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"And just for completeness, the standard HTML trick of preloading images is done via putting something like this:
<img src="big.gif" width=1 height=1>
on a page before "big.gif" is needed - then when it is later loaded it will appear instantly as it will be in the browser image cache."
Well, that was not standard information for me and is a fantastic pickup for precisely what I need. Thank you.
All this code does is cache the image for later use, the way you would do with a roll-over image, and nothing is visible until you want it to be.