that outlay.

If you want someone to actually build you a custom solution, just based on your brief description here, you should not expect to spend less than $500 or so for something decent.

Maybe a lightbox isn’t the way to go for me?
Maybe sending the selected images to a custom php page gallery is better?

Do you know how to write PHP? The tasks you’re describing could be broken down into smaller, isolated functionality using PHP, which would make it a bit simpler to code (though that would also make it a bit more “clunky” feeling to use).

There are additional security concerns with PHP (since you’re operating on your server). Also consider that, if you want to sell this, a PHP solution will be more difficult for an end-user to set up.