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February 20, 2009 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Not all of us need, or want, $10,000 worth of Adobe and Microsoft software to be creative. So, here's some alternatives, each available on every major platform:

GIMP, for all your drawing and photo-editing needs. (Windows and OSX.)
Inkscape, for vector graphics creation.
Scribus, for incredibly powerful document creation.
FontForge, if you want to make your own fonts.
OpenOffice, the old standby for word processing, spreadsheets, and all those other office needs.

I'm a personal fan of Inkscape for its wonderfully intuitive interface, as well as Scribus for its stylesheet-based power. I hope these links improve your productivity, instead of ruining it for the day.
posted by cthuljew (189 comments total) 278 users marked this as a favorite

 
I understand the budget-minded post, but...

Adobe CS4 Design Standard is $1,399 and includes InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat, which is what I use as a graphic designer.

Microsoft Office is $115.

That's $1,514.

Just sayin'. I know it's not cheap, but it's certainly not $10,000.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


I was... exaggerating. Slightly.
posted by cthuljew at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


Is there anything good for video editing?
posted by jclovebrew at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Blender, for 3d content.
Audacity, for sound recording, editing.
Irfanview, for image viewing, batch resizing and simple image manipulation.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


50 Gimp Tutorials
posted by cjorgensen at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ah, yeah. Should've had Audacity up there myself. Good catch.
posted by cthuljew at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2009


I like GIMP in theory but in practice it seems even more difficult to figure out how to use than Photoshop. Then again, maybe I'm just dense.
posted by blucevalo at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


blucevalo: "I like GIMP in theory but in practice it seems even more difficult to figure out how to use than Photoshop. Then again, maybe I'm just dense."

It's a notoriously bad user interface. You might try this:

GIMPshop.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:18 AM on February 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


Is there anything good for video editing?

Kino.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:20 AM on February 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


GIMP and Photoshop seem equally impenetrable to me. But neither holds a candle to Blender in being hard to figure out. (But don't get me wrong--I love Blender.)

I think I've used all of these that pertain to things I do except Scribus. Looks kind of like a word processing version of Inkscape. Neato!
posted by DU at 10:20 AM on February 20, 2009


I like GIMP in theory but in practice it seems even more difficult to figure out how to use than Photoshop. Then again, maybe I'm just dense.

Couldn't agree more. I can never get past the annoyances of running it in X11 for OS X.
posted by kingbenny at 10:21 AM on February 20, 2009


I make heavy use of the GIMP, Inkscape and Scribus. Good stuff, especially Inkscape.

Scribus is clunky, but it's far, far better for making scientific posters than PowerPoint, which is what everyone else in the people-who-aren't-designers-but-periodically-have-to-lay-stuff-out area seems to use.
posted by gurple at 10:21 AM on February 20, 2009


I'm using GIMP 2.6 personally, and my only complaint is that converting video to .gif, and editing .gifs in general, is not as smooth as it is in ImageReady. On the other hand, it loads superfast and does everything else I used to do in Photoshop.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2009


So is Scribus to In-Design what GIMP is to Photoshop? Because In-Design is all I really need.
posted by Caduceus at 10:24 AM on February 20, 2009


Paint.net for more photoshop-like UI.
Sumo Paint for web-based photoshop-like UI.
Thunderbird with Lightning to replace Outlook.
posted by greensweater at 10:26 AM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dear Santa,
Please bring native CMYK to my open source apps so I can finally dump Microsoft and Adobe all together. Love, me
posted by greensweater at 10:27 AM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


GIMPshop is supposed to make it look like Photoshop right? At least on windows with the 'Deweirdifier' plug-in to pull everything together. So how come there aren't any screen shots on their website? I would be interested in trying it out but I want to see how different it looks from regular GIMP.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:29 AM on February 20, 2009


Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.
posted by DU at 10:30 AM on February 20, 2009


I tried OpenOffice Writer at work. I was initially psyched that OpenOffice could handle all the Microsoft Office formats. But I need to format documents very precisely, and collaborate with a group of people (some of whom use MS Word) and there's just not a 1:1 accuracy. Sometimes it's a disaster. I ultimately had to switch to Word, just to resolve the compatibility issues. (And no, I wasn't going to insist that my manager switch to OpenOffice.)
posted by naju at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you need to format documents very precisely, you shouldn't be using Word in any case. I haven't found it to be consistent even within a single version, let alone across versions/computers/time.
posted by DU at 10:34 AM on February 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


I wish expensive software was all I needed to be creative. $10,000 is nothing compared to what I spent on cocaine and booze last year.
posted by !Jim at 10:37 AM on February 20, 2009 [30 favorites]


even if CS4 does come at the low, low price of $1,399. it's still way, way too much for an individual user (imho). Office on the otherhand, is pretty reasonably priced, for software.
posted by Dr. Twist at 10:38 AM on February 20, 2009


"Thunderbird with Lightning to replace Outlook."

I'd be the last person to recommend MS over Mozilla, but it's not the calendar, per se, which makes Outlook the killer app. it's Exchange, which runs in conjunction with the domain controller to manage users, group tasks and collaboration. Exchange can be a PITA, but there's no way Thunderbird with a calendar is going to replace a 100 seat Windows domain with Exchange and Outlook.

BTW, OpenOffice can't do exact translations of MS documents, and as far as I know, nobody can. But they're better than most, including MS in translating across versions. If you have to rely a lot on passing documents back and forth and you need precision, you probably should all be using the same software, maybe even the same version of the software.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:39 AM on February 20, 2009


I would be interested in trying it out but I want to see how different it looks from regular GIMP.

Well, it's not like you're going to lose money if you don't like it.

I like it more than Gimp but can't say why exactly ... I guess because in Gimp I have to think, sort of translate my PS knowledge over, whereas GimpShop is essentially identical to Photoshop in regards to everyday tasks.
posted by mannequito at 10:39 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some lists of alternatives: Linux Alternative Project, Linux App Finder.

I use Cinelerra for video (& some simple audio stuff, to be honest). I couldn't work out how to layer audio in Kino.

I've used Inkscape & Fontforge before. The online "make your handwriting a font" really didn't cut it, but Fontforge worked fine.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2009


Word is fine for a lot of things but people shouldn't pretend that it's role is designed for even moderate extensive page layout functions. Microsoft Publisher isn't really much better but for what most people need (designing a neighborhood newsletter, a simple brochure, etc) it's adequate and doesn't involve learning a substantially different UI from word.

Pagemaker, Quark, etc are are far more powerful applications but often have a hideous learning curve for someone who isn't going to use the application very often. Honestly the learning curve for page layout and photoediting software is as much of a bar, if not moreso, for adoption of these programs as their price.
posted by vuron at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2009


Office on the otherhand, is pretty reasonably priced, for software.

As far as I'm concerned, the cost of Excel alone is easily worth the entire cost of Office. The other crap they happen to include with Excel is just... well, it's still crap.
posted by odinsdream at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


yeah, the weird thing with Gimp is that they've had YEARS to get the interface to the usability level of, say, PS 5 or 6. Since then, Adobe has mostly been making arbitrary UI changes just to convince people to rebuy the software every year. Occasionally, they'll do something cool (like adding slices years ago, or creating Bridge for office-wide workflow management (that's what it's for right? I don't use it.)) but on the whole and in the main every release is just another reason for me to say "wait, the options palette is WHERE now? why?"

so all Gimp would have needed to do would be to simply mimic the PS7 or earlier interface, within legal boundaries, and everyone would be happy. They've had SEVEN years. Seven.
posted by shmegegge at 10:51 AM on February 20, 2009 [12 favorites]


"Scribus is clunky, but it's far, far better for making scientific posters than PowerPoint, which is what everyone else in the people-who-aren't-designers-but-periodically-have-to-lay-stuff-out area seems to use."

I generally laugh at people who make science posters in PowerPoint. I use InDesign. Why use a butterknife when you have access to a screwdriver? I'm thinking that Scribus could be darn useful for this, for all the friends I have who say "but I use PP for my poster because I don't have InDesign!"

"But I need to format documents very precisely, and collaborate with a group of people (some of whom use MS Word) and there's just not a 1:1 accuracy. Sometimes it's a disaster. I ultimately had to switch to Word, just to resolve the compatibility issues."

It's funny, because if you substitute "Word for Mac" and "Word for Windows" your complaint about OpenOffice vs. MS Office is still valid. I have some documents I put together on my Mac using Office 08 that I absolutely cannot open at home using Office 07 on Windows. DU has a valid point RE: formatting, but really if you collaborate with anyone you're stuck using MS Office unless EVERYONE involved uses something else as well. This is the way Microsoft wants it.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:52 AM on February 20, 2009


So is Scribus to In-Design what GIMP is to Photoshop? Because In-Design is all I really need.

Yes. Although it feels more like the old PageMaker than InDesign. Save constantly, it likes to crash.


GIMPshop screenshots (Google Images)


Others:

Celtx for script/screenwriting and production management.

NeoOffice is OpenOffice with special OS X sauce.

Picasa is an iPhoto clone.

I don't know whether to post more links, or flag this FPP. Is a list of 5 open source apps, 4 of which are probably the best known out there really the best of the web?
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2009


Ten thousand bucks on overpriced software = 5 minutes on isohunt.com = variable download time = don't tell anyone (and ESPECIALLY don't brag) lest they break your balls for downloading software = have fun trying all the software you'd ever want to try
posted by ChickenringNYC at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Inkscape I love.

Audacity is nowhere near Protools or Soundforge but it was good enough to do the first-pass compositing work for Bioshock's voiceover.

GIMP's interface woes made me hunt down a copy of Photoshop 6 on eBay.

Blender's interface logic/approach is so bad that I think you're actually doing yourself a disservice using it if you ever want to get into 3D modeling for cinematic or games purposes - that's just not how any commercial package works and I don't think the amount you'd have to unlearn would make it worth it.

Thunderbird is substantially better than pre-2007 Outlook, but Outlook 2007 and after simply blows it out of the water. As fucked as Exchange might be for the sysadmins who have to babysit it, krinklyfig is absolutely right - for a 100 seat Windows domain Exchange + Outlook 2007has no parallel and seems unlikely to have one anytime soon.
posted by Ryvar at 10:56 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


GIMP, for all your drawing and photo-editing needs.

Hah! Yeah, I've used GIMP. It's good for some simple tasks, but pretty counterintuitive on the whole. I remember looking for a line/box tool and not finding one. I thought to myself, "WTF?! No line or box tool?" So I looked it up in the forums and lo and behold, there were a whole bunch of users who were like, "WTF?! No line or box tool?"

Finally, someone from the dev team set us all straight. You see, our problem was that we were wanting to do things the normal way that we're used to and not The GIMP Way. Which apparently involves marking a bunch of points and then hitting "strike points" or something like that. He then went on to explain why the GIMP way is just So Much Better, and how we'd all appreciate it Ever So Much if we would only Give It A Chance. And I'm like, "Wow, thanks dude. You just summed up the whole attitude of the UNIX/open source world in a nutshell."
posted by Afroblanco at 10:57 AM on February 20, 2009 [25 favorites]


because if you substitute "Word for Mac" and "Word for Windows" your complaint about OpenOffice vs. MS Office is still valid

Well, some of are using Macs and some are using PCs, and there haven't been any formatting issues yet. (cross fingers)
posted by naju at 10:58 AM on February 20, 2009


odinsdream:

defiantly.



One app that wasn't mentioned was scilab. which is free, and for most of what i use it for. better than Matlab.
posted by Dr. Twist at 11:02 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Audacity is nowhere near Protools or Soundforge but it was good enough to do the first-pass compositing work for Bioshock's voiceover.

The are open source counterparts to commerical DAWs and musical composition suites: Ardour , Muse and Rosengarden among others.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a personal fan of Inkscape for its wonderfully intuitive interface

Strange, I find Inkscape to be clunky, slow and extremely crashy. GIMP's crap user interface applied to about half the functionality of Illustrator, with bonus lockups and random failures to repaint sections of the screen.

I've replaced 90% of my Illustrator use with the $100 OmniGraffle (it's like sexy, sexy Visio). The other 10% is actual drawing of logos, for which I have yet to find a satisfactory tool other than AI.
posted by xthlc at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I appreciate the post, even if I don't understand the timing. But FontForge is basically a crap UI and I can't recommend it in the place of other things. Fortunately, most of us don't make our own fonts, and happily continue on our merry way with GIMP or Inkscape.
posted by pwnguin at 11:06 AM on February 20, 2009


I use GIMPShop. With the "deweirdifier", the menus are laid out more intuitively, but it still feels like a really lame kludge- there's two different menus, one in the toolbox and another in the document window. The GIMP and GIMPShop also crash under Vista when trying to open a preexisting file, and it's been a problem people have been having for some time now.

I would like nothing better than to switch over exclusively to open source software. The problem I experience with open source, however, is that you have hundreds of different programmers designing software with hundreds of different ideas as to how a program is supposed to work, which means programs end up with widely varying UIs, unusual keyboard shortcuts, et cetera- they don't use any consistent user interface standards like Apple has, instead borrowing ideas from Windows and Macintosh willy-nilly, and the result is everything ends up horribly cluttered.

Even though I still have Ubuntu and Opensuse on my machine, it's a world of frustration.
I don't want to have to edit scripts to get my computer to start up properly, I don't want to have to open a shell to download drivers for my NVIDIA card, I don't want to have to compile software from source (even though I know how) because there are differences between distros.
I also find it confusing how programs are scattered across the filesystem- even windows' "program files" makes more sense, and I still don't get why Linux hasn't adopted application bundles like OSX and OPENSTEP have: At very least they could standardize so that there is one RPM or DEB for all distros.

The big hurdle blocking adoption of open source software is that a lot of it, especially when you get into operating systems, doesn't "just work".
posted by dunkadunc at 11:06 AM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, the cost of Excel alone is easily worth the entire cost of Office. The other crap they happen to include with Excel is just... well, it's still crap.

Honestly, Excel is a pain in the ass, because nobody uses it as intended. It's regularly used as a row oriented database, because as you say, the rest of office is crap.
posted by pwnguin at 11:08 AM on February 20, 2009


GIMP is good in theory but really falls short unless you just need to do the most absolutely basic photo work or slap some LOL on your cat. It seems like it has the potential to be such a great piece of software and that the market is there for it (obviously not everyone needs or wants the power of Photoshop). Isn't it still missing adjustment layers and CMYK? What a joke.

For the people who don't want to waste their time with GIMP but don't want to drop a grand on the million options you probably don't need in Photoshop, I recommend Lightroom.
posted by bradbane at 11:14 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


He then went on to explain why the GIMP way is just So Much Better, and how we'd all appreciate it Ever So Much if we would only Give It A Chance.
And this. When they came out with KDE 4.0, they did away with the normal desktop, replacing it with "plasmids" which are basically file manager windows that are always open on the desktop. People complained, and this was basically the answer they got.

I've talked with computer people in the past about my issues with Linux and its kludginess/driver support, and the answer I've gotten time and again has been "well, why don't you join the project and make it better?" or "Why don't you write your own device drivers, then?" which is rich, considering my programming skills are limited to GW BASIC on a Tandy 1400.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:15 AM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


blucevalo: "I like GIMP in theory but in practice it seems even more difficult to figure out how to use than Photoshop. Then again, maybe I'm just dense."

The biggest problem is that Photoshop and The GIMP are very different. I've been using GIMP almost exclusively for the past few years (for my, granted, pedestrian editing needs) and I can get things done pretty dang fast, and it feels easy. When I use a friend's/co-worker's computer with Photoshop, I freeze up and usually end up asking a hundred "how do I do this thing?" questions.

Joe Beese: "It's a notoriously bad user interface."

It used to be notoriously bad. In the last few years, it's improved dramatically, and the common actions (resizing or moving a select box) have become way easier. (There'll always be people who need MDI to think of something as a fit-for-Windows application, and for whatever reason, The GIMP developers have no interest in ever building it in.)

Afroblanco: "You just summed up the whole attitude of the UNIX/open source world in a nutshell"

And Photoshop's "make it do everything everyone asks for, cram it into a single UI, charge a boatload, and then change the UI next release so they'll feel the need to buy it again" is really an improvement?
posted by Plutor at 11:16 AM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Windows is like this, & Linux is like this.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:20 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can't you do all of this stuff with just LaTeX and Emacs?
posted by demiurge at 11:21 AM on February 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


I still don't get why Linux hasn't adopted application bundles like OSX and OPENSTEP have: At very least they could standardize so that there is one RPM or DEB for all distros.

That's because there isn't any "they". Linux is really just a kernel, and that's all Linus and his team are responsible for. The OS distributions are produced by anyone who wants to, although they are coming to resemble each other more and more: probably in excess of 95% of all installations out there are based directly or indirectly on either Debian or Red Hat these days, and what you're describing is starting to happen. It's still impractical to have a "one .deb fits all" for a complicated app with lots of dependencies, but it's not hard to do for simpler apps, and the situation is mostly improving.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:22 AM on February 20, 2009


If only there was an open source alternative to Lightroom.
posted by chundo at 11:23 AM on February 20, 2009


You just summed up the whole attitude of the UNIX/open source world in a nutshell"

You mean in the sense that there are forums where you can speak directly with the developers, who have taken a lot of this feedback and put it into future versions of the software, and continue offering it for free? If so, you're absolutely right.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:23 AM on February 20, 2009 [12 favorites]


People coming from Windows/OSX are invariably going to feel lost in Linux at first. I remember how frustrating my first few weeks were, back when I switched from Windows 95. It's the same with any given app. If you are used to Photoshop, GIMP is weird. But if you are used to GIMP, Photoshop is weird. If you grew up speaking English, Spanish puts adjectives in the "wrong" order but if you grew up speaking Spanish then English is the weird one.

The question is: What is the total worth? Is the cost of learning GIMP worth the gain of no more $$$ treadmill or closed source or whatever you hate about PS? For some, likely yes. For some others, likely no.
posted by DU at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I generally laugh at people who make science posters in PowerPoint. I use InDesign. Why use a butterknife when you have access to a screwdriver? I'm thinking that Scribus could be darn useful for this, for all the friends I have who say "but I use PP for my poster because I don't have InDesign!"

I'm one of those who uses PowerPoint for scientific posters, but after years of trying to get PP to do what I want it to do, I think I'm ready to try a cheap alternative. I'm going to give Scribus a go, despite the fact that by now, I am really used to doing stuff in PP. (self link)
posted by dhruva at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2009


Audacity is actually a really powerful program for something easy to use. It gets powerful when you start using plug-ins and if you get good at using it (which I am) then it's as powerful as ______________. I think the program doesn't matter as much an one's knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the program.

Also, Hydrogen is one of the best drum machines I've ever used ever. It is fantastic and amazing and it rules everything ever. There is no better drum machine program.
posted by fuq at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2009


I used GIMP a couple times before I decided it was less a Photoshop and more Paint Shop Pro, only created by a bunch of programmers who'd never heard of user interface design. Yeah, the Abode UI is atrocious, but once you learn it you become less willing to reinvest in something else.

OpenOffice I used for a while, but a license for Office is, indeed, pretty dang cheap, especially if you work at a large university. I have found OpenOffice is useful for opening Word and Excel files that Office won't open due to corruption or just being a Microsoft product.

Audacity is a wonderful program. It's not GarageBand or Protools, but it's powerful enough to edit and mix podcasts and other sound files, and for the most part the user interface is sane and usable.

I used Thunderbird at home; it's better than Outlook Express. But the calendaring aspects of Outlook have no equal in open source. Calendaring is a notorious problem in programming. I spent a month trying to untangle iCalendar formatting for a retrofit of our internal DIY events calendar, and by the end of it I was vowing never to deal with any programming related to time ever again.

The thing that continues to astonish me is that no one has successfully produced a open source web design/development application that comes close to the power of Dreamweaver -- or even the late, lamented Homesite. Every time I look for one I see these forks off Netscape Composer that always seem half-baked and abandoned.
posted by dw at 11:26 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's because there isn't any "they"
Which was pretty much what I was getting at :)

I'd still love application bundles like OSX (or Etoile) but I'm not going to hold my breath.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:27 AM on February 20, 2009


I find that one of the biggest and most inexplicably missing tools on Linux is CAD. There are literally dozens of CAD wannabes, but even the most powerful of these is 2D only and supports only the most rudimentary features. Feature lists tend to boast about the ability to draw lines and circles, for instance. Talk about damning with faint praise.

The reason this is so inexplicable is that Linux is historically and (in)famously the domain of engineery NERDs. How has this need gone unfulfilled for so long?
posted by DU at 11:30 AM on February 20, 2009


Scribus is clunky, but it's far, far better for making scientific posters than PowerPoint, which is what everyone else in the people-who-aren't-designers-but-periodically-have-to-lay-stuff-out area seems to use.

Ahhhhhh! I used to work for a service that offered the poster-sized large-format printer on campus, and I remember lots of very ugly conference posters designed in PowerPoint with tiny little 72DPI images blown up to 8x11 or larger.

Although, that didn't make my eyes bleed as much as the kindly gentleman who wanted to surprise his daughter on her birthday with 9 feet of Pepto Bismol pink. At least he used photoshop to design it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2009


Love this post, but when did metafilter become lifehacker?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:34 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I use Scribus to lay out a 200-page literary journal, and it works pretty well (if slowly and with weird gaps in the functionality). The trick is to use the 1.3.5 Subversion builds, not the stable branch.
posted by nasreddin at 11:36 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Legally, MS Office is $119 only if you're doing non-commercial work IIRC.

I suspect that Microsoft knows perfectly well that people by Office at that price to use for commercial work, but don't care because the Office hegemony is what lets them charge the full price to the big corporate users & the cheap version helps to maintain that.
posted by pharm at 11:37 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please bring native CMYK to my open source apps

I wonder sometimes if the problem here is that most of the people scratching their itches by working on these apps generally don't target print, and almost certainly don't have things professionally printed with any frequency.

It's been long enough that either nobody working on these projects cares, or someone made mistakes at the beginning of each project which makes a non-RGB color scheme hard.
posted by weston at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oooo! What's the FOSS choice for DVD authoring?
posted by DWRoelands at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2009


I use DeVeDe, but it's pretty basic. Good only for transferring a computer file to a TV, but you can't do cool interactive stuff or anything.
posted by DU at 11:45 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


even if CS4 does come at the low, low price of $1,399. it's still way, way too much for an individual user (imho). Office on the otherhand, is pretty reasonably priced, for software.

I don't know. I use some part of CS better than 1/2 of my day, every day. Easily. $1400 every couple of years for that? It is a lot, sure, especially in one chunk, but if you really use it'd still be cheap at twice the price. Especially, again, if you are using it all day every day. Those minor annoyances, quirks, and differences in the open source stuff (I've used GIMP and OpenOffice quite a bit, after that not much) reaaaally add up over time.

Which is not to say that CS is perfect, or that there are no annoyances, or even that the interfaces are COMPLETELY standard, or that I have anything but the utmost respect and well-wishes for open source stuff. Just that it's worth it, probably, if you use it enough.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:46 AM on February 20, 2009


I love OpenOffice, but I just went to a school with our beloved Army where, as you know, PowerPoint rules. I had a lot of trouble with minor bugs in compatibility, and eventually had to use someone else's PowerPoint if I wanted to edit tables in a slide (for that all-important decision matrix!) or tweak graphics.
posted by atchafalaya at 11:46 AM on February 20, 2009


DU: I find that one of the biggest and most inexplicably missing tools on Linux is CAD.

Eh, check AutoCAD alternatives. There's some 3D CAD there, definitely. Some of them are not free.

DWRoelands - See DVD Flick alternatives.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:50 AM on February 20, 2009


even if CS4 does come at the low, low price of $1,399. it's still way, way too much for an individual user (imho).

$1,400 could easily be covered with a freelance job or two, depending on what level you're working at.

If you buy it as a student, then it's significantly cheaper and then you're just paying for the regular upgrades, if you want to. I'm still using CS2 because it works just fine, thank you.

It's cool that there are options, but the snotty attitude and blatantly wrong facts (really, you couldn't spend 2 minutes on Adobe's store to verify things?) aren't helpful
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's some 3D CAD there, definitely. Some of them are not free.

And the ones that are 3D are the ones that are not Free. Which is what I was trying to say, but said poorly.
posted by DU at 11:55 AM on February 20, 2009


I don't know. I use some part of CS better than 1/2 of my day, every day. Easily. $1400 every couple of years for that? It is a lot, sure, especially in one chunk, but if you really use it'd still be cheap at twice the price.

You know, I use CS every day, and the price still makes me choke. I'm lucky to be working in higher ed where we can buy educational licenses, but even then asking for $500 every two years for an upgrade that rarely adds all that much is difficult in an environment where we never had money to begin with and are now being asked to cut as much as one-seventh of our overall budget.

I still asked for it, since the cuts haven't come into effect until later this year, and I'm skipping over CS3 to get to CS4.
posted by dw at 11:55 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


DU: The question is: What is the total worth? Is the cost of learning GIMP worth the gain of no more $$$ treadmill or closed source or whatever you hate about PS? For some, likely yes. For some others, likely no.

Well, it depends. It should be noted that PS isn't marketed for causal or home consumers. It's for professional design houses who buy volume licenses. The GIMP still lacks key features which are critical for publishing, and even some of the major Linux magazines were still using InDesign for their layout and design work as of a few years ago (but preferred plain old text copy on submission.)

I must say though on OS X that Neo/OpenOffice combines many of the same design problems as MSWord (feature bloat and confusion between styles and WYSIWYG) along with generally sluggish performance and an alien feel under Cocoa. The lighweight OSS alternative, Abiword, was broken when I last checked it.

So I've found the much more affordable Nisus and Mellel to be viable alternatives. I also have a soft-spot for Scrivener which is one of the few writing systems that recognize that it's a non-linear process.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:57 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Can't you do all of this stuff with just LaTeX and Emacs?

No, you can do it all with just Emacs.
posted by wrok at 12:01 PM on February 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


Note: to install the stable version of scribus (1.3.3.x series) on MacOSX you must use one of the two approaches presented below.

Don't want an "approach," just an installer would be nice, thanks!

Seriously, what's up with the having to install X11, then Xcode, then MacPorts, setup up a shell environment and then dive down into the command line just to install app? And then every time I want to Run scribus I have to do this:
In the Terminal (or iTerm), type:

$ open-x11 scribus

You'll need to do this every time you want to run Scribus, so you'll probably want to drag the Terminal into your Dock to make this easier.
Christ and I thought Adobe's installers on OS X were annoying.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:05 PM on February 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is there anything good for video editing?

Jahshaka was pretty good but I'm not sure how active the project still is.

Love this post, but when did metafilter become lifehacker?

I agree. Digg-esque. I like the spirit, but it's been done elsewhere with the same programs (and many more). Just link to an existing collection, of which there are several. But it's a good subject that I don't think has been covered here before...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:05 PM on February 20, 2009


I invested around $5000 a bit more than a year ago in a new 24" iMac and CS3 and some other bits. Since then, I've made more than twenty times my investment using said tools. I'm an old Photoshop user, so picking up the new features in CS3 was a piece of cake.

I guess I'm not the target market for the GiMP or other related software. I need to hit the ground running, with a minimal learning curve.
posted by caporal at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Home users actually buy Photoshop? Wow, you learn something new everyday.
posted by Memo at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whats the open source alternative for World of Warcraft? Because honestly, that's where my money seems to go.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:16 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


You mean in the sense that there are forums where you can speak directly with the developers, who have taken a lot of this feedback and put it into future versions of the software, and continue offering it for free? If so, you're absolutely right.

Actually, you see that sort of thing all the time in the .NET world.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:17 PM on February 20, 2009


He then went on to explain why the GIMP way is just So Much Better, and how we'd all appreciate it Ever So Much if we would only Give It A Chance.
And this. When they came out with KDE 4.0, they did away with the normal desktop, replacing it with "plasmids" which are basically file manager windows that are always open on the desktop. People complained, and this was basically the answer they got.

I've talked with computer people in the past about my issues with Linux and its kludginess/driver support, and the answer I've gotten time and again has been "well, why don't you join the project and make it better?" or "Why don't you write your own device drivers, then?" which is rich, considering my programming skills are limited to GW BASIC on a Tandy 1400.


I still squint and shake my head at comments like these, if only because my three years of experience using Linux (Ubuntu) have been drastically different from this--minimal driver issues, peripherals and devices largely Just Working. In fact, I've had 0 driver issues with Intrepid. Recently, my SO went to install the same webcam that I have (which works plug and play on Ubuntu) and had to spend several hours searching for drivers for windows. I've been able to find every piece of software I wanted, from Skype to zsnes, in the repos. I've never had to compile software or run start-up scripts, on three different Linux computers, in three years.

As for KDE4, different OSes use different design principles, just as different software does UI differently. Sure, it takes time to acclimate yourself to it, but that's always true when switching software (and I found the switch from Windows to KDE3 to KDE4 to GNOME to be no more jarring than switching between windows and osx). In fact, I found KDE4 to be perfectly usable in practice, if a bit slow (which is why I switched to GNOME). There wasn't anything particularly unintuitive about it, even if it did work a bit differently. But it's true--you have to give new software a chance. I had a friend who ran out and bought MSOffice because she couldn't be bothered to search for the word count feature the first time she used openoffice. That, to me, seems pretty silly. Spend a few weeks actually using a piece of software, or an OS, exclusively, and you'll learn pretty quickly where the features you use are located on a menu. Like DU says, Photoshop and MSOffice (especially Office 2007--it always takes me a few minutes to remember how to "select all" in it!) are pretty weird to me now. Meanwhile, I get everything I need to get done, quickly, in GIMP and openoffice, without a hitch.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:21 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whats the open source alternative for World of Warcraft?

This
.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:27 PM on February 20, 2009


Any open source alternatives to Adobe Premiere, etc?
posted by dopamine at 12:32 PM on February 20, 2009


"The thing that continues to astonish me is that no one has successfully produced a open source web design/development application that comes close to the power of Dreamweaver -- or even the late, lamented Homesite."

I really like Bluefish, but it's best if you don't need a WYSIWYG editor. It has all the editing features of Homesite and then some, so it's great for me.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:32 PM on February 20, 2009


My kids like Tuxpaint--a drawing program for kids--with sound effects! My son fell backward out of his chair when he clicked on the toilet icon when the volume was turned up to maximum.
I've even been known to pop something into it because tuxpaint can do a few things no other drawing program can do and has a ridiculously easy user interface.

They should slowly add advanced features into tuxpaint until several years later it is as powerful as gimp, but easy enough for a 5 year old to use.
posted by eye of newt at 12:33 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Forget Outlook/Exchange... Try the Open Source Zimbra Collaboration Suite. Better yet outsource your email.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 12:37 PM on February 20, 2009


I have been using OpenOffice for several years now, and really love it. Every now and then there is some simple sounding task that Open Office complicates by making it "more elegant". My inner geek appreciates this, my outer rageaholic is not always happy about it. That being said, on the whole, I find it easier to use than MS Office, but the transition wasn't easy.

I also use GIMP and Inkscape frequently, and I really like them. I learned Photoshop waaaaay back in the day, and I still have some PS habits, but I don't ever miss it. OK, well, I do, sometimes, I just have a warm fuzzy place in my heart for PS, and GIMP doesn't give me the same feeling.

Scribus is one that I have, but haven't used much. I do have older full suites of CS2, and we used to use InDesign at my old office, but I thoroughly detest it, probably for reasons that have little to do with the software. Though I was never taught to use it, nevertheless I was the guy people would come to when InDesign was not working, or when people would send incomplete or broken InDesign files to the print shop.

I am the total open source fanatic. You can't beat software that has a real community behind it, and I mean that. Going to a forum and finding people with the same question, and finding several solutions that work, well, that's just awesome. Microsoft products are pretty decent, but sometimes finding the solution to a "simple" problem is an exercise in circular reasoning.

Not to mention the price. I agree with several users here that it's just not effective to learn a new software when you are on a deadline. I have softwares that I use that I know work, I know how to use them, and how to squeeze what i want out of them. But making a small commitment to learning a new ware, a step at a time, can pay big dividends in the long run, and can even result in learning lots of new things about your old software.
posted by Xoebe at 12:40 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's always such a pain getting support for open source software. Or at least it was, until I discovered the generally-applicable method of getting linux help.
posted by mullingitover at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2009 [16 favorites]


Microsoft Office is $115.

I'll bite. Where can you find a legitimate copy of Microsoft Office for $115, assuming you're not a student and don't have a product to upgrade?
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it's irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion, but that $1,399 quote for CS4 Design Standard is an MSRP price. In anticipation of her impending layoff, my wife needed CS4 Design Premium at home, to be able to do freelance/consulting work, update her portfolio, etc. I was able to find an OEM version (full retail license, not academic) online for under $700, delivered to my door.

Honestly, < $700 is not a bad price at all for the functionality you get in CS4 Design Premium. That's not to say that the other tools mentioned aren't fine in their own right, but I think the price quoting being done for the commercial alternatives is a bit misleading.
posted by Brak at 12:52 PM on February 20, 2009


Actually, the student-discounted version of Office is $60. Amazon has the non-student-discounted Office Home and Student for $80.
posted by Plutor at 12:53 PM on February 20, 2009


The community aspect is interesting --- while GIMP is open source and does have a community, and probably more responsible developers, Photoshop's community is much vaster. And the plugin world is also much richer. Adobe's developers are less responsive than I'd like (at least from my experiences getting stuff to work in Flash), but most of the professional photographers I know use Photoshop because it's what everyone else uses --- which in this case is a good thing, because they can share knowledge, take advantage of a vast array of plugins, etc.

Just because something is closed source doesn't mean it doesn't have a huge community of people who know how to modify it, use it, get around its problems, etc.

And really, for a professional photographer, it's hardly the most expensive item they have to buy (less than a single lens).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:53 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll bite. Where can you find a legitimate copy of Microsoft Office for $115, assuming you're not a student and don't have a product to upgrade?

Here.
posted by Brak at 12:54 PM on February 20, 2009


For TIME readers confused about this thread, this is an example of Freaky Friday, a long-running Metafilter tradition where we open an "alternate universe thread" and everyone posts "in character" as someone who lives in that world.

It sounds lame, but it can be pretty fun because--as you can tell from this hilarious discussion--Metafilter users are creative and know how to really sell the illusion that the Freaky Friday thread is an artifact from a universe both familiar and shockingly different from our own.

This week's alternate universe is What If BitTorrent Had Never Been Invented?
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:55 PM on February 20, 2009 [33 favorites]


All complaints about the UI learning curve for non-MS office suites can effectively be countered with one phrase: The Ribbon.
posted by odinsdream at 12:55 PM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Or at least it was, until I discovered the generally-applicable method of getting linux help.

I've seen this in forums a thousand times. "Yo, [some Linux distro] blows. I couldn't even figure out how to do updates, it's too complicated for the average user." CUE: The smug pile-on!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:57 PM on February 20, 2009


SteveInMaine is right... even the Student Edition costs $150.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 12:58 PM on February 20, 2009


Brak... I stand corrected.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 12:59 PM on February 20, 2009


I use Open Office on the road all the time. It's awesome.

Though it's pretty neat for some basic uses the problem with things like Scribus is producing something you can then get off-set printed professionally. It's no substitute for a professional layout program.

GIMP is terrible in my opinion. Awful interface.

Adobe CS is really a must have if you want to do things professionally and a couple grand is not a big investment considering. However dealing with Adobe is a frigg'n time sucker.
posted by tkchrist at 1:00 PM on February 20, 2009


I hate PhotoShop, and I hate GIMP more.

I picked up Corel Paint Shop Pro X for $10 at Best Buy and it is freaking awesome. But then I was a PSP 4 user from way back. Everything just makes sense to me, whereas it might take me a couple of minutes to figure out how to draw a freaking rectangle in PhotoShop.
posted by Foosnark at 1:08 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


there's two different menus, one in the toolbox and another in the document window.

That should not only be a problem with Gimpshop - the newest Gimp has only a single menu which fixes the single most annoying UI design issue in Gimp. I've read that CYMK is coming and the backend has changed to accommodate it, but it's not yet reached the actual application. I think it's the case that the people who like to moan about it are largely different from the people who are able to do anything about it.

The community aspect is interesting --- while GIMP is open source and does have a community, and probably more responsible developers, Photoshop's community is much vaster. And the plugin world is also much richer.

Apparently you can convince Gimp to use Photoshop's plugins, although I haven't tried it, and it works with Photoshop brushes out of the box.

Gimp is slowly but surely "getting there" and is definitely heading in the right direction but these things take time.
posted by HaloMan at 1:14 PM on February 20, 2009


# "asking for $500 every two years for an upgrade that rarely adds all that much is difficult"

Um, if you can't justify cost of the upgrade, then just stick with the version you have. It isn't like the software just stops working after Adobe releases a new version. Or are all the cool kids going to laugh at you if you still work in PS 7?
posted by ijoshua at 1:16 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


whereas it might take me a couple of minutes to figure out how to draw a freaking rectangle in PhotoShop.

Seriously? I'm not trying to snark, or say you're an idiot, but I'm genuinely curious as how as how drawing a rectangle in PS would be hard to figure out. Were you using an earlier version?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:17 PM on February 20, 2009


Everything just makes sense to me, whereas it might take me a couple of minutes to figure out how to draw a freaking rectangle in PhotoShop.

try using the rectangle tool.
posted by shmegegge at 1:18 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just to throw a wrench in .... if you learn the open source tools because they're cheap, then manage to get a job doing whatever it is you've been using open source to accomplish, you're fucked because almost no one in creative uses anything but Adobe &/o Microsoft. Putting Gimp (for example) on your resume means to me three things: 1) I'm going to have to train you, 2) you're not smart enough to find pirated software or buy an old copy of an industry standard, and 3) you're an ornery fuck and I probably don't want to work with you anyway.

Open source is fine in IT, but in creative ... y'all can chew my ass hairs.

N.B. if it weren't for piracy and the situation I describe above, there wouldn't be anywhere near the monolithic vendor dominance at the top of these verticals that there is. Adobe walks a fine line in their copy protection schemes, keeping it just hard enough to crack their shit to discourage the bottom feeders who want to kill red-eye from ripping them off but making it relatively simple for the determined teenagers to get everything running for free -- which ensures them a steady stream of new, hungry, aggressive applicants in the job market who already know how to be monstrously productive at hour 1 of any new job that uses these tools.

Think about it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:18 PM on February 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


SteveInMaine is right... even the Student Edition costs $150.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 3:58 PM on February 20 [+] [!]

Brak... I stand corrected.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 3:59 PM on February 20 [+] [!]


Help me out here. I couldn't find one listing there that was not an academic version. Here are the conditions for buying an academic version: This product can only be sold to K-12 Students, College Students, Educational Institutions, Administrative Offices & Boards of Education, Public Libraries, and Public Museums. Students are limited to 1 copy of each product per calendar year. Students must supply either a clear copy of their student ID, or an enrollment verification letter from the registrar’s office, via FAX or e-mail (.jpg). Institutions must supply a signed purchase order. We cannot ship academic orders unless we receive valid credentials.

So if I own a small business and want to have a full, licensed copy of Office for that new PC or laptop, it's more like $325 for the standard version, $380 for pro, from somebody like Newegg. Not a terribly high price for an office application, but still adds to the cost of a new PC.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:22 PM on February 20, 2009


...and what seanmpuckett said.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:24 PM on February 20, 2009


I'd also like to mention there's a fallacy that because something isn't as good as the best application, it's useless. That's not true at all.

Not everyone needs Photoshop, and not everyone is a design professional who needs a £1500 tool suite either. When you compare these applications with the best applications that cost several hundred dollars they might not be as good but that doesn't make them useless nor does it mean they won't be better in the future. I'm not saying it's immune to criticism either, but I do think too often people are overly harsh about the fact that something that is essentially a hobby project doesn't compete with their £600 tool of choice.
posted by HaloMan at 1:27 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is kind of a weird thread for mefi, and while I'm not surprised a lot of people jumped in to whine about how difficult using open source software is, it's not like anyone is holding a gun to your head or even saying you can't buy programs because groups of people have dedicated time to producing free "alternatives". Also, I sort of wonder if anyone complaining about linux has ever tried to install a program in os x only to have it stay mounted and not actually install, or you know, used windows for more than browsing the internet? I seem to notice that when you give people "freebies" they expect a lot more than they would from paying work, which is extremely strange until you realize the added psychological importance attached to something you've purchased being of value.

Inkscape is a beautiful program. No, it does not have all the features of AI, and should not be approached as an AI replacement. Rather it is a vector graphic authoring tool with live xml editing and a host of goodies that you cannot get in AI.

I reccomend that anyone play around with it. Especially if you've used windows, the keyboard shortcuts are really intuitive after like 10 minutes or so. All the related functions are bundled together. That said, implementation on os x is extremely laggy.

Also amorok is pretty awesome, but again, may be a little crashy outside of its native environs. I don't like the new interface much, but it's still the best music program out there.
posted by shownomercy at 1:29 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously? I'm not trying to snark, or say you're an idiot, but I'm genuinely curious as how as how drawing a rectangle in PS would be hard to figure out. Were you using an earlier version?

FWIW, when I started using PhotoShop, I nearly pulled out my hair trying to draw a border around a rectangle, to the point where I considered going back to using PowerPoint (the other alternative @ where I worked) because, it seemed more intuitive. It was only after (literally) a few weeks of plowing through the Help guide that I learned about the "Stroke" feature.

Now I love PS to death, but I still can't draw a squiggly line properly using those damn anchor points.
posted by bitteroldman at 1:29 PM on February 20, 2009


if it weren't for piracy and the situation I describe above, there wouldn't be anywhere near the monolithic vendor dominance at the top of these verticals that there is.

Absolutely... won't be naming names, but I've worked for big companies that have turned a blind eye to piracy... "A college kid stealing our shit = one more user learning our software, telling friends about it, and buying a license for it at his future job." And Microsoft has pretty much admitted the same.
posted by naju at 1:33 PM on February 20, 2009


Ha, I thought there must be something out there:

Bean a lightweight pure cocoa GPL word processor that looks like it fits the niche between TextEdit and OO.org.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2009


Also, I sort of wonder if anyone complaining about linux has ever tried to install a program in os x only to have it stay mounted and not actually install,

No, and I've got a ton of crap in my Application folder that I need to throw away.

or you know, used windows for more than browsing the internet?

Yeah. Adding and removing apps is kinda annoying, but nowhere near the craziness of having to install multiple crap just to run a program. I'll cheerfully pay for the privilege of not having to drop down to the command line just to start a program.

but I do think too often people are overly harsh about the fact that something that is essentially a hobby project doesn't compete with their £600 tool of choice.

It's a great thing that Linux and these apps exist and I think it's reasonable to that people use them professionally or for hobby's, if they do the job. What's pissing me off is the $10,000 figure in the post and the attitude of "Oh these are great, you should install, it's easy!" No, it isn't, so don't feed me a line, ok?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:37 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Microsoft Office is $115.

I'll bite. Where can you find a legitimate copy of Microsoft Office for $115, assuming you're not a student and don't have a product to upgrade?

*SNIP*

Actually, the student-discounted version of Office is $60. Amazon has the non-student-discounted Office Home and Student for $80.


Ok folks lets just say that cheap as free still isn't good enough for you and you want to stick with Microsoft... Well check with your HR department because some companies have a Home Use Program... which means I paid $20 for the full version...basically covering the cost of 2nd day airing it to me. Doing so, and having the oportunity to mess around with it at home allowed me to improve my Excel skills at work. (If I'm not in SAS or Minitab, I'm probably in Excel trying to make a pivot table throw up).

I'm all in favor of alternate and free programs existing so everyone can exchange data and information; however, I'm not going to convince 10,000 employees worldwide to swap to a free software package when the level of support because frankly its not in the scope of my job. If in 10-20 years it is, I'll consider the cost savings of liscensure and weigh that against the cost increase of retraining our staff.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:42 PM on February 20, 2009


Conversely, there's always Google. I'm not necessarily condoning using pirated software, but it's a fact that the right search terms will lead you to just about anything you might need, if you need it badly enough.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2009


I do all my ASCII art in VIM.
posted by bonecrusher at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ha, I just installed Ubuntu on the partner's computer, and was really impressed with how far that it's come in the last few years.

Installing Linux software is easy, provided that you go with what's offered through your current distribution's package manager and stick with the current release. The problems come when you get off the beaten path and need/want something that's a bit off the beaten path, or start mixing pre-release and release versions. Then you can quickly get into dependency hell.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:51 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


For OSX users that don't want a full graphics editor or to install X11, there is Seashore. And by full graphics editor, I mean something that does more than crop and resize pictures ;)
posted by rubah at 1:55 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Installing Linux software is easy, provided that you go with what's offered through your current distribution's package manager

Actually it's become common for makers of third-party apps to offer distribution-synced apt sources, which you can add to your sources list in any of several ways. (Personally I prefer to put each one in its own file under /etc/apt/sources.list.d/, but you can also do it through synaptic if you're command-line-phobic.) Once you update and install the software, from that point forward it will be maintained along with the distribution and you'll even get update notifications if you have them enabled.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:02 PM on February 20, 2009


I've tried GIMP and GIMPshop several times. Can't deal with it. Graphic Converter did what I needed it to on OS X for a long time till I eventually befriended an Adobe employee and acquired a full suite of software legally.

NeoOffice is fine (which is to say, it contains the same annoying amount of overcorrecting, knows-better-than-you-do-no-matter-how-much-auto-correct-you-turn-off BS as Word, which I hate). It handles .docx and Excel files and everything except complex mathematical equations for which you'd need LaTeX anyway, rather than Word, and I don't need those anyway, so I don't care. I haven't touched Microsoft Office in years and don't plan to ever again. If I'm going to use aggravating software I sure don't want to pay for it.

And yes, endless debates on the merits of various substitutes along these lines are available at Lifehacker, but I still have a lot of friends who still haven't heard of Lifehacker, so there you go.
posted by wintersweet at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2009


For OSX users that don't want a full graphics editor or to install X11, there is Seashore.

There's also Acorn, which is quite nice and at $50, cheap.

ArtRage looks nice too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher That was just snark. I guess I should've gone with a significantly higher number. Also, the "not all of us need" line, I think, covers the professionals who very well might need to use the industry standards.

shownomercy I'd recommend Quod Libet, if you've never tried it, for a music player. Has its own sort of style, so it won't do the same things as amarok the same way, but it's also pretty brilliant, and I (personally) definitely rate it above amarok in a lot of ways.
posted by cthuljew at 2:11 PM on February 20, 2009


Um, if you can't justify cost of the upgrade, then just stick with the version you have.

Problem is everyone else is upgrading, leading to endless e-mail rounds of "can you save it as PS2 and not as PS3?"

Reverse compatibility is a big problem with Adobe.
posted by dw at 2:14 PM on February 20, 2009


To the people complaining about the Gimp's UI: I like the UI. I find it more "intuitive" than Photoshop's, by and large. In fact, I turn off some of the newer UI "features" whenever I can, to get that old-school Gimp feel.

Keep in mind that Gimp is an X11 app natively and to a lesser extent, a Unix app. It's been ported to other platforms but it's still going to retain that UI philosophy. Especially the windowing. X11 window managers are quite a bit better than what you get with Windows/Mac and floating windows tend to be used much more than MDI, which is used rarely if ever. My suggestion on Windows is to set up multiple desktops using the Power Toy, keep Gimp on its own desktop, then right-click on the desktop and say "hide desktop icons".

I find it interesting that many of the same people who complain about Gimp having the "wrong" (read: different) interface are the same ones that often complain about open source apps not innovating and being knockoffs of the real thing. You probably complain about the tired old WIMP paradigm too, or something. At this point many of the open source apps are more similar to what average people are used to than the latest versions of the big commercial apps, thanks to sweeping changes like Microsoft's ribbons and such. (I know that doesn't apply to Adobe, which this particular discussion seems to center around.)

Anyway, I like Unix and X11. I like the UI model that tends to surround them. You're welcome to like something else, and you're welcome to pay $1400 for Photoshop or whatever. Or to make a fork of whatever app you like for your favorite UI. But please don't pretend one is objectively better than just what you're familiar with. And please don't badger them into taking away the interface I like.

(Oh, and to draw a line in the Gimp you select whatever drawing tool you want and click the start point. Move to the end point, hold down shift, and click. Not easily discovered but intuitive in retrospect.)
posted by vsync at 2:18 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had some of the same complaints about Linux others have had, but I did install Ubuntu on an old laptop last year and really didn't have a lot of trouble doing so. It installed cleanly, was easy to upgrade, and didn't require any digging around for odd drivers (and, IIRC, it even went out and found driver updates for me.) So I think the early complaints of Linux seem to be fading as Ubuntu and others get less developer-focused and more user-focused.

I keep hoping that other FOSS development teams follow along with Ubuntu and become more user-centered, but a lot of these teams still are application developers who have trouble conceiving how someone else could use the application.
posted by dw at 2:26 PM on February 20, 2009


Not easily discovered but intuitive in retrospect.

This assumes an odd definition of the word "intuitive."
posted by shmegegge at 2:28 PM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


That was just snark.

Leaving out the snark and being straight forward would help convince people to look at the software.

X11 window managers are quite a bit better than what you get with Windows/Mac

But please don't pretend one is objectively better than just what you're familiar with.

Back atcha.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:29 PM on February 20, 2009


As a data point, I'd like to point out that I'm an engineer at "a famous search company" and I've done all my work for the last five+ years here with open source development tools: Linux (first Red Hat and now Ubuntu), emacs, Firefox.

At home too EXCEPT - the music and video tools aren't there. They aren't close to being there. I do use Audacity as a sort of Swiss Army knife when I'm using someone else's machine.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:31 PM on February 20, 2009


Just wondering: if those free applications were not free, but sold in the same price range as their commercial counterparts, would anyone buy them? Would people buy GIMP instead of Photoshop, or Blender instead of any commercial 3D app, or OpenOffice instead of MS Office? My experiences with some of those have been just horrible: nonsensical UIs, lack of critical features (or poorly implemented critical features), installation issues, lousy documentation with TO BE DONE pages and lots of bizarre, infuriating stuff that should never had made it past the design stage. These issues also exist in commercial applications but fixing them is a matter of survival for the developers. The problem with FOSS apps is that they can go on being somehow crappy as long as the devs believe that crappiness is a feature.
I tried Blender many times over the years, even spent a full week seriously learning it, going through the tutorials. I more or less got the hang of it and was able to model and render things. It has fantastic potential. But in the end it still pissed me off, and I spent 2000 euros instead on a commercial, professional application that was made by and for humans, and was actually pleasant to use. One that, for instance, asks me if I want to save my work if I forget to do so before closing the program... I gave another try at Blender the other day and it refused to recognise some of my directories. It's 2009 and a supposedly professional-level application cannot see a directory? WTF? Ditto with the GIMP: I ended up buying Photoshop.
Inkscape I like very much: It's clean, pleasant and I was able to do useful things very quickly with it. I don't know how it compares with AI but for my limited needs in vector graphics it was perfect.
There are areas where FOSS really, really shines (LAMP, Firefox, CMS, developer tools etc.), but the development of second rate copies of successful commercial applications is not one of those.
posted by elgilito at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


pen, straight edge, those little cut-out letters, elmer's glue and glitter = design software for under $10
posted by asfuller at 2:36 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


those little cut-out letters

You need to use the 1.6 version (Dashing Dan) to get the full use of the glitter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:43 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Can't you do all of this stuff with just LaTeX and Emacs?

No, you can do it all with just Emacs.


Oh yeah! Good ol' C-x M-c M-butterfly.
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:43 PM on February 20, 2009


I just started using Scribus a month ago and it's been great. I managed to get myself talked into editing/publishing the neighborhood newsletter this year despite having exactly zero background in such things and Scribus has made it seriously easy. The UI is a little crude and it would be nice if the internal text editor was a little more WYSIWYG but after fighting with Office's "I know better than you where to place elements on a page" I love putting a picture on the page and having stay right there.
posted by octothorpe at 2:54 PM on February 20, 2009


I tried Blender many times over the years [...] but in the end it still pissed me off

I am completely new to modeling, and Blender seems no more incomprehensible than Maya to me.

"How much do professional users of Photoshop like the GIMP UI" is the wrong question to ask, when instead we should be asking questions like "how long does it take a completely inexperienced person to become competent in GIMP/Photoshop" and "how long does it take a user with [x hours] experience in GIMP/Photoshop to perform this task".

Experienced users are just going to prefer the program they have experience in and find everything else strange and wrong, so their opinions on new applications don't reveal much except how similar those applications are to the ones they already use.
posted by Pyry at 3:00 PM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


The basic image editor SeaShore for Mac is open-source and Cocoa-based. Like me.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 3:03 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Long thread, skipped a lot of it, and now I'm probably going to say what's already been said. Forgive me.

Fleebnork nailed it in comment #1. The Adobe suite is a TOTAL ripoff if you buy all the components separately. Solution? Buy the bundle.

Yes, Adobe is bloaty and buggy and complicated and, yes, ridiculously expensive, even when bundled. They're exploiting their monopoly and their "industry standard" status to gouge like crazy, but $1400 isn't entirely unreasonable for the singlemost important piece of kit in a graphic designer's studio.

Fonts, though? What. The. Fuck.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:14 PM on February 20, 2009


Personally, LaTeX is a system that inspires both love and loathing in me, in about equal measure. On the one hand, nothing comes close to it in terms of bibliography management, indexing, and organizing big documents, provided that you learn the syntax.

On the other hand, plain LaTeX locks you into the academic publishing aesthetic of 1977, although with memoir you move into the 80s, support for certain bibliography styles is apparently incompatible with a wide variety of other utilities, and it doesn't play nice with other systems. I've spent hours trying to figure out stuff that I could have done in Scribus or InDesign just by highlighting the text block and changing the style.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:26 PM on February 20, 2009


The Blender interface is certainly a surprise, but learn it and it's astonishingly powerful. Aside from Blender's primary function as a 3D modelling/animation tool, it does loads of other great stuff. Try the node editor for manipulating image sequences and compositing, or the Sequence layout for video editing (this is the best open/free "solution" I've found for video editing in Windows).

Adobe's CS4 is a behemoth. I'm currently acclimatising myself to the latest Photoshop and wading through its flickering windows and foggy grey appearance and maddening new interface behaviour. It is sluggish and no fun at all. Not least of problems, the removal of right-click>image-resize is vandalism that doesn't seem to be fixable.

And there's always Aviary, which promises lovely things and looks very promising (but isn't open source or necessarily free).
posted by 4eyes at 3:33 PM on February 20, 2009


I was laid off recently and for the first time in more than fifteen years, I've had to live without the Adobe Suite on my home computer. This has been a rather shocking adjustment. I'm happy that GIMP exists but it would really help if they could abandon X11 on the Mac. I used to hate GIMP but now I can deal with it despite the piece of shit UI. SeaShore is a workable replacement for painting/illustrating needs but it has a lot of very basic features missing so I still have to use GIMP for more complex work.

I still can't stand Inkscape.

Blender, though, is a jewel. There's an obvious UI hurdle but all major 3D apps have this. Once you get past this, the app is amazing. If the open source community surrounding GIMP and Inkscape could put together a suite of 2D art products like blender is to 3D, I would never miss Adobe.
posted by effwerd at 3:37 PM on February 20, 2009


Sys Rq: "Fonts, though? What. The. Fuck."

On Adobes website you can get the same thing for $8,999.00. That also includes licensing for 20 users so that's about $449.95 per person. There's about 2,300 typeface that come in it so that's about $39 a typeface which is about 1/2 off the regular price for a typeface.
posted by lilkeith07 at 3:38 PM on February 20, 2009


Yeah, on second thought, ten grand is a totally reasonable price for fonts.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:02 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, how much would you charge for 2,300 fonts?
posted by 4eyes at 4:24 PM on February 20, 2009


i've heard colleges discussing going open source rather than buy photoshop cs4 - which is not really that great - adobe bridge cs4 no longer does contact sheets straight out so it doesnt really have any use in a course where you would have to show research or whatever.

Also the latest martin evening photoshop book is a rip off as well " i took a lot of helpful techniques out of this edition so you could buy a separate book ....."

something like a wysiwyg crop without the whole screen moving would have been great too - but no ..................
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:35 PM on February 20, 2009


Open source is fine in IT, but in creative ... y'all can chew my ass hairs.

I have never seen "creative" used this way before. I've seen it nouned in a way that means a person who works in a creative industry or something, but never that way. I can handle that but this usage is just... ridiculous.

I guess I'll just have to deal with the screaming inside my head when I see it.
posted by marble at 4:52 PM on February 20, 2009


I have never seen "creative" used this way before. I've seen it nouned in a way that means a person who works in a creative industry or something, but never that way. I can handle that but this usage is just... ridiculous.

I guess I'll just have to deal with the screaming inside my head when I see it.


We use it that way all the time in creative.
posted by phatkitten at 4:58 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: "Yeah, on second thought, ten grand is a totally reasonable price for fonts."

Fonts are a product people develop them and perfect them and then sell them. How are fonts any different from any other product out there?
posted by lilkeith07 at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Since no one has commented on Paint.Net, I assume it's not even worth investigating?
posted by NoMich at 6:06 PM on February 20, 2009


"Just wondering: if those free applications were not free, but sold in the same price range as their commercial counterparts, would anyone buy them?"

I've used OpenOffice.org for years now. I've gotten so used to it that I find MS Word harder and harder to use.

I would absolutely pay for OpenOffice.org. In a heart beat. I really, really like knowing that I'll be able to access my documents in 20 years. I couldn't say that with MS Word.

Also, when the ImportPDF extension finally gets out of beta for OOo, it will be a killer feature that Word users will pine over.
posted by oddman at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2009


Fonts are a product people develop them and perfect them and then sell them. How are fonts any different from any other product out there?

Usually you'd pay for the product itself, rather than the right to use it.

I'm all for creative professionals getting their fair share, but $100 for two weights (plus italics) of a 50-year-old typeface? Really?

If it was a bunch of lead type that required shipping, maybe.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:16 PM on February 20, 2009


Since no one has commented on Paint.Net, I assume it's not even worth investigating?

I'll give it points over GIMP since I could actually get it to work. It's pretty good given its price range, and the UI isn't too terrible either. I seem to recall that it was slow to load and a bit freezy, but that was a few years ago.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:23 PM on February 20, 2009


Since no one has commented on Paint.Net, I assume it's not even worth investigating?

It's like an updated Windows Paint with basic Photoshop-ish features. Handy for quick and dirty stuff. It was kind of an early attention getter for Microsoft's introduction of C# and dotNET. I often download it and install it when I'm using an unfamiliar system and need a simple imaging app. The fact that it's from MS helps there, no one gets nervous about it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:34 PM on February 20, 2009


Okay, I'm kinda confused. Some places it says 2300 fonts, one place it says 2300 typefaces. If It's the former, that's still not horribly expensive. If it's the latter, that's a damn good deal...
posted by cthuljew at 7:59 PM on February 20, 2009


"I have never seen "creative" used this way before. I've seen it nouned in a way that means ..."

This.
posted by the cydonian at 8:13 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since no one has commented on Paint.Net, I assume it's not even worth investigating?

Yup, no investigation needed in that it's clearly the superior choice here. :-) I don't have anything to add to either PS's industry-grade bloat (me just a hobbyist touching up family photos and the occassional image for proof-of-concepts at work) or GIMP's unworkable kludge. The best part is that when I'm at a client's computer and need to do up an image quickly, all I need to do is d/l this from the web, and I'm in the game.

Seriously, I have only good things to say about Paint.net. Don't take the lack of buzz out here to be indicative of anything.
posted by the cydonian at 8:20 PM on February 20, 2009


The fact that it's from MS helps there, no one gets nervous about it.

It's *not* from MS, it's from the University of Washington. (I think, though, that the author is now at Microsoft in an unrelated capacity.)
posted by Slothrup at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2009


Oh, and I'll second the opinion that Paint.NET is awesome!
posted by Slothrup at 8:23 PM on February 20, 2009


Regular office is totally whack but I am forced to use it so now it's the devil I know. I may take it for a spin sometime to see though. Ont he other hand, the Adobe suite has some very powerful tools that integrate really beautifully, which makes it well worth the expense for most design professionals and other creative types. That said, if you're not doing a lot of really heavy lifting, you don't need the adobe suite. You can do the family holiday card with freeware or "comes with the printer" ware (bundleware?).
posted by Mister_A at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2009


OK, "it" above referes to Open Office. And I see that my central thesis is identical to the central thesis of this post! A bit silly to post it again then, yes? But I'm distracted watching the X-men and crappy soft-core Cinemax porn right now.
posted by Mister_A at 8:40 PM on February 20, 2009


Thanks for the NeoOffice link; trying to run OpenOffice in X11 was a huge PITA.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:49 PM on February 20, 2009


Forget gimp. On windows I just use paint.net. Does most of what I need.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:01 PM on February 20, 2009


Paint.NET is awesome - and it works with cheapo tablet PC's/pen input tablets and is pressure sensitive*

* (this version, that feature may be dropped in the upcoming release)
posted by jkaczor at 10:03 PM on February 20, 2009


I've also used both Gimp and Photoshop for many years and I happen to like the Gimp's UI somewhat better, but vsync's right about it being for X11 platform. The Gimp is best on a big monitor (multiple monitors or workspaces) and a good window manager. Trying to use the Gimp in MS Windows is like having one hand tied behind one's back (of course, I also experience this feeling using native windows apps). I think Photoshop is way easier to use in Windows because it allows me to manage the PS tool palettes and document windows more like the way I could in any X11 window manager.

All that aside I'm more excited about GEGL.
posted by wobh at 10:50 PM on February 20, 2009


I would have ranted that GIMP is by no means a replacement for Photoshop, but seanmpuckett and others said it much better than I could have.

The only thing I might be able to add to the discussion at this point: GIMP was not intended to replace Photoshop. It was intended for tasks that people use Photoshop for on other platforms. The GIMP = Photoshop meme really needs to die because, in my opinion, it's keeping someone from actually making a bloated, monolithic Photoshop replacement that mangerial/purchasing types can look at and say, "oh, that's what we needed."
posted by crataegus at 1:40 AM on February 21, 2009


UI? I'll give you a UI, and you'll like it:
$ cat > ui.ps 
%!
/Courier 12 selectfont 140 280 moveto
(you kids, get off my ) show
1 0 1 0 setcmykcolor (lawn) show
showpage

posted by scruss at 10:00 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I remember in grade six we got to "draw" by keying the hex values for each quarter-inch pixel into an Apple IIe that was as old as my classmates and I. (That was the special one with the color monitor; the other twenty consoles were split between green and orange monochrome.) The next year, after I'd graduated to Junior High, the elementary school had its 25th anniversary, giving us visitors the opportunity to tour their brand new computer lab full of freshly unboxed PowerPCs. Thus began my teenage angst.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:30 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]




I just want to be able to open and edit Raw Image Format files. I'm not a professional, and the only program that seems to do this is PhotoShop. I really don't want to pay more than I did for my camera, for 1/18 of a software's functionality....
posted by xammerboy at 10:59 AM on February 21, 2009


xammerboy: Your camera probably came with software that can do that. If not, there are stripped-down versions of PS available, but be warned: They're fraught with Adobeness.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:08 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd say use these tools because (a) they are free and more malleable and (b) you can have them running on a new system quickly, i.e. no torrents. If you plan on working in the industry, then yes you should also pirate Adobe's tools, but don't underestimate the value of "Oh, shit I had to reinstall Mac OS X and I must have Photoshop or GIMP running on my laptop before I get on this plane in 30 min." If you actually use both tools, the skills are 100% interchangeable, so you can claim 5 years Photoshop experience with 4 years GIMP experience and only 1 real year Photoshop.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:31 AM on February 21, 2009


(b) See my ranting 'bout Scribus upthread. Tried inkscape last night, felt like a kid's tool.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:49 AM on February 21, 2009


Wait, Inkscape felt like what?

perv.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:27 PM on February 21, 2009


And for those who want a kick-butt free statistics program, leaving the onerous licenses and costs of running SAS, JMP, SYSTAT and others, there is always R. Great graphics capabilities for publication quality complex graphs. And the learning curve is no steeper than other packages. For those who need point-and-click stats, there's the wonderful RCmdr package.
posted by redbeard at 3:06 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm frustrated.
I've had OpenOffice for some time, use it irregularly- an older version, one-point-something, running on a G5 Mac with 10.4 and X11 etcetera.

So I sez to meself, Self, sez I, this might be a good time to upgrade that old thing and try out a coupla new things too.

Soooo, I go and download Inkscape, Scribus, Fontforge, and OpenOffice 2.4. Got rid of the old openoffice.

Scribus works. Not thru X11, evidently.

Fontforge, Inkscape, and Openoffice 2,4 do not. Nuthin. X11 opens, then the app disappears leaving only the terminal window.

And I do not know enough about this side of the Mac to fix it. Hey, I'm an engineer, and a good one- but this is not my area.

Grump grump.

I know this is not a help forum, but if some a youse guys could point me in some kinda direction I'd appreciate it!
posted by drhydro at 6:43 PM on February 21, 2009


It's *not* from MS, it's from the University of Washington. (I think, though, that the author is now at Microsoft in an unrelated capacity.)

OK, "mentored by Microsoft," to use the language on the getpaint.net website.

When it first appeared, it was part of a MS PR blitz for the dotNET framework.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:45 PM on February 21, 2009


I miss FrameMaker. A sane, structured document editor capable of handling long technical books with lots of cross references and support for glossaries & indexes. Cross platform, efficient, manageable learning curve. Then Adobe bought Frame, killed the Mac version, and now nothing comes close (IMO) in terms of cross platform document production. I've been forced to go waay back to LaTeX and MS Word. Scribus is in the neighborhood, but doesn't look like it has the horsepower. Sigh.
posted by dylanjames at 11:03 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


xammerboy, Gimp loads every raw format I've thrown at it using UFRaw. Every 2.6 build I have has it installed by default.

I'm perpetually amused that the majority of commercial raw image processing software is based on this piece of free software.
posted by scruss at 4:12 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


A lot of people lament the passing of FrameMaker. I think most either are resigned to InDesign, or use some kind of LaTeX solution.

Have you seen LyX?

For my money, Scribus is still too clunky and buggy to use for a long technical documents--it gives me fits doing short magazine-like stuff that should be its bread and butter.

I recall that when FrameMaker for the Mac was killed there was some discussion of running multiple copies of it on a Solaris box and accessing it over the network. That may be more practical now than it was then given the availability of OpenSolaris.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2009


Ohh, LyX shares the problems it inherits from LaTeX. Which is that if something breaks in weird ways (the latest annoyance was memoir's refusal to change stock size as I consider Lulu printing a 150-page document) you have to get up to your elbows in some rather ugly code.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:08 AM on February 22, 2009


I can't afford Photoshop, so I use Gimp. Gimp sucks. It really, really sucks. There's no defense for it, none of the interface choices make any sense, and the way they distinguish between layer size AND image size at the same time and how they treat pasted layers is just exasperating.

But probably what tops it all is the condescending attitude you find among its proponents when you're trying to figure out how to do straightforward things. For example: This is the first result in google for how to draw a straight line in Gimp. The reason that I don't know how to draw a straight line is not because I'm a troglodyte. It's because Gimp implements it in a way that's different from nearly every other drawing and paint program out there, jackass.

One of the reasons that open source is becoming more successful is partly because of its ideology, but mostly because the more successful projects are actually creating technologies or programs that people like to use and that actually trump commercial offerings in usability or performance (think Firefox or Ubuntu).

In my old job, where I had a copy of Photoshop, I used it all the time. Now, I avoid making graphics at all costs just to stay away from Gimp.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2009


On postview: what Afroblanco said. Although, you know, with an actually link.

And I totally forgot that it wasn't just that I could draw a straight line that annoyed me, but that there wasn't a line tool.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2009


In my old job, where I had a copy of Photoshop, I used it all the time. Now, I avoid making graphics at all costs just to stay away from Gimp.

Having used Photoshop all the time might be part of the problem. Gimp isn't Photoshop. I'm sure that when you started learning Photoshop, there was also plenty of frustration. That frustration is compounded when you go from one app to another and expect there to be little to no difference in interface.

And if the "how to draw a straight line" tutorial was supposed to be example of how complicated Gimp is, then I'm more than a little confused. Once you open an image or start a new image, it's five actions: selecting drawing tool, clicking the mouse on where you want the line to start, holding down the Shift key, dragging the mouse to make your line, and then clicking again to end the line. This is an example of how byzantine Gimp is?

I'd be more inclined to use the back-ass-ness of how animated .gifs are created in Gimp, personally, as I think they have a long way to go before reaching ImageReady's levels.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:44 AM on February 26, 2009


I think part of the problem with GIMP is that it has two vastly different use cases inherited from Photoshop. First, as a photo touch up tool. You select an area, and apply some filters to remove redeye, or sharpen or blur an area.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided to use these programs to author images. Select an area, apply a gradient, shrink the selection by five pixels and apply a gaussian, draw a line etc. These are two fundamentally different use cases. I have a hard time understanding why I'd want to add a line to a family photo, but it makes sense if you want a diagram or something.

I'm not writing this to justify the attitude GIMP upstream offers. Just to suggest that users may be best served by separate UIs for separate uses. I've taken to using Inkscape for making new graphics. On Windows / Ubuntu, I find it is not very crashy or slow. Haven't tried on OSX.
posted by pwnguin at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2009


Having used Photoshop all the time might be part of the problem. Gimp isn't Photoshop.

Yes, but it was originally a Mac program and, with a few exceptions, it behaved like a standard app. It's pretty intuitive to use. There aren't really that many hurdles. The only conceivable problem I can think of was the issue of text turning into pixels in the earlier versions, and even that is no longer true since text is text until it's rendered.

Gimp breaks a lot of time-honored traditions (the line tool is a good example) and the fact that it's an X11 app is really infuriating. In Photoshop, I move my mouse over the select button, I click once, the select tool is selected, I move my mouse over the picture, I drag, I'm selecting the picture. In Gimp, I move my mouse of the select button, I click, now the toolbar is active, now I click for the select tool, move over the picture, click the picture, now the picture window is selected, now I can select. That's a pain if you're used to windows responding automatically. I'm aware there's a hack that automatically focuses the window you pass over, but that's a pain too (suddenly, a graphic window in the background is focused, so now the layers palette is for that file instead of the one I'm actually working on).

People who are supporters of Gimp can get blue in the face about how it's just a matter of what you learned, but there was no good reason not to make Gimp behave like all the other image editors out there.

And if the "how to draw a straight line" tutorial was supposed to be example of how complicated Gimp is, then I'm more than a little confused

It's not an example of how complicated it is. I'm not sure why you would get the impression that since I used the term "condescending". In case you missed it, this is what is really going on in this tutorial:
Every user who has used Gimp with prior image editing experience in any other program other than Gimp: Um. Hi. Where's the straight line tool? I can't seem to find any straight line tool in the toolbar and I'd like to draw a straight line.
Tutorial guy: You MORON! Have you ever heard of a SHIFT key?!?! It is on your keyboard! You know the thing you use to gush about care bears when you're not just pointing and clicking on things?!? Here, let me hold your retarded hand and guide you through the process of making in a straight line in this clearly superior product. Here, I'll put my hand on the mouse and show you how it's done. Now, isn't Gimp actually superior because you can use the erase tool to make straight lines?
When the page could have simply said this:
Q: Where is the straight line tool in Gimp? How do I draw straight lines in Gimp?
A: For whatever reasons good or bad, the developers of Gimp decided not to implement a specific straight line tool. But that's okay, because to draw a straight line you can simply choose any of the paint tools, click one end of the line, hold down the shift key, and move the mouse around to the other end of the line. While shift key is down you'll see a line showing the path between the two points, and when you click the line will be rendered on the screen.
There really is no reason for Gimp to feel superior, by the way. Unless I'm misremembering, Photoshop had this functionality and a line tool. You could use a line tool to draw lines (which is superior because you see a preview of the line, including color and line width, rather than just a generic thin black line) or you could create lines by clicking endpoints, just like Gimp.

I think my main problem is this guy clearly wrote this page because he was fed up with people asking why there wasn't a line tool. If enough people ask for a feature, it isn't a problem with them, it's a bug in the software.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:06 PM on February 26, 2009


It's not an example of how complicated it is. I'm not sure why you would get the impression that since I used the term "condescending". ... I think my main problem is this guy clearly wrote this page because he was fed up with people asking why there wasn't a line tool.

Ooooh, OK. I apologize.

I agree there are those types in just about every tech community. On my distro's forum there was one guy who was so condescending in his "tips for newbies" that he was eventually asked to leave. Whether or not these types are more prominent in an open source setting is another story - I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me if that were the case.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:11 PM on February 26, 2009


pwnguin:

I think part of the problem with GIMP is that it has two vastly different use cases inherited from Photoshop. First, as a photo touch up tool. You select an area, and apply some filters to remove redeye, or sharpen or blur an area.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided to use these programs to author images.


I present to you a screenshot of Adobe Photoshop 1.0.7. Notice the presence of a line tool. People were absolutely using Photoshop to author images from the very beginning. Really, Photoshop was MacPaint (down to nearly identical icons, no less) with photograph tools like dodge, burn, smudge, sharpen, and blur added.

Just to suggest that users may be best served by separate UIs for separate uses.

Just because they are separate uses in your mind does not mean that they actually are.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:17 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having used Photoshop all the time might be part of the problem.

I disagree. A good UI isnt dependent strictly on complexity. In fact, a lot of good UIs out there are a bit too complex, but they succeed in other areas like predictability, feedback, responsiveness, etc. I think the Adobe people really hit the ball out of the part with Photoshop's UI, which is, of course, based on a chain of graphical UIs stemming all the back to the dawn of the GUI. Hey, maybe Adobe and Bill Atkinson and countless others understand something that a lot of FOSS loudmouths dont.

Also a UI needs to fit its OS. I dont want all the X11 conventions on my windows machines. I dont want control-c to do whatever is native in gnome or kde. I want it to do whats native on my system.

Sadly, the gimp cannot be mentioned anywhere without people complaining about the UI. That's not some conspiracy, that's actually meaningful. I think the response from the gimp people really is indictive of the larger issue in FOSS: anti-user elitism. But whatever, paint.net gets it right and its free.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:27 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whether or not these types are more prominent in an open source setting is another story

In my personal experience, people (and I mean this in the "pages on the web" sense) in the open source community have been incredibly welcoming and helpful...with the exception of Gimp. Whenever I had a problem with Gimp and tried to search to solve it, I find a slew of results with people saying, "I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do!" with the general response of "That's because you're too much of an idiot to figure out our superior Gimp paradigm."

To be fair, most of it is actually not that bad. But Seth Burgess, who seems to have some central role with Gimp, wrote that tutorial I referenced above, which is the #1 hit for gimp straight line. And it's on gimp.org, which suggests that they not only condone this attitude, but actively promote it. In their faq they call it their "nice tutorial", but any tutorial that begins with This tutorial shows you how you can do straight lines with GIMP, using a feature called the Shift Key [emphasis mine] that includes photos of the mouse and the shift key on the keyboard is anything but.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, I need to sit this out. I haven't given a rat's ass about how much Gimp sucks for years.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2009


Seth Burgess, who seems to have some central role with Gimp, wrote that tutorial I referenced above, which is the #1 hit for gimp straight line. And it's on gimp.org, which suggests that they not only condone this attitude, but actively promote it. In their faq they call it their "nice tutorial", but any tutorial that begins with "This tutorial shows you how you can do straight lines with GIMP, using a feature called the Shift Key" [emphasis mine] that includes photos of the mouse and the shift key on the keyboard is anything but.

Huh. I guess it really was advantageous for me to go to YouTube for Gimp tutorials after all.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:39 PM on February 26, 2009


Also a UI needs to fit its OS. I dont want all the X11 conventions on my windows machines. I dont want control-c to do whatever is native in gnome or kde. I want it to do whats native on my system.

See, this, to me, is weird. Why would you expect a (freebie) program built for another OS to work like it's native on your system?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:01 PM on February 26, 2009


1. GIMP attitude sucks. It should be no surprise that they have a great deal of difficulty dealing with Ubuntu. In fact they don't just call the straight line "a nice tutorial" but explain that it's rude, and being rude is the right thing to do. They are wrong, and I think Ubuntu's success has demonstrated this.

2. Just because Photoshop has historically merged the two concepts doesn't mean it's a good idea.
posted by pwnguin at 2:10 PM on February 26, 2009


Why would you expect a (freebie) program built for another OS to work like it's native on your system?
I won't, as long as you don't expect me to use it.
posted by !Jim at 3:12 PM on February 26, 2009


I won't, as long as you don't expect me to use it.

Sounds fair. After all, I've been told over and over again that I can't hope to use software or games developed for windows or mac as I'm a Linux user unless it's a (likely) flawed version accessed through WINE.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:39 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


After all, I've been told over and over again that I can't hope to use software or games developed for windows or mac as I'm a Linux user unless it's a (likely) flawed version accessed through WINE.

For a while I made it a personal mission to test one shmup after another in WINE, just to see how they would fare. I had a 20% success rate, and now have 24 "Windows only" games that I flit through like a hummingbird. A lot of the success, I learned, depends more on the game community than on WINE's developers - if a game has a large enough fanbase, submitting repeated bug reports, spreading the word, then someone eventually takes the attitude of "Alright, alright! Shut up already, I'll fix it" and it gets fixed.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:47 PM on February 26, 2009


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