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Keywords: Graphics, open source, digital photography
Title: GIMP For Absolute Beginners
Author: Jan Smith and Roman Joost
Verdict: Basic but good for people who really are absolute beginners
In many respects GIMP is one of the flagship products of the open source movement. From its origins back in the middle 1990s, to the present 2.8 release, the software has evolved and expanded much as the open source movement has. It's a core part of most Linux distributions, and is fully multi-platform with versions for Windows, Mac OS X as well as Linux. The functionality of the software has grown too, and it still often touted as a replacement for Adobe's Photoshop - which is certainly not the intention of the core development team.
For all that, like all complex graphics manipulation programs, the new user is bound to find the profusion of menus, toolbars, panes and palettes confusing when first opening the package. It's not simple, that's for sure. While there are plenty of web-based tutorials, there are many people (this reader among them), who find books more useful and so there's a need for some basic introductions to GIMP.
'GIMP for Absolute Beginners' really does mean what it says on the cover - the reader is assumed to have no knowledge at all. Not just no knowledge of GIMP, in the case the authors have assumed pretty much no knowledge of computers at all. While this is fine if you're one of those people unable to install a bit of software downloaded from the web without screenshots to help, for most of us the introductory chapter can safely be skipped.
Assuming the software is installed the book really does focus on helping to orientate the reader to the GIMP workspace. Wisely readers are advised to use Single Window Mode, which simplifies the process of helping readers navigate the complex user interface. Menu items are explained in some detail, and there are plenty of screen shots to help the reader along. The tone is often simplistic (as are the Quick Quizzes that are dotted through the chapters), but the book is easy to read and it's easy to find things when you need them.
Once the software has been introduced and the reader/user comfortable where all the key features of GIMP are, the book moves on to focus on specific tasks: cropping, scaling, changing perspective, red eye removal, sharpening and filtering and so on. The examples are basic but you get a good introduction and it's clear where you can for more information. In many respects this is the best part of the book, the emphasis on actually doing stuff works really well.
Later chapters look at using GIMP for drawing and art, and there's a chapter devoted to installing and setting up a graphics tablet. How useful this is will obviously depend on whether you are interested in GIMP for graphic art or just for image manipulation and editing. For this reader at least some additional emphasis on using GIMP for creating banners, word art and so on would have been more useful than information on free-hand drawing.
Overall this is a useful introduction for those who've never got to grips with GIMP before. While it's kept basic, the core information is put across clearly and with some good examples. More information of working with layers and text would have been good, at least for this reader, but those who want to use GIMP primarily to work with the output of their cameras will find plenty of use from this book.