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Laser question


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Is a laser diode work similar to a LED?  It will just send out a straight laser beam right?  Is there any way to make a laser beam show up in the air (a physical line--not just a dot on a surface) without using fog or some spray (like CSI)?
Ii am asking this because I noticed laser diodes on ebay that were fairly cheap and they will little gold colored canisters (smaller than a quarter) and had 2 straight pin leads.  They do the same thing as a handheld laser pointer?
P.S. They have laser beam recievers dont they?  Just like infared recievers?

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