Graphics Programs

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The ability to use graphics is increasing in importance in business. All the office suites have a varying ability to manipulate graphics, but sometimes you need to do more. Stand-alone graphics programs come it two types: photo editors and drawing programs. Photo editors allow you to manipulate photographs and images. These programs imitate many of the tools familiar to artists, including a paintbrush, pen, and airbrush. The most popular of these programs is Adobe Photoshop. The open source program Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) provides the same functions for Linux. GIMP is every bit as powerful as Photoshop, although its interface is not quite as intuitive. GIMP is included in most Linux distributions and both Linux and Windows versions can also be downloaded from http://www.gimp.org.

Figure 6.9. Gimp provides a Photoshop work alike for Linux. A Windows version is also available.

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Drawing programs have a different purpose than photo editors. Drawing programs are intended to create charts, graphs, and presentations. Two of the most popular drawing programs are Microsoft Visio and Corel Draw. Fortunately, Corel Draw is available for Linux, MacIntosh, and Windows. Depending on how sophisticated the features you need, Corel Draw sells for $150 to $700. The top of the line product includes features needed for professional publishing such as color calibration.

Blender and POV-Ray are 3-D rendering tools available for Linux, UNIX, and Windows. Blender is an integrated suite for modeling, rendering, and animation. It is based on tools developed in-house at a digital animation studio. Since Blender is copywrited freeware, it is a good way to try out digital rendering and animation without spending a lot of money (http://www.neogeo.nl/).

Figure 6.10. Blender is a free professional quality animation tool available for

Windows and Linux.

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POV-Ray is one of the best rendering tools available. It uses a text file that describes the objects that it renders. There are many built-in functions like textures, shapes, and colors. It doesn't have a modeling tool, but there are several shareware and commercial modeling tools linked from the POV-Ray Web site. Like Blender, it is copyrighted freeware. Unlike Blender, the source code is also available http://www.povray.org.

6.12.1 Graphics Conversion

GIMP, Corel Draw, Photoshop, and most other graphics programs can open and convert many different file formats. Sometimes, though, you run into a graphics file that your program won't support. Other times you have a large number of files that need to be converted and it would take days to open and convert every file. For these situations, you need a graphics conversion program.

There are two types of graphic conversion programs: viewers and bulk converters. A viewer allows you to view the graphic, then save it into another format. This allows you to check and adjust the characteristics of the file before converting it. A bulk converter usually doesn't let you view the graphic before conversion, but it will convert many files at once.

There are dozens of free and shareware graphics conversion programs for Windows. A good list of the various programs is available at http://www.softseek.com/Graphics and Drawing/Graphics Conversion and Optimizatio n/.

There are not as many graphics converters available for Linux. One of the best viewers on the market is xv. It is bundled with most Linux distributions. It is a shareware program. There is a charge of $25 for the program and $40 will also include printed manuals. The program, source code, and documentation are available at http://www.trilon.com/xv/xv.html.

For bulk conversions, use the free utility NetPBM. NetPBM is not a single program, but a set of about 180 command-line programs. There are separate programs for converting between different formats. For example, to convert all PNG (a graphics format popular on

UNIX systems) files to JPEG (a graphics format that creates very small graphics files) files, type the following command:

for i in *.png; do pngtopnm $i Ippmtojpeg >"basename $i

done

Let's break the command down:

• for i in *.png; — This chooses all PNG files.

• do pngtopnm I— This is the program that converts PNG to PNM . PNM is an intermediate format used by NetPBM.

• pnmtojpeg— This program converts the PNG to JPEG.

• >'basename $i.png' .jpg;— This creates a .JPG file with the same name as the .PNG file.

The syntax of NetPBM is rather complicated, but it is great for bulk conversions. The program and documentation are available at:

http://netpbm.sourceforge.net/projects/netpbm.

ImageMagick also has a nifty collection of conversion tools available at http://www.wizards.dupont.com/cristy/ImageMagick.html.

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