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The Book of Gimp - Review
on 16 April 2013
So you got tired of paying for Photoshop. You looked around and found that GIMP was used by many across the world to achieve the same sort of things. You were surprised perhaps that GIMP is not often talked about in the glossy books and articles about image processing and wondered whether therefore it was ever a serious contender. Then you downloaded it, installed it and tried it. Its unfamiliarity was a little disconcerting but you found a way round the absolute basics and then hit obstacles that required some new learning. You asked around and started to pick up advice from helpful forums and began to realise that the world of "free" software is welcoming and worthwhile. But maybe that advice was not as comprehensive as you'd hoped; it was coming piecemeal and somewhat unauthoratatively from different sources and you began to think that you needed a more formalised helping hand.
Well if that's the position you are in let me recommend this book because here's a labour of love that's been produced by two authors who have completed an immense task of cataloguing and detailing so much of what you need to know about using GIMP in its latest manifestation. It will take you through a sequence in its first section to properly "learn GIMP", provide you with a reference section which details all the menu items in the second section as well as providing an appendix which covers tricky areas like installation, tips, hints and resources.
So it's a book to keep close at hand while you are working with the software.
As an experienced user who has learned from many sources over the years almost on a need to know basis, it's fascinating to dip in just to move the skill set on a peg or two, and I will guarantee you will learn things that transform the way you work or in my case have been working for some time. For example, the section on basic image handling discusses working in different ways to suit the user's preferences. I like the full-screen mode but now I know that merely pressing the TAB key will turn on or off the display of toolbox and other menus - brilliant for properly appraising the results of changes made to images. The text throughout is uncluttered with overly technical terms and delightfully written in clear English. "The command Image: File > Save a Copy is similar to Image: File > Save as but it creates a copy without altering or changing the name of the current image." This is simple stuff explained simply and where necessary it is helpfully reinforced by full colour screen-shots or image examples.
The reference section performs that wonderfully detailed information that allows you to explore sometimes impenetrable territory, menu items, and there are so many, that do not appear interesting or sound useful. Well don't you believe it. Try almost any item and you'll come away again with something to try. Something as simple sounding as Image: View > New View, introduces you to the tantalising opportunities of having two views of the same image open at the same time, the full-screen version and then a magnified section so that you can try enhancement in any of its forms, see the result on all or just a section knowing that the routine being used is working on "both" images which are in practice the same image.
Whilst the book will never satisfy every user's whim about what's most important to them, it never closes the door to the great work being done by developers on certain areas not totally covered in the 650+ pages. It does not, for example, hold your hand through the rapidly developing G'MIC menu item; users make some dramatic images by utilising the over 200 filters available here, but only a few are only briefly mentioned. The authors acknowledge that each plug-in, like G'MIC would require whole dedicated sections adding to the already immense work making it understandable that they only endeavoured to cover the GIMP Animation Package which is an area that GIMP itself does not feature.
So a magnificent achievement to include such detailed content with such clarity making this a must have reference book for GIMP users whether new or experienced.