With The Gimp not being bundled as standard with Ubuntu 10.04, we thought it was time to get out the shovel, chainsaw and fork-lift truck and do some digging through the archives of the world's best Linux magazine to see how far The Gimp - and its competitors - have come.
Well, it just so happens we did a group test of image manipulation programs over eight years ago, in which the Gimp featured rather centrally. Would you like to know more? Of course you would - so read on!
Don't forget, this article is eight years old - a lot has changed since it was written. One of the biggest differences, as with our archives story of the best Linux distros of 2000, is that Corel kicked the bucket in the Linux world, taking Corel Linux and Corel PhotoPaint with it. PhotoPaint's use of Wine was always going to make people annoyed, but we wish it had had a few more years to try to iron out its kinks.
And then there's Sketch. After showing a huge amount of potential, Sketch was renamed to Skencil then forked off as sK1, then... well, nothing, really. sK2 is keeping the flame alive, and we do hope one day to see a new release of Skencil, but in a vector world dominated by the likes of Inkscape it's going to have a hard job to catch up.
Does the Gimp deserve to go from Ubuntu 10.04? Probably - most folks dabble with it at best, and even back when this group test was written it had enough features to satisfy most. Apart from decent colour management, that is, but don't get us started...
PS: if you're interested in reading more from the glory days of Linux, check out the best text editors of 2000, the best window managers of 2000 and the best games of 2001.
"A picture says a thousand words", or so the old saying goes. If that's the
case, we don't think you'd be too chuffed to find 8 pages of images eating up a
chunk of the mag. So, this month's Roundup will just stick to good old words
Since the very first issue of LXF, we've examined and rated a whole range of
software - from window managers to FTP clients - in our Roundups. In this
issue, it's the turn of another major genre that's becoming ever more popular
in the Linux world: graphics tools.
If you've ever waded through one of the many Linux software sites on the Web
(or had a peek at the wealth of programs included on most distro CDs), you'll
undoubtedly be aware of the gigantic range of image manipulation utilities
available today. Programs exist for all manner of purposes - from tiny
file-format converters through to full-blown graphics creation packages with
With this in mind, our Roundup covers a broad spectrum of programs with varying
objectives and target users. Such programs as CorelDraw have already been
subject to thorough reviews in previous issues of LXF, so this month we're
mainly focusing on the free and open-source alternatives you can start using
As we're looking at a diverse range of programs, it's not so much of a
"head-to-head" this issue; instead, we're putting an assortment of graphics
tools and packages under the spotlight and judging each on their own merits.
With Linux and UNIX systems, it's worth noting that image manipulation tools
don't always require a fancy graphical front-end. Indeed, a plethora of
command-line programs are available for performing all manner of operations
on images. Why is this, when surely a mouse-driven interface is far more
appropriate for such software?
Essentially, the main benefit lies in scripting. As you'd expect, it's hard
to bunch together a stack of file operations when you've got several icons
to click. Some of the more mature programs (like The GIMP) have provided their
own means for solving this, but it's hard to beat a decent shell script when
you're working with a huge number of files.
For example, with command-line utilities you can create a Bash or Perl script,
process a number of files, and then go even further with more operations
depending on the outcome. These operations could include file-format
conversion, thumbnail-creation, and more.
As mentioned, some of the advanced X-based programs include decent support for
scripting and we've taken particular note of their ability in this area in our
roundup. But - for the reasons highlighted above - we've also examined some
command-line tools, taking into account their cumulative power when used in
Our roundup this month assesses some of the best free graphics tools for
Linux, with regards to the clarity and consistency of their interface,
supplied documentation, stability and other essential matters. We're also
examining their capabilities for the points listed in the box. So, let's
take a look at those apps...
Features to look out for
Due to the varying aims and target users of the programs on test this month,
certain features listed here will be more applicable to some of the apps than
others. Still, any user will expect a few key items to be present, and issues
like file-format compatibility are almost always crucial.
- File formats - An enormous range of image file formats exist, with many of
them derived from a particular platform (BMP for Windows, IFF for Amiga etc.).
If you're working on Web-based images, then GIF, PNG and JPEG support will be
- Undo and redo - Everyone makes mistakes, and it's vital that a step back
can be taken when something has gone wrong. A good image manipulation tool
should head into the double-figures for undo levels.
- Layer handling - For complex tasks, using multiple layers to separate
aspects of the image when editing helps a great deal. When finished, these
layers can be put together to make the complete image.
- Scripting - Some feature-packed programs are still missing things that
certain users may deem as essential, so the ability to use scripts and plugins
to extend their functionality is valuable.
The GIMP 1.1.30 - http://www.gimp.org
Since the Free Software Foundation began in 1984, a small collection of
popular programs has come to represent the ability and stamina of part-time
hackers around the globe. For example, the Linux kernel, GCC compiler and
(more recently) Mozilla project have all demonstrated the tremendous power
offered to developers by the Internet.
The GIMP is another of those apps commonly used to prove that Linux isn't just
about networking and script hacking. Started in 1995, The GIMP was one of the
first major end-user programs which unfamiliar users could approach with ease.
Moreover, the hugely successful Gtk+ GUI toolkit - as used by thousands of
free utilities and the GNOME desktop - started life in this app.
On test here is the latest development version of The GIMP, which will
eventually lead into the 1.2 release branch. From there onwards, the
developers have drafted major plans for version 2.0, which will involve an
overhaul of the code (while retaining the look and feel of the application).
A GIMP session in action, showing the numerous dialog boxes that can be brought up.
Almost every Linux distribution under the sun includes a copy of The GIMP
thesedays, and it's probably already installed on your system. Failing that,
you can pick a suitable RPM package from http://www.rpmfind.net or download
the source archive from the main site. You'll also need the gimp-libgimp
package (around 148k), and if you're planning to use it to its limits, the
gimp-data-extras addition (with extra patterns and gradients) will come in
handy as well.
The GIMP sports a snazzy splash screen on startup, before presenting the
initially minimal interface. Photoshop users will recognise many aspects of
the layout - the toolbox is very much the same, although everything is kept
to individual windows on the desktop. This rather sparse interface doesn't
give an immediate impression of the underlying power, but it saves on screen
From the main toolbox window, a series of dialog boxes can be opened for
selecting brushes and colours. A plethora of drawing tools are included,
with the standard brushes, pencil, blender, airbrush and more, and most of
these include extra configuration options. For adding text to images,
options such as anti-aliasing (to smoothen the edges) is also included.
The GIMP's font selection dialog is comprehensive and allows for anti-aliasing.
The selection tools are equally comprehensive, with the usual ellipse and
rectangle options along with bezier and freehand. Selections can be rotated
and flipped, while a colour-picker is present to choose a specific colour
from an image. To create gradients, The GIMP offers a powerful group of
options - from the usual linear to a conical gradient - along with a blend
to transparency feature and adaptive supersampling.
More advanced goodies include a detailed layer and channel editing box (where
layers can overlay, dissolve etc.), together with alpha channel support. As
The GIMP uses a tile-based method when manipulating images, their size is only
limited by the disk space available. Similarly, the number of undo and redo
operations is only dependent on free drive space too.
On the image format front, The GIMP impresses with a solid range of file types
supported. Along with the usual GIF, XPM, JPG, PNG and TIFF, the program will
also read BMPs, PostScript files, TGAs, its native XCF format, and many more.
Others can be added through plugins (see the boxout).
In its current state, The GIMP is still one of the most impressive desktop
apps available free-of-charge to the community. While some will find limits
with the drawing tools, the gigantic amount of features and extensibility
through plugins will rank it alongside the commercial efforts. Although we
encountered the occasional glitch and crash in our tests, The GIMP is a
superb all-round tool and we're looking forward to release 2.0.
Our verdict: Undoubtedly the leading free/open-source graphics tool currently available for Linux. 9/10.
Plugins and Script-Fu
Perhaps The GIMP's most outstanding feature is its plugin and scripting
support. In terms of the former, a satisfyingly large number of plugins are
available (over 100) from http://registry.gimp.org, and this continues to
grow. All manner of effect filters can be added, and these complement the
pre-supplied ones (warp, blur, mosaic, bump-map, animation etc.).
Script-Fu goes one step further, permitting more detailed operations than
plugins and allowing the user to tweak certain parameters. For example, an
assortment of logo-creating scripts are included with most GIMP packages, and
they let the user modify the font or colour scheme before they begin creating
the image. In the right hands, Script-Fu is an intensely powerful addition.
Corel PhotoPaint 9 - http://linux.corel.com
Regular readers will be aware of Corel's increasing involvement with the Linux
community. Two years ago, the company won a great deal of publicity by
bringing WordPerfect 8 to the platform - not only was this a boon for those
advocates pushing Linux as a desktop OS, but Corel also made it freely
available to download from their site.
After releasing their own Debian-based distribution (Corel Linux OS, as
featured on LXF's issue 7 CD), the company started porting a number of its
other major applications to Linux, including WordPerfect Office 2000. With
the arrival of CorelDraw Graphics Suite 9, they've brought a collection of
popular graphics tools to the OS as well.
PhotoPaint 9 is one component of the suite, and is available as a
free-of-charge download from Corel's site (with .deb and RPM package formats
available). According to the system requirements, 64 MB of RAM and 170 MB of
drive space are required, although the latter varies depending on the type
of installation you opt for.
Installing the program is done through Corel's setup program, as used by many of their other products.
Up and running
Installing PhotoPaint is a simple process of stepping through the installer,
which detects your distribution and starts copying the files over. Once this
has finished, the program presents a progress meter as it loads the WINE
libraries, followed by a splash screen.
PhotoPaint's MDI interface will be familiar to Windows users, with draggable
toolbars galore and a comfortable array of icons. Beneath the toolbars sits
the main image window, while the right-hand pane holds the "objects" list
where layers of the image can be merged and copied.
As the name implies, PhotoPaint is geared towards photo editing and bitmap
image manipulation, rather than vector images (as with CorelDraw). And as a
result, the feature set focuses on this type of work. A sizeable range of
effect filters is supplied (35 in all, and more can be added), ranging from
the standard blur and sharpen through to warping and texturing.
The program really excels with its "Art Strokes" effects, which give the
image a hand-drawn appearance using brushes like crayons, pastels and
watercolours. Furthermore, cubist and impressionist styles can be applied
as well with excellent results, and each filter has a realtime preview
option. Multiple operations can be achieved through PhotoPaint's scripting
language, called - you guessed it - CorelSCRIPT.
PhotoPaint at work, showing its toolbar-packed main window and image with pastel effect.
PhotoPaint's clone tool is a superb addition for reproducing areas of an
image, while the "stitch" options allows multiple images to be seamlessly sewn
together - particularly useful for creating panoramas from several photos. The
text tools cater for a number of paragraph alignments, with full font preview
from the drop-down list.
For hand-drawing, PhotoPaint offers a decent selection of brushes including a
calligraphic pen, charcoal and airbrush. A colossal range of file formats are
supported, with WMF (Windows Metafile), Kodak Photo-CD and AutoCAD DWG among
the more esoteric. Up to 99 undo/redo levels are permitted, which will be
enough for most users, and the program boasts support for ICC
Clearly, much of PhotoPaint's emphasis is on the Web, with realtime previewing
of JPEG quality-reduction and resulting file size, and other similar features.
As such, it can't be directly compared to The GIMP; PhotoPaint overshadows it
in terms of drawing tools, while The GIMP has more comprehensive scripting
PhotoPaint's documentation - viewed through Netscape and Java - is detailed
and packed with links to other relevant info, while the CorelTUTOR walks
you through the various stages of image creation and editing. Like many of
Corel's other Linux apps, the WINE interface suffers from glitches and isn't
a fast performer, but we were glad to see no major stability problems. As
it stands, PhotoPaint is a hugely powerful but bulky and slow application,
and those with decent hardware should certainly take a look.
Our verdict: A feature-packed professional application, but heavy on system resources. 9/10.
WINEing and dining
Instead of doing a full port of their applications, Corel have reduced
development times by tweaking them for WINE (which helps some Windows apps to
run under UNIX). Consequently, it's not as fast as a native program to start
up, and the file selection dialogs - among others - still make reference to
the A: and E: drives.
Corel have also taken the WINE approach with WordPerfect Office 2000, and the
results have been variable. While the apps have resulted in a familiar
look-and-feel, there are glitches aplenty and debugging output spewed all over
the terminal window when in use. Many are still in favour of complete
Motif/Gtk+/Qt ports, but increased development times have to be considered.
ImageMagick 5.1.1 - http://www.imagemagick.org
Traditionally, UNIX developers have adhered to a single philosophy: as much as
possible, split things up into small interoperable tools. This idea lies
beneath virtually all aspects of a typical UNIX system - witness the
separation of mail-grabber (Fetchmail), mail-sender (Sendmail) and user-agent
(Mutt, Pine etc.) in common use. Why work like this? Well, by splitting
things up you're not at the mercy of one huge app which does everything.
Of course, such programs as The GIMP attempt to bring all functionality
together in once piece, but ImageMagick's engineers have split their program
into a collection of smaller utilities which work together. Therefore, it's
not so much one large program (although an accessible front-end is included),
but a suite of image editing and conversion tools which can stand on their
ImageMagick is available on just about every Linux distribution CD around, and
is usually installed by default. Otherwise, it's available as a free download
from the above site. To install, you'll need various image format libraries
(such as libjpeg and libpng) to work with these types, and these should be
somewhere on your distro CDs.
ImageMagick's X front-end, with the main image window and command list.
As discussed, ImageMagick is made up of a number of tools which comprise the
program as a whole. So, firing up "display" (the image viewer) without any
specific file will open the main front-end. From here, a left-mouse click
pops up the main menu, with links to the most common operations.
From here, you can proceed to edit the image by hand, apply a range of
effects and transformations, and convert the image to a different format.
In terms of the drawing tools, ImageMagick includes the basic selection of
shapes and lines, along with patterns and a colour browser. This last box
is unusual in that it presents a list of the X colour names available on
Some may find this daunting, but old-timers will specific requirements may
see it as a godsend. A translucent brush is included - and others can be
loaded - but it's nowhere near as comprehensive as PhotoPaint's. As a result,
ImageMagick's editor is similar to XPaint's: useful for a quick editing
operation, but not suitable for major image creation.
In terms of the effects provided, ImageMagick has the common bunch of emboss,
sharpen, edge-detect etc., together with more complex ones in the form of
implode, solarize and charcoal drawing. Really, there's little here which
isn't present in The GIMP or PhotoPaint, but effect filters aren't meant to
be one of ImageMagick's leading features.
ImageMagick's strengths lie in its collection of command-line tools, each of
which is supplied with an exhaustive man page. These tools include convert,
mogrify, montage, combine, identify, display and animate, and while each is
powerful enough on its own, their real power is evident in scripting.
Convert's task is, unsurprisingly, to convert an image into a different
file format. The gargantuan amount of formats supported is overwhelming, with
the usual GIF, BMP and JPEG supported by such rarities as TIM, UVYV, HPGL,
FPX and various others that most of us have yet to encounter. PostScript is
supported too, as is MIFF (ImageMagick's native format).
If bizarre image formats are your thing, you can't go wrong here (taken from the manual pages).
When in need of general image transformation, Mogrify is the tool to use, with
rotation, colour-reduction and scaling among its features. As with Convert,
input and output files can be supplied at the command-line, so you can perform
an operation on several hundred files with just a few keypresses. Mogrify also
includes some extra frills - e.g. anti-alias, blur and draw - and with
appropriate arguments at the prompt, it's monstrously powerful.
Keeping in mind the enormous range of file formats supported, the program
comes to life for batch-processing. For example, you could write a script
to create thumbnails for your site, use Animate to create an animation
for some of them, and add some text onto others - all in one fell-swoop.
ImageMagick's feature list goes on and on, and anyone who lives at the shell
prompt would be mad to dismiss it. As stated, it's not really suitable for
newcomers or those with demanding requirements for their drawing tools, but
if you're a Web developer with scripting knowledge, the capabilities of
ImageMagick are incredible.
Our verdict: Few drawing tools and effect filters, but supremely useful for batch operations. 7/10.
Sketch 0.6.5 - http://sketch.sourceforge.net
Most of the programs on test in this month's roundup deal with bitmap images.
For those unfamiliar with the two main types of image that graphics tools
usually deal with, a bitmap is a picture where each picture element (pixel)
is stored individually in a file, so in this case a line is made up of a
series of pixels.
The downside to this, of course, is that scaled images tend to become blocky
and you're reliant on smoothing filters to sort out jagged edges. With vector
image editors, however, lines are stored as a series of co-ordinates.
Consequently, when you zoom into a vector-based image, each pixel doesn't just
grow larger. Instead, lines and shapes are redrawn from their specific
positions, and no blockiness occurs.
Of course, this type of image editing isn't suitable for everything - photos
and hand-drawn pictures are far more suited to the bitmap format. Vectors
are more commonly used for scientific purposes, where flowcharts, diagrams
and designs can be easily edited by dragging shapes around and easily altering
The main window, demonstrating Sketch's ability to align text along a curve.
Sketch is an "interactive, object oriented vector drawing program" written in
the Python scripting language. It uses Tk to create its graphical front-end,
and is released under the GPL. Some distros like Mandrake install it, and
you can download it from the above site. Sketch's main dependencies are
Python and Tcl/Tk - both commonly available and set up on most systems.
When first started, Sketch delivers a clean and straightforward interface, with
the main page view in the screen's centre, the menu and toolbar along the top,
and a colour palette sitting at the bottom. The toolbar gives access to
often-used functions like load and save, along with some of the basic drawing
tools (freehand, rectangle, bezier curve, text and so forth).
Along the top and left-hand sides of the window is a ruler for placement of
objects, and lines can be dragged from here onto the page for guidance. The
actual process of drawing shapes is similar to that used in other vector
tools, where points around the shape can be pulled around to resize and move
it. Multiple shapes can be selected by dragging the mouse, and on the whole,
Sketch's front-end is fairly intuitive and easy to start working with.
Sketch allows for external images to be included in the document, and
currently the number of supported formats is limited to JPG, GIF and TIF
among a few others. This isn't a problem in this type of application though,
as conversion is the work of other tools. Sketch features its own document
format, .sk, while it will import Adobe Illustrator, Windows Metafile and
Corel CMX files.
Sketch's configuration settings are split into a number of dialog boxes.
Sketch includes a pleasing array of arrangement options when dealing with
several shapes at once. These can be adjusted relative to the page or
lowermost object, and a realtime preview is available. Similarly, objects
can be flipped horizontally and vertically, and a top-notch blend feature
joins shapes with a gradient.
A print-preview is available, and the Page Layout dialog allows for both
landscape and portrait printing. The document can be zoomed from 12% up
to 800% too, with an option to snap the objects to a grid (a handy inclusion
when you're creating charts and similar documents).
Among Sketch's other notable features is PostScript export, infinite levels
of undo and redo, and scripting support through Python. As the program itself
is written in that language, Sketch's scripts have great power in their
ability to work with the application's internal data structures (although the
developers point out the potential problems with this).
All things considered, Sketch is an solid and user-friendly choice for those
working with vector images. Those with experience of its long-established
counterparts may find a few aspects of the program limiting, but it includes
a sound range of features that should suit most users and we were pleased
with its performance and stability.
Our verdict: Fast and stable, Sketch is a worthy choice for those working with vector images. 8/10.
XMorph 2000.03.03 - http://www.colorado-research.com/~gourlay/software/Graphics/Xmorph
Thanks to the power of modern computing software, someone can now make an
animation of your face changing into that of a Hippo. Everyone has seen the
adverts and TV shows where one object melts into the shape of another, and
this is all achieved through one special kind of software: a morphing tool.
Deluxe Paint on the Amiga included a crude but fun morphing feature for
animations, and Linux hasn't been left out with XMorph. Also available in
a Tcl/Tk form as TkMorph, plain XMorph uses the X tookit and Athena widget
set for its front-end. It's available under the GPL, and can be found in
a number of package formats at the project's site.
XMorph allows the user to create animations where one image is gradually
changed into the next. It only supports TGA formats in its current state,
but programs like The GIMP can read and write this type of file. Creating
a morph is a simple process of loading the source and destination images,
dragging points in the "mesh" (a grid of lines which defines specific
areas to be moved), and starting the morphing process.
Before morphing the two images, you can twist sections about using the mesh.
The number of frames can be set, with a higher value resulting in a
smoother morph, while the resulting animation is saved as a sequence of
TGA files ready to be sewn together (using mpeg_encode or whatever you
prefer). There's also an XMorph plugin for The GIMP, which incorporates
the program's morphing ability into it.
Various pages of documentation are included, but the program is so simple
to use that it's not difficult to start creating animations straight away.
However, the reliance on the TGA format will be a hinderance to some users,
and possibly an option to render the resulting morph straight into an
animation file would be a nice touch.
And that's all there is to XMorph. It doesn't aim to provide any other frills,
and the engineers have rightly put their concentration into the main morphing
algorithm itself. With this in mind, XMorph is hardly an essential tool for
casual users, but anyone who needs to create animations of one image becoming
another will find it a satisfactory choice.
Our verdict: For straightforward morphing operations, XMorph does the job without any fancy frills. 5/10.
KIllustrator 0.7.1 - http://wwwiti.cs.uni-magdeburg.de/~sattler/killustrator.html
With the GNOME project adopting The GIMP as its flagship graphics package,
supporters of the alternative KDE desktop haven't been been left out with a
number of image-manipulation programs appearing for the Qt-based suite. Our
review of Sketch goes into more detail about vector-based software, and
KIllustrator is a similar alternative for KDE.
KIllustrator's lead developer has aimed to create an application similar in
use to CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator, and has released it under the GPL.
If you download the package or build it from source, you'll need the KDE
libraries (and their associated development packages).
With a straightforward icon-driven interface, KIllustrator sports detachable
toolbars and a colour palette down the right-hand side of the main window.
The drawing tool buttons, which include freehand, polygon and text, can be
double-clicked to bring up more detailed options. A drop-down list along
the top zooms from 50% through to 1000%.
KIllustrator's main window, showing the various effects that can be used.
Objects can be snapped to a grid and rotated, while the other transformations
give a realtime preview of the result. General use is very much the same as
in Sketch, although it lacks support for a great deal of images formats to load
into the main document and the blend effect doesn't work so elegantly.
KIllustrator is also more limited when it comes to file formats, with only
Xfig documents available for import alongside the native format. However, it
does improve on Sketch with respect to layers, and through the dialog you can
choose which are to be viewed, printed and edited.
In all, KIllustrator is a pleasant alternative to Sketch and performed well
in our tests. Sadly, there's no scripting support as yet and many more file
formats need to be included before some will consider it. Still, the program
remains under development and has plenty of potential.
Our verdict: A simple and usable vector-based image editor, but severely lacking in some key areas. 5/10.
XPaint 2.6.1 - http://home.worldonline.dk/~torsten/xpaint
Linux users who've been running the OS for several years will be familiar with
the group of plain Xlib-based programs which still appear in distros today.
You'll probably have xcalc already on your system, and a number of similar
tools are still in use today. XPaint, being another Xlib app, isn't dependant
on the weighty GUI toolkits of Gtk+ or Qt, making it ideal for work on older
At around 250k, both the RPM packages and tar.gz source archives are a quick
download (although many distributions include it as standard). You won't bump
into any obscure dependencies, but those compiling from source should check
out the documentation for hints on installing certain file format libraries
for use in the program.
XPaint's interface is reminiscent of The GIMP's (and other similar tools),
with a main toolbox providing access to the common drawing functions. These
include the typical shapes and lines, together with selections (rectangle,
ellipse and freehand etc.), fill, gradient, airbrush and text tools. In all,
it's a usable set of basic drawing tools for making quick alterations.
XPaint in action, showing the image editing window and toolbox.
Several filters are supplied, including emboss, oil-paint and pixelise. A grid
can be applied when zooming, and selections can be rotated (but only in
multiples of 45 degrees, sadly). XPaint does fairly well with file formats
(PNG, XWD and PPM among the usuals, but no BMP), and competent
context-sensitive help is available.
It's clear that XPaint won't give The GIMP's developers sleepless nights, but
that's not the intention. XPaint is a speedy and small tool for quick editing
jobs (and boasts a few nice filters and other features too), but the interface
is quirky if you're unfamiliar with Xlib and it lacks any form of scripting.
Our verdict: Unattractive and lacking in key features on one hand, but fast and straightforward on the other. It's your choice. 6/10.
GQView 0.7.0 - http://gqview.netpedia.net
If you've got stacks of image files all over your home directory, firing up
a whole graphics package just to quickly browse through them can seem like
overkill. As a result, various developers have created specialised programs
which concentrate on the display and management of images, rather than the
GQView is an image browser built around the Gtk+ toolkit, offering various
features in an attempt to make navigation through your pictures easier.
Typical package sizes weigh-in at 150k for the binary RPM, and as the image
rendering is done through Gdk, there's no major dependencies for other libs
to be installed.
On startup, GQView splits the main window into two halves, with the left pane
holding the directory browser, and the right one displaying selected images.
If required, an extra pane beneath the directory list can show thumbnails of
all images located there, while a toolbar sits on top for access to the zoom
options and preferences dialog.
GQView busy at work. External editors can be defined and brought up with a right-click.
GQView also allows for a small amount of file management, with basic commands
to remove, rename and delete files. A notably nice inclusion is the
full-screen mode, where images are given the entire display and can be worked
through with mouse clicks (and the picture can be moved about when it's larger
than the display).
A basic slideshow can be set up, with the only option being the delay between
images, but GQView's configuration dialog also includes default directory and
toolbar settings, thumbnail sizes, and an option to spawn external editors
when modifications need to be made to an image.
GQView does a no-nonsense job as an image browser, and with its slideshow and
fullscreen additions it makes a handy little tool to have around. We'd like to
see support for some of the lesser-known file formats, but it runs at a rapid
pace and performed reliably in our tests.
Our verdict: GQView is a useful image-browsing tool, and a handy extra on anyone's desktop. 8/10.
Looking back over the past few decade of computing, certain platforms have
associated themselves as the best choice for a particular purpose. More
specifically, the Amiga and Macintosh were both highly regarded for their
abilities in terms of graphics, and became the preferred systems for artists
around the globe.
Undoubtedly this was due to the ease-of-use and underlying power of these
platforms. In recent years, Windows PCs have taken a slice of the image
manipulation pie, but many would argue that Microsoft's monopoly is mainly
responsible for this. Besides, few artists would be thrilled by the problems
Windows offers and its endless upgrade cycles.
Back in UNIX land, developers were catering more for scientific types who had
very specific requirements and weren't interested in the flashy features other
systems had to offer. Also, while the X Window System and desktops like CDE
were beginning to establish themselves, the diverse range of graphics
hardware involved didn't help the situation.
However, with the growing acceptance of Linux as a viable desktop OS (along
with release 4 of XFree86), software houses are recognising a gap in the market
exists for desktop image-manipulation applications running on a very stable
platform. You may have already come across the 3D rendering package Blender,
and after examining some of the programs on test in our roundup, it's clear
that developers are taking this matter very seriously.
Of course, Linux isn't going to eat away at the Mac and Windows' market share
overnight in this arena. But already it has evolved into a decent alternative
to these proprietary platforms, and free software hackers are once again
demonstrating their willingness to meet a challenge. Few would disagree that
the future looks promising for Linux here.
Which should I use?
Clearly, both The GIMP and Corel PhotoPaint are most likely to turn the
average user's head. If you're creating images by hand or need to touch-up
some photos, PhotoPaint in particular is a very wise choice. Windows users
will be pleased to find a familiar and easy-to-navigate front end, and the
range of features it offers is superb.
While PhotoPaint is free to download, those adhering to the FSF's definition
of Free Software or open-source should give The GIMP a go. Being included with
virtually every major distribution, it's almost always available on a Linux
box and the scripting support it includes is magnificent.
Still, ImageMagick and the other smaller programs shouldn't be discounted.
Those in need of powerful batch-processing features shoulc check out
ImageMagick, while XPaint is a fast little app for basic hand-drawing
operations. And if your needs lie in vector images, Sketch is a friendly
and robust tool worth considering.
Finally, as the software on test this month is freely available to download
(or included on most distribution CDs), you don't just have to take our word
for it - give them all a try today!
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