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A folded geometry acousto-optic modulator spatial pulse shaper has been designed for shaping individual pulses from a high power amplified laser. The design preserves the capability of computer programmable amplitude and phase modulation of femtosecond laser pulses. An additional application of genetic algorithm optimization approach for compressing a stretched pulse is also demonstrated for such a pulse shaper. Spectrally and temporally resolved optical gating technique is used to characterize the shaped pulses.