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The Official Ubuntu Book, 6th Edition: More Applications for Ubuntu

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This chapter shows you just a few of the thousands of additional applications that you can install on your Ubuntu system.
This chapter is from the book

Chapter 6. More Applications for Ubuntu

  • Creating Graphics with GIMP and Inkscape
  • Desktop Publishing with Scribus
  • Creating Music with Jokosher
  • Playing to Learn with Educational Programs
  • Getting There Faster with Docky
  • Summary

In addition to those installed by default, Ubuntu offers a wealth of other applications to help you make the most of your computer. Different people use their computers in different ways, and it is for that reason that we wanted to help you discover how to enable your Ubuntu computer to do even more.

In this chapter, we show you just a few of the thousands of additional applications that you can install on your Ubuntu system. Each section showcases one application, starting with the name of the package you need to install and what Windows/OS X equivalents might exist. This is followed by the main thrust of the chapter, which shows you how that application works and walks you through the initial steps of creation. At the end of the discussion of each application, you will find a Further Resources section to help you go from novice to expert. Let's get ready to supercharge your Ubuntu!

Creating Graphics with GIMP and Inkscape


  • Package name: gimp
  • Windows equivalent: Adobe Photoshop or GIMP

The GNU Image Manipulation Program, affectionately known as GIMP to its friends, is a powerful graphics package. GIMP provides a comprehensive range of functionality for creating different types of graphics. It includes tools for selecting, drawing, paths, masks, filters, effects, and more. It also includes a range of templates for different types of media such as Web banners, different paper sizes, video frames, CD covers, floppy disk labels, and even toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.

Unlike Adobe Photoshop, GIMP does not place all of its windows inside a single large window; instead, GIMP has a number of separate child windows. This can be a little confusing at first for new users—especially those used to Photoshop. To get you started, let's run through a simple session in GIMP.

An Example

Start GIMP by clicking Applications > Graphics > GNU Image Manipulation Program.

When GIMP loads, you will see a collection of different windows, as shown in Figure 6-1.


Figure 6-1 GIMP does not put everything in one window like Adobe Photoshop.

Close the Tip of the Day window, and you are left with two other windows. The one on the left in the screenshot is the main tool palette. This window provides you with a range of different tools that can be used to create your images. The window on the right provides details of layers, brushes, and other information. GIMP provides a huge range of different windows that are used for different things, and these are just two of them.

To create a new image, click File > New. The window shown in Figure 6-2 will appear.


Figure 6-2 Lots of templates are available, including one for toilet paper!

The easiest way to get started is to select one of the many templates. Click the Template combo box and select 640 x 480. If you click the Advanced Options expander, you can also select whether to use RGB or grayscale with the Colorspace box. You can also choose a background fill color or having a transparent background.

Click OK, and you will see your new image window (Figure 6-3).


Figure 6-3 Use the right mouse button on the image to access lots of GIMP options and features.

To work on your image, use the tool palette to select which tool you want to use on the new image window. Each time you click on a tool in the palette, you see options for the tool appear at the bottom half of the palette window.

When you click the button that looks like an A in the toolbox, it selects the text tool. At the bottom of the toolbox, you will see the different options. Click the Font button that looks like an uppercase and a lowercase case A (like Aa) and select the Sans Bold font. Now click the up arrow on the Size box, and select the size as 60 px. Move your mouse over to the empty image window, and you will see the mouse pointer change to a text carat. Click in the image, and a box pops up in which you can enter the text to add to the image. Type in "Ubuntu." With the text entry still open, click the up arrow on the Size box so the text fills most of the window. As you can see, you can adjust the text while it is in the image. When you are happy with the formatting, click Close on the text entry box. Your image should look a little like Figure 6-4.


Figure 6-4 Ubuntu comes with a range of attractive fonts for use in your images.

Now in the toolbox, click the button that has a cross with an arrow on each end. You can use this tool to move the text around. Click the black text, and move the mouse.

Let's now add an effect filter. GIMP comes with a range of different filters built in. You can access these by right-clicking the image and selecting the Filters submenu.

For our image, right-click the image and select Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. In the Horizontal and Vertical boxes, select 5 as the value. Click OK, and the blur is applied to your text. Anything in GIMP can be undone by clicking Edit > Undo or typing Ctrl+Z. Your image should now look like Figure 6-5. Now we are going to create another layer and put some text over our blurred text to create an interesting effect. If the Layers window isn't open yet, open it with Windows > Dockable Dialogues > Layers. The Layers window will now appear (Figure 6-6).


Figure 6-5 Several filters and effects are bundled with GIMP in Ubuntu.


Figure 6-6 Layers are essential when creating complex images with lots of parts.

Layers are like clear plastic sheets that can be stacked on top of each other. They allow you to create some imagery on one layer and then create another layer on top with some other imagery. When combined, layers can create complex-looking images that are easily editable because you can edit layers individually. Currently, our blurred text is one layer. We can add a new layer by clicking the paper icon in the Layers dialog box. Another window appears to configure the layer. The defaults are fine (a transparent layer the size of your image), so click OK.

Now double-click the black color chip in the toolbox window and select a light color. You can do this by moving the mouse in the color range and then clicking OK when you find a color you like. Now click the text button from the palette and again add the "Ubuntu" text. When the text is added, it will be the same size as before. Now use the move tool and position it over the blurred text. Now you have the word "Ubuntu" with a healthy glow, as shown in Figure 6-7!


Figure 6-7 Combining steps as we have done can result in interesting effects such as this.

The final step is to crop the image to remove the unused space. Click Tools > Transform Tools > Crop, and use the mouse to draw around the Ubuntu word. You can click in the regions near the corners of the selection to adjust the selection more precisely. Click inside the selection, and the image will be cropped. To save your work, click File > Save, and enter a filename. You can use the Select File Type expander to select from one of the many different file formats.

Further Resources

A great start is GIMP's own help, which is not installed by default, but if you are on the Internet, the help viewer will download it automatically. You can also install it by searching for gimp help in the Software Center. The GIMP's own Web site at www.gimp.org has all the help plus tutorials and more.


  • Package name: inkscape
  • Windows/OS X equivalents: Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Macromedia Freehand

Inkscape is also a drawing and graphic creation tool, much like GIMP, but one that has a slightly different focus. Unlike GIMP, which works with raster graphics, Inkscape is a vector drawing tool. This means rather than a grid of pixels, each assigned a color, drawings are mathematically described using angles and arbitrary units.

To get started with Inkscape, launch it from the Applications > Graphics menu, and very shortly you will see the default window with the basic canvas of either Letter or A4 depending on where in the world you live. At the top of the screen, below the menus, are three sets of toolbars. The topmost contains common tools like save and zoom, the second a series of snapping options, and the third is changeable depending on the tool selected.

All the tools are listed on the left-hand side of the menu, starting with the selection tool and running down to the eyedropper or paint color selector tool. Let's get started by drawing a simple shape and coloring it in (Figure 6-8).


Figure 6-8 Inkscape's toolbar

First, select the rectangle tool on the left, just below the zoom icon. Draw a rectangle anywhere on the screen. Now let's change the color of the fill and outside line or stroke.

With your rectangle still selected, go to the Object menu and choose Fill and Stroke. Over on the right, you will see the window appear, with three different tabs: Fill, Stroke Paint, and Stroke Style. Let's fill that rectangle with a gradient from orange to white. Immediately below the Fill tab, change from Flat color to Linear Gradient (Figure 6-9).


Figure 6-9 Your rectangle, now with gradient-filled goodness

Look back at your rectangle and see the gradient and a new line running horizontally across the rectangle. Moving either the square or the circle allows you to define where the gradient starts and stops. To change the colors, click the Edit... button. Once the Edit dialog is up, each end of the gradient is called a stop and can be edited separately (Figure 6-10).


Figure 6-10 Gradient editing dialog

Now that we have a rectangle, let's add some text to our image. Select the Text tool, which is right near the bottom on the left, and click anywhere. A cursor appears, and you can start typing. Type "Ubuntu," and then we are going to change the color and size of the text. Let's make the text 56 points, which can be selected in the upper right, beside the Font name.

The Fill & Stroke dialog should still be open on the right, but if it isn't, reopen it. Change the text color to Red, then choose the selection tool again. Now drag a box around both the text and the rectangle, and you should see both selected (Figure 6-11).


Figure 6-11 Text and rectangle selected

Now open the Alignment dialog, which is right near the bottom of the Object menu. Like the Fill and Stroke dialog, it appears on the right-hand side. To center the text in the box, see the middle two icons with a line and some blue lines on the side of them. Click both the Horizontal and Vertical alignment options, and both the text and image will be centered on the page (Figure 6-12).


Figure 6-12 Your final drawing

Now that you have created an image, what can you do with it? By default, Inkscape saves in the SVG or Scalable Vector Graphics format, an open standard for vector graphics. If you want to take your work elsewhere for showing on another computer or printing, Inkscape can also save into PDF format, although if you choose to do so, make certain you also save a copy as an SVG so you can edit the image later if you wish. Both SVG and PDF are options in the Save dialog. One key advantage for PDF is that it embeds fonts and graphics, meaning your image looks the same on nearly any computer you show it on. You can also export your image as a PNG for embedding in a text document or uploading to the Web, although many modern Web browsers such as Firefox and Chrome can display SVG directly, although most don't support the full SVG standard. To export, go to File > Export, which allows you to choose to export just the objects selected, the whole document, or some portion.

Hopefully, you have seen just how powerful Inkscape can be. There are many more things you can do with Inkscape, so play around with the various options, dialogs, and shapes.

Further Resources

A good start is always Inkscape's own help, which is in SVG format, so you can see how the original authors created the tutorials. Inkscape's Web site at http://inkscape.org has some great tutorials and articles. If you want a book, Tav Bah's Inkscape: Guide to Vector Drawing Program, Third Edition, is a good place to start.

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