The Basics, Photos
So you just finished installing the latest version of Ubuntu (or any Linux distribution) on your main machine, and you need to do some simple graphics work. Maybe you need to crop some photos or take out some sensitive information in a screen capture. Maybe you want to create a simple logo for your website or create a freehand drawing. If you open up the Applications menu and click on Graphics you won't find much. In fact, you won't find a tool that would let you do all of the tasks just mentioned.
The next step is to open up the Ubuntu Software Center, or package manager of your favorite Linux, and search for a suitable program. Alternatively, you could do a quick Google search for Linux paint programs. Keep in mind that some applications (including GNOME-Paint) have been compiled for 32-bit Linux (i386) and won't necessarily work if you're running a 64-bit (amd64) installation. In this two-part series, we're going to take a look at the options, starting with simple programs for doing basic tasks and then the more complex tools on par with Gimp.
If you browse around a bit you'll find lots of potential candidates, although we'll narrow the field down a bit to keep the list to a minimum. Choosing a basic, general purpose paint application will probably depend on which desktop you prefer. For the GNOME crowd, there's a new program named Pinta that seems to work quite well. It has all the tools you'd expect in a basic paint app and is under active development.
For KDE fans there are several options. KolourPaint is similar in functionality to Pinta and gives you all the basic graphics editing tools. The user interface closely resembles MS Paint, making it an easy application to pick up for Windows switchers. For the young at heart there's TuxPaint. This program is truly targeted at the kids, offering a clean drawing surface along with basic shape tools and color pickers to facilitate both the simple and the most creative minds.
One tool that bears mention at this point is the Shutter screen-shot application (see the full review of this app we did a few months back). Snapping screen shots is one of those things you can do with a built-in tool, but there is an option offering significantly more functionality. Shutter includes a basic editing capability specifically tailored to tweaking screenshots with things like blurring out sensitive information, adding annotation or call outs, cropping and resizing. It's definitely worth a look if you do much of that.
One pretty common task for even the most casual computer user is photo editing. You take a couple of pictures with your camera (or phone) that need a little cropping or red-eye removal before you can forward them along to the family. Both GNOME and KDE provide default photo viewing and editing tools to handle the most basic tasks.
F-Spot has been the default GNOME photo management app for quite a while. It adds a number of enhancement tools to the basic rotation and cropping functions to change colors and focus. It will also straighten an image using a rotation slider for those slightly off balance shots. Additional functionality comes in the form of add-ins and includes things like export to Flickr, PicasaWeb or SmugMug.
Gwenview is the KDE equivalent of F-Spot. Editing tools include the same basic set as F-Spot including image rotation, resizing, cropping and red-eye reduction. Gwenview does provide a plugin interface although you'll have to do some work to get them installed. Kipi is the KDE Image Plugin Interface and is an active project to develop a common set of plugins for Digikam, KimDaBa, Showimg and Gwenview.