Linux Graphics Tools
One of the great features of Linux, (truth be told there are too many to mention), is the vast wealth of graphics programs available, all of course free and open source. It’s nearly impossible to say that something can’t be done in Linux. Here, we present some of the more popular graphics programs that are included with many distros. Any app that you see here and wish to add, simply go to your package manager and search for the name of the program and request for it to be installed.
If you are a graphics professional, or looking to create a media work environment, then you may wish to have a look at the ArtistX Distro (see our review), which includes over 2,500 media applications (that’s two thousand five hundred!).
Review & Screenshots of popular graphics tools
Most of the apps here are managed in the KDE repository, however many of them work in Gnome and other desktop environments, or there is a Gnome equivalent.
Xsane – Scanning http://www.sane-project.org/
xsane (Scanner Access Now Easy) is a flatbed scanner application. You can preview and save individual scans as images as a standalone command line program, or combined with GIMP, the popular image program (reviewed below). We recommend using Xsane with Gimp. You invoke the scanner from Gimp and manage the entire scanning process and export through Gimp. There’s a list of scanners supported on the Sane website. Many (most) of the big names are there. Here’s one more reason to toss Windows and the clunky proprietary software that came with your scanner.
XDVI – KDVI – GDVI DVI Viewers
KDVI is the KDE version of a DVI preview tool. This program displays DVI files which are produced by the TeX typesetting system. If you have no idea what the TeX typesetting system is (this author didn’t…), then go to the homepage of the TeX users group for a nice introduction.
KFaxView (using kviewshell)
View your saved faxes here.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) http://www.gimp.org
Not enough can be written on the greatness of GIMP. Here’s one of the great Open Source programs of all time. Gimp is everything a graphics editing tool should be. It rivals Adobe’s Photoshop in many regards, and surpasses it in speed and ease of use in others. (By the way, there is a Windows version of Gimp as well – if you are still on Windows, give it a try).
There is a large number of plugins and tools that work well with Gimp and add to its feature set. There is also a seemlingly unending number of effects that can be applied to your image. One element that may take time for you to get used to is the way the program opens and how it is managed on your desktop. The side panels, toolbars, and the image(s) itself each open in independent windows that float on your desktop. That is a departure from what you’re probably used to from Photoshop and other Windows stanards. Once you’ve gotten used to this interface, you may find it even better! (Quick tip – With the image displaying on your desktop, hit the tab bar to make the other floating elements visible).
Quick access to your images. Nothing fancy here.
View your PDF files here.
This tool lets you view PDF and Postscript files
Kolourpaint – Paint Program
A Nice KDE paint program. The screenshot shows that it’s simple by useful for those quick paint jobs.
Krita – paint and image editing
Krita is similar to GIMP, but not as popular. I enjoyed using this tool as well, and the interface is quite simple and intuitive. I like that the panels and image are bound together, like in Photoshop, and unlike GIMP where each element is floating freely on the desktop. If you are looking for a simple and powerful graphics and image editing tool, Krita is a great choice.
KPovmodeler – Povray modeler
Don’t ask me what this does, I have no idea!
Kooka – scan and OCR http://kooka.kde.org/
Kooka is the nickname for our daughter, and it’s also an easy to use and very powerful OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and Scanning program. This standalone tool will enable you to scan an image and convert it to a text file. I like the interface to this app.
The venerable KDE version of snapshot. This is a very useful tool, especially to blog writers (hey, that’s me) who like to take snapshots of their desktop all day. The KDE version is great. It also remains active even after the snapshot has been saved – the Gnome version annoyingly closes after each use.
Sure, you can choose colors in Gimp, but why have a big bulky program open if you all you need to find a color? This tool is a great go-tool utility to have available in your arsenal of desktop goodies.
Kcoloredit is a KDE Color Palette Editor. It can be used for editing color palettes (which can also be used in GIMP) and for color choosing – similar to KColorChooser above.
Here’s a nice icon editing tool. As seen in the screenshot, you can work pixel by pixel on creating and editing program icons.
kruler – screen ruler
Simple and handy ruler tool for measuring pixels on your screen. This is a nice “pocket app” to have at your disposal.
Ksvg is a KDE plugin to enable viewing SVG (Scalable vector graphics) files on your computer. In the example above, you can see an SVG file opened in Konquerer.
Here’s KDE’s simple file viewer. It should be preinstalled on your Linux distro.
Cheese (as in “smile”, not the curding of milk)
Take photos using your webcam. I had this guy snapping dozens of photos of the kids with my HP Laptop. It’s a lot of fun. You get to see yourself in the preview window before hitting the – Take a photo – button.
Gwenview is a sleeper. This is a great KDE image viewing tool that everyone loves, but noone talks about. The preview screen is great.
Inkscape is a great SVG compliant vector graphics drawing tool. It’s light and works well. It seems to have just the right amount of tools to allow you to do your work freely. Yet, it’s not weighted down with add-ons and bulky plugins. Who needs Adobe Illustrator? Here’s another amazing open source tool. Viva la difference!