jQuery recently released their latest version 1.9.0 along with jQuery 2.0 beta (full details) but what is it that makes the rather heavy-weight jQuery so powerful to your website?
I've used jQuery on all of my projects since I can possibly remember to enhance the overall usability of my projects and simplify any design with smooth transitions, galleries through a variety of popups and enhanced AJAX plugins. A few of my favourite plugins are below.
SlidesJS - if you've never used it, you most certainly should. Unlike a lot of slideshow plugins it is very lightweight and easily customisable into whatever way suits your website. It provides an in-depth documentation to describe the API available and options to tweak the slider even futher. They're also developing a beta version that supports HTML5/CSS3 v3.0.1 (full details)
Nivo Slider - one of the more popular options available. It includes 16 different transition effects with customisable settings (and additionally supports plugins for keyboard navigation).
Orbit - provided by Zurb (who I recently mentioned in my previous article on popular responsive frameworks). It is a fairly standard simple implementation supporting captions, links and the usual navigation. It's customisable and works well with their Foundation framework.
Sideways - offers a unique approach to a slideshow creating a full screen effect to encapsulate viewers into your galleries. It is easily customisable and has different display options to decide how to show the images in the slideshow (full, fit or original).
Photobox - a lightweight image gallery that takes full advantage of the capabilities of CSS3 to provide smooth transitions and animations between images. This means it can all be customised through CSS, but isn't supported by Opera, Safari and only IE8 upwards.