One of the main areas of open source software that I haven’t tried much but kept my eye on in the last couple of years is “The Gimp.” It’s a staple of most Linux systems even though it is available on Windows and Mac OSX as well. This is the problem for me: I’m the son of a electrical engineer and an art teacher. If there’s one thing that I am somewhat destined to use are graphic applications. Adobe has served me very well in that regard.
The problem is, Adobe must have known they had me and started squeezing the clamps. The software has been getting more and more expensive exponentially. Buying Macromedia then made them the kings of all graphics and multimedia with no sympathy in site for the little guy.
Now’s the time I thought. So, last year I gave a good look at the Gimp. I have to admit I was immediately turned off for a reason that sounds kind of silly now but should be given some thought by the designers. When you launch the program you’re not immediately sure it’s finished loading. Usually when programs load they open the workspace area even if there’s no content in it to be used. The Gimp doesn’t do that. It started up with the toolbars and nothing else.
I got around that though and forged on. Gimp is labeled as an image editor and that’s mainly what I use Photoshop for. I’m good at Photoshop. I’m mainly a network admin type but no matter where I’ve worked when people figured out that I could use apps like Photoshop well people wanted a graphic or something “real quick.” Companies have been polite enough to buy me software in the past but those old days are gone with the dot-coms. I really wanted this to work.
Last year was pretty uneventful in this respect because I always booted up a Windows machine and went to Photoshop for any graphics needs. This was until this year at the Southern California Linux Expo 2008. I was introducing speakers and had the pleasure to meet a lady named Akkana Peck. She’s the author of the Apress book “Beginning Gimp: From Novice to Professional“. Unfortunately, I haven’t bought the book (which I plan to email her and remedy after I post this) but her one hour look at the Gimp was so concise and helpful that I went ahead and started giving it a try for things that I usually did with Photoshop.
This is definitely a hard pill to swallow until I realized something. The Photoshop video blogs I watched turned out to be helpful with the Gimp. I found myself agreeing with Akanna that I shouldn’t install the plugin Gimpshop (that turns the toolbars and look of the Gimp to a Photoshop clone). I found it was better at teaching me the foundations that I would go look for in the Gimp. I found it wasn’t too hard to find the features then because they were more intuitive now.
Then I found a great Gimp podcast (actually I’d found it before the SCALE conference but had only listened to two of the episodes I’d downloaded). Meet the Gimp is a video podcast from Germany. The host Rolf Steinort is a teacher that does photography and image editing on the side. Some of you might have to get used to his German accent but once you’re past that you’ll find it’s an extremely useful show.
In short, I’m sold. I’m almost totally moved over to the Gimp. At the same time, get a little extra learning from the video podcast The Photoshop Guys podcast. They have a great show that shows a lot of features and tricks that you can definitely apply to the Gimp. Trust me… I do this with all programs. Usually the open source guys know what the commercial guys are doing and are either putting it in their software or it’s already there plus some.
The very best part is that it’s cross platform and I can even slowly get people into in that found Photoshop’s price a barrier to entry.