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This chapter is from the book

Useful Software Packages to Explore

The software discussed in this section of the chapter is not installed by default but is known to be useful and well respected. These are given here as recommendations to help those who have specific needs narrow their search for programs that meet their requirements.

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 searching for it in the Dash.

When GIMP loads, you will see a collection of different windows, as shown in Figure 5-12.

Figure 5-12

Figure 5-12. 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 5-13 will appear.

Figure 5-13

Figure 5-13. 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 × 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 5-14).

Figure 5-14

Figure 5-14. 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 5-15.

Figure 5-15

Figure 5-15. 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 5-16. 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 5-16

Figure 5-16. Several filters and effects are bundled with GIMP in Ubuntu.

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 5-17!

Figure 5-17

Figure 5-17. 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 file-name. 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 by searching for it in the Dash, 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 5-18).

Figure 5-18

Figure 5-18. 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 5-19).

Figure 5-19

Figure 5-19. 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 5-20).

Figure 5-20

Figure 5-20. 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 5-21).

Figure 5-21

Figure 5-21. 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 5-22).

Figure 5-22

Figure 5-22. 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.

Desktop Publishing with Scribus

Package name: scribus

Windows equivalents: Adobe InDesign, Scribus

For more powerful document creation than LibreOffice can allow, Scribus is just the ticket. A desktop publishing application, Scribus is built for designing and laying out documents of various sizes and sorts. As such, it makes a few different assumptions that might catch you up if you are used to using LibreOffice to create your documents.

When you first launch Scribus, it asks you what kind of document you want to create or if you want to open an existing document. Let’s create a one-page document and take Scribus for a spin (Figure 5-23).

Figure 5-23

Figure 5-23. Scribus’s opening dialog with lots of options

The first thing to remember about Scribus is that as a desktop publishing program, it is not designed for the direct editing of images and text. You edit and create your images in applications like GIMP or Inkscape and your text in word processors like LibreOffice and then import them.

For starters, let’s create a pair of text frames. For our example, we are using a document titled Welcome_to_Ubuntu.odt. To create a text frame, you need to use the Insert Text Frame tool, which can be found near the middle of the toolbar. After you draw the text frame, you need to add text to it. Right-click on the frame and choose Get Text. A dialog very similar to the Open dialog appears. Choose the Welcome_to_Ubuntu.odt file, and then select OK. You will be asked a few options; for now, accept the defaults. You should see the text appear on the screen (Figure 5-24).

Figure 5-24

Figure 5-24. The imported text in a frame

But as you can see, the text overflows the frame. In order for the rest of the text to show up, you need to create another text frame and then link the two, allowing the overflow to appear in the second frame. Go up to the toolbar again, select the Insert Text Frame, and draw another frame roughly on the bottom of the page. Then select the first frame and choose the Link Text Frames icon on the toolbar, which looks like two columns with an arrow between them. After you have selected that, click on the second text box and you should see an arrow appear and, more importantly, your text will now flow from one frame to the next (Figure 5-25).

Figure 5-25

Figure 5-25. Text now flows from frame to frame.

Next let’s insert an image at the bottom of the screen. As with text, you need to create an image frame, then add the image to that frame. Draw the image frame below the two text frames, and then right-click and choose Get Image. Just as with the text import, choose your file, this time an image file, in the Open dialog, and it will appear in the frame. Let’s choose the Ubuntu logo, under the Logo folder in Example Content. It will appear in your image frame (Figure 5-26).

Figure 5-26

Figure 5-26. Your document with an image added

Now that you have added some text and an image, let’s export to PDF so you can share your creation with the world. On the toolbar near the left-hand edge, you will see the PDF logo, just to the left of the traffic light icon. Select that, and don’t worry about the error about the DPI of the image. Select Ignore Errors, and you will see a large dialog with many options for embedding fonts and the like. Don’t worry too much about them right now, as the document you have created isn’t that complicated. Choose a good name for your document, and then save it to your Documents folder. Now let’s take a look at your creation in the Document Viewer. Open the File Manager and load your new document (Figure 5-27).

Figure 5-27

Figure 5-27. Your document as a PDF

Now let’s go back to Scribus and save the image in Scribus’s own SLA format so that you can edit it later if you wish. Enter the name you chose for the PDF name and save it in the Documents folder as well. You have now created your first document in Scribus. There is a lot more to explore, so go and try things out. Just remember to save every now and again.

Further Resources

As always, Scribus’s own help is a great place to start. The Scribus Web site at www.scribus.net has a help wiki, further documentation, and more. There is also an official book, which isn’t out as of this writing but should be very shortly. Information about it can also be found on the Scribus Web site.

Creating Music with Jokosher

Package name: jokosher

Windows/OS X equivalents: Garage Band

Musicians abound in the Ubuntu community and the wider world, but until Jokosher came along, there wasn’t an easy-to-use and simple program for creating that music. Founded by Ubuntu’s own Jono Bacon and named after a kosher joke about the food that is Jono’s name, Jokosher makes creating music or other audio recordings a breeze.

To get started in Jokosher, you first need to create a project to hold the various audio tracks that make up the end file. For our basic project, we are going to take two of the free culture showcase projects that ship with Ubuntu and combine them together. Click on the Create a New Project button in the welcome screen (Figure 5-28) and then on the next window, enter in Ubuntu combination into the Project Name field.

Figure 5-28

Figure 5-28. Jokosher’s welcome window

Once that is open, you will see a largely blank screen and you need to fill that with sound files. Choose Add Audio File on the upper toolbar and type in /usr/share/example-content in the location bar. Select one of two files in the Ubuntu Free Culture Showcase folder. After that is loaded, select Add Audio File again and select the other audio files. You should see something like in Figure 5-29.

Figure 5-29

Figure 5-29. The audio files are loaded.

Now that we have both files loaded, let’s create some sweet solos so that you can only hear one of the two files. To create a cut in the audio file, simply double-click wherever you want your cut. So anywhere in the How Fast.ogg file, double-click and then drag the second piece to the left.

This will create a very abrupt break in the music, so to make it more pleasing, let’s create a pair of fades on either side. While holding the shift key down, click near the end of the first part and drag to the end. Release the mouse and you should see a pair of 100% boxes. Click and drag the right-most one down to the bottom where it will read 0%. After you are done, you should have something like Figure 5-30.

Figure 5-30

Figure 5-30. Adding some fades and cuts

Now let’s export that file so you can share your awesome creation with your friends. Go to File > Mixdown Project and in the Mixdown Project, create a new profile by clicking the plus icon in the upper right. Name is exported and then click ok. Now you need to add an action, in this case export, so click on the lower right-most plus icon. Select Export File and then select Add Action. Now we need to configure the file name, type of audio file, and where you are going to save it to. Select Export File on the list and click the little configure icon in the lower right, it looks like a wrench and screwdriver. Name your file Ubuntu Combination and then Save it as a FLAC file. In the location bar, click the folder icon and choose your music folder. After you’re done, it should look like Figure 5-31. Now click the Mixdown button and your file is created. Go to your Music folder and hit play for the fun to begin.

Figure 5-31

Figure 5-31. Naming your file and exporting to the right place is easy.

We have just scratched the surface with Jokosher. We didn’t get into adding live instruments and recording them directly, which is where Jokosher

really shines. But we did get a taste of the power of Jokosher even with a few simple audio files that come with Ubuntu. Go out and have fun.

Further Resources

As always, Jokosher’s own help is a great place to start. The Jokosher Web site at www.jokosher.org has a help wiki, further documentation, and more.

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