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Good Book - Easy and informative
on 7 November 2009
Akkana Peck has done a Stirling job, at publishers Apress, with her Beginning Gimp - From Novice to Professional. It comfortably lives up to its title but suffers (slightly) from the anomaly of being for version 2.4, when version 2.6 is well and truly available. That said, having possibly misjudged their release timing, Apress and Peck pull it back with a chapter; 'preview of GIMP 2.6', at the end of the book. The fact that most of the tasks haven't changed significantly between these two releases helps too. I do have reservations but in the round, this is a well written, pretty comprehensive and useful book for most levels of GIMP expertise.
Because I'm reviewing the book, rather than using it in anger, I used serendipity, the contents and the index to explore. I have to admit, I was looking for holes and found surprisingly few. It's a comprehensive and accessible read, covering everything you're likely to need and many bits you'll not.
The book is laid out in a logical order, with a brief introductory chapter introducing all the basic paraphernalia required to get started. Chapter 2, Improving Digital Photos, lead me to think that the driving principle for this book would be how to achieve common tasks. A task oriented approach! Whilst this was pretty much the way this and other chapters proceeded, the following chapter reverted to the same old menu tour, albeit well executed. The chapters are a mix of task oriented, tool oriented, concept oriented and the odd bucket chapter ('Additional Topics').
One of the first things I noticed is that this book makes good use of colour images. On the whole, they do a great job of illustrating the point. (It's possibly irrelevant to their utility but they're, well, a bit uninspiring.)
Peck has a nice balance between the principles behind the tools and the practice of using them. Understanding the principle makes it a whole lot easier to use the tools - having a goal in mind! Her chapter on Colour is particularly good. Many reference books are much more literal, merely describing a list of actions. Peck and Apress have, to some extent, got away with the book being GIMP 2.4 centric precisely because it expands on many principles behind the tools.
Another strength of this book is that the hints and gotcha panels are generally genuinely useful. Reading through, I found myself secretly pleased that I'd be able to avoid Googling forum hell to find out why I wasn't getting the results I expected.
Filters and Plug-ins - Many are fantastically useful: I use edge detect, then levels to target my unsharp mask, so there's two! They seem to be a strange mix of tools that either help you realise your artistic vision or take your artistic vision and stick a faux-Greek portico on it. To my mind Peck's coverage of the latter type of filters could have well done with a few lines or an example on each about how to use these judiciously and with taste for those who dip into them occasionally.
Personally, I've never used scripting in any serious way in any product and I don't suppose that many other users do either but clearly there's a core of users for this feature and this book even covers this pretty comprehensively.
All-in-all. This book is a great reference and easy to read. GIMP has always had criticism for aspects of its user interface (not aping Photoshop, is not least amongst them) but this book really does help to up productivity for users of all castes of taste and levels of experience and makes it fun.
Greg (I guess I'm a GIMP intermediate user.)
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