Applications – Graphics

Has anybody spotted a trend over the last few postings? We appear to be going through the options in the Applications menu one-by-one and, in this post, we have now reached an item named Graphics.

This series of posts has proven to be an interesting exercise for me, especially the current topic, since it turns out that I don’t use any of the offerings on this menu!

But, let’s take a step back and see just what is on offer in the Applications – Graphics menu. The default menu options are:

F-Spot Photo Manager – A digital image management system that: “simplifies digital photography by providing intuitive tools to help you share, touch-up, find and organize your images.”

OpenOffice.org Drawing – This is the Draw module that forms part of the Open Office suite. The developer’s blurb indicates that: “…from a quick sketch to a complex plan, Draw gives you the tools to communicate with graphics and diagrams.”

SimpleScan – As the name suggests, this utility provides a basic interface to scan documents containing text and/or images, with options for rapid scanning in black and white (Text) or high resolution colour scans (Photo).

This appears to be a list of quite useful programs, so why don’t I use any of them?

Well, let’s start with F-Spot. By default, when I plug my digital camera into a USB port, Ubuntu recognizes it and offers to load F-Spot. I can then use this program to download (import) my digital photographs from the camera to my hard drive. But, it seems that F-Spot wants to be much more “helpful” than this. It finds all the photographs on the camera – and all the digital images from everywhere on the hard disk – and copies them to Home Folder – Pictures – Photos. Not only that, but it “organizes” all the images by date. Consequently, the photographs from a May-2011 trip to New York City are now buried somewhere in a set of folders spanning the years 1995-2011.

In the 1995 folder, there is a sub-folder named 09 that, in turn, has a sub-folder named 02. This contains the single file new.gif. Well, I guess it was new back on September 2, 1995. Similarly, 1996 contains a single folder named 03 with a single folder named 31, which includes the file ca_tiny.gif. These files are actually graphic images (e.g. ca_tiny.gif is a small Canadian flag) that were used to provide some colour to web pages that I developed in the past. However, they clearly have nothing to do with the Big Apple. And, even worse, from my perspective, is that my carefully arranged folder of web images is now split across multiple directories. I’m never going to find norway.gif in this system! [Note – It’s in folder Pictures – Photos – 1998 – 11 – 28.] So, it’s a good thing that F-Spot created a copy of all the available images. This means that the original set of files and folders are still available for my use.

The New York City photographs have met the same fate. They are not in a single folder, rationally named something like “nikon/new_york”. Rather they spread across folders 2011 – 04 – 15 through 2001 – 04 – 19. Clearly, F-Spot and I have somewhat different ideas about how to organize digital images. And, consequently, F-Spot loses!

Draw may well give me tools to communicate with graphics but, unfortunately, I have already assigned this task to the GNU Image Manipulation Tool (GIMP). GIMP is a powerful image editor that has been compared favourably to Adobe Photoshop. It’s actually way more powerful than I need, but I have used it enough, and have found sufficient on-line help, to have it do the things that I require when modifying digital images and photographs. (See: Digital Image Editing)

However, let me note that my statement that “I don’t use any of the offerings on this menu” is not true for the modified Graphics menu. When GIMP is installed from Ubuntu’s Software Centre it automatically creates a program launcher in the Applications – Graphics menu. So, I do use one of the options from this “modified” menu.

The final default menu option is for the SimpleScan utility. This is one program that I would dearly like to use. I don’t do a lot of scanning of documents and photographs to create digital image versions, nor do I run optical character recognition software very frequently to convert a document into an editable word processing file. But, these are useful tools to have available on occasion.

Unfortunately, SimpleScan refuses to acknowledge that my system has any scanning capability. The problem seems to be that my “scanner” is actually part of a Brother DCP 7020 multi-function printer-scanner-copier, and the scanning capabilities of this unit are not supported by the underlying Xsane scanning software that SimpleScan uses. This seems to be true even though Brother has Linux drivers available for the DCP 7020 on their web site. So far, even after downloading and installing the Brother software, I have been unable to get the scanner working, so SimpleScan is a no-go utility for me at present.

Note that, in the quest for a Windows-free computer world, this may well prove to be somewhat of a deal breaker. Windows is quite happy to drive the scanner in the DCP 7020, using drivers included with the original installation disk. So, this is one reason why I maintain a dual-boot machine. I can always run a scan by booting into Windows.

I find this situation very odd. The Linux printer drivers run the DCP 7020’s printer very satisfactorily, but the scanner drivers don’t work at all. And, Windows has no difficulty running either portion of the multi-function machine. So, what is a Linux user to do? It seems unreasonable to suggest the purchase of a compatible scanner when I have a perfectly functional machine already. But, it definitely goes against the grain to have to rely on dual-booting into Windows to undertake what should be a standard task.

Perhaps a little more research is called for. Are suitable drivers available for the DCP 7020’s scanner? I see lots of chat on the web about how to get a scanner (including Brother’s DCP 7020) working, but none of the suggestions I have found to date have worked on my system.

And, while it’s easy to transfer digital photographs from the camera to the hard disk (select Open Folder instead of Open F-Spot, and use file manager to copy the desired photographs to a specific folder on the hard disk), what image management software is best to further sort, label, edit and view the images?

My preference would be to find a Linux “clone” of ACDSee. This Windows’ program has a very simple interface showing a disk’s tree directory structure, thumbnails of the images in a selected folder, and a preview of a selected image within that folder (http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/acdsee7.htm). I haven’t done much looking yet for such a program to use in Linux, but I intend to do so.

Watch this space for any results of the above-noted research efforts…

References:

F-Spot
http://f-spot.org/

OpenOffice.org – Draw
http://www.openoffice.org/product/draw.html

Simple Scan
https://launchpad.net/simple-scan

GIMP
http://www.gimp.org/

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