Friday, March 25, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC - Inkscape

At this point, the frenzy of installing new applications and programs is slowing.  The machine is beginning to get more complete, but there will be other tweaks down the road.

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Today I am beginning the install of Inkscape.

I would be willing to bet that most of my regular and irregular readers won't ever need this program.  I do.... but why?

Gimp will allow you to take a picture and type graffiti all over it to give your message.  Then typically you will save your new artwork as a JPG.  When you do, take a nice close look at the text.  It won't be crisp with clean lines.   There are times that you need that.  I have been "watermarking" my pictures that I put on the blog for quite a while now simply because... they're mine.  I'd rather not stumble across a website using my pictures because Cease and Desist orders can get expensive and all the content that I put on the blog is my own, unless expressly said otherwise.  Or perhaps I forgot.  I've only grabbed other people's pictures once in a while, maybe 5 postings in all the time I have had the blog.  Plenty of Velma Posts but that's a different story.

So in your JPG, if you "zoom in" to an area you notice things get fuzzy very quickly.  Having your text get fuzzy makes for sloppy work.  It isn't the fault of Gimp, but the fault of the way a "raster image editor" works.  They all do that.

Inkscape is a "Vector Graphics Editor".  It saves things as points in an array... yeah I know "Science Content" as they say on Mythbusters.   Look at the picture on your monitor very closely, it's made of a lot of dots.  Put one finger at the top of the monitor, another one at the bottom.  You have just drawn a Vector.  That basically is what Inkscape does - sets out a lot of points and says what will connect them.   It makes for a very sharp picture.  Read this link if you're interested in a bit more deep detail. 

Inkscape also implies that it is "Alpha" or "Beta" software.  This means it is a work in progress.  If you break it, go back to Inkscape.  They may have a fix already or they may not know about it so you can report the problem and help them out.  I use Inkscape fairly heavily and I've been happy with the results.  The program may be rare, but it isn't a raw burger so to speak...

So how do we get it installed?

1) Surf and see if you really need it.  I do, but you probably won't.  I'm finding it's simplicity makes it very easy to use to get the kind of results I want.

2) In the upper right corner there is a "Download Now" link.  That is to the latest version, but this link will put you on the Download page for all versions.  It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and is probably available for more platforms than you will ever want to look at.  You most likely will want "Windows - Installer" which you will find under Official Release Packages.

3) Clicking on the link sends you to the Sourceforge download page and will start the download for you.  Save the file.  You will want to make a note of where it puts the file because I doubt you will have "C:\Users\Bill\Downloads" on your PC.  When complete, start the program.

4)  It will ask you to "Please Select a Language" and welcome you to the Setup Wizard.  Click next when you get there.

5)  You will click Next once you get to the GPL General Public License, and then you will be presented with a list of choices of features.  The only feature you may want to look into is whether you need an alternate language.  I did not need any extra features, so I clicked "Next".

6) Inkscape will then ask where to install it, and it does not have to be in the Program Files group, but you will most likely want to let it go there by clicking "Install".  It then will write the program out to the hard drive.  My installer ran almost to the end and inexplicably hung there for a while.  After it "woke up" eventually it came to say "Completed" and the Next button lit up.  It literally fell asleep 3 or 4 times waiting on background installs of subsystems.

7)  Click Finish and it will launch Inkscape.

Inkscape will present you with a window for "New Document 1".  It is here that you can build your projects by adding layers.   A picture can be layer 1 to use as the background, and you can add other pictures or objects by drawing them onto the page.  Basically you can save the file as a .SVG file, and export as a bitmap your project to show it to everyone on the web.  That's the very basic view on how to do things, you're going to want to play around with the program.  I go in and change the size of the document, add graphics, move things around and add text.   All of this can be done easily and sounds much more difficult than it actually is.

You have control over all the bits and pieces that you are adding to the project.   If you think of the project as a Collage, you're going to have a very good idea of how this all will work.

21st century scissors and magazine articles in elementary school art class is a good metaphor.

Another very complex program, and all Free and Open Source Software just like almost everything I run here.

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