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Open Source…for designers?

We haven’t had a good geek-centric post on here lately. I’m here to remedy that.

Open Source software has always been a basic building block of the web: the Linux operating system, Apache Web Server, PHP scripting language, MySQL database, an assortment of P2P networking applications, email clients, web browsers, etc. Sourceforge has nearly 100,000 open source projects registered—with at least a quarter of them being web-centric.

Yet few front end web designers—let alone web users—really have had any hands-on experience with open source products. For the most part, these products all remain in the background. To build a web site interface, most web designers still depend on the tried and true workhorses: a suite of products from either Adobe or Macromedia.

But that may be slowly changing.

The Firefox web browser is arguably the most successful Open Source project to date in terms of overall public acceptance and awareness. While it is a great browser in terms of its underlying technology and expansive feature set, its biggest asset has been a well designed user interface…something that tends to be an afterthought on most open source products.

But, still, Firefox is mainly for viewing the web…not creating it. Are there open source alternatives to the powerhouse applications such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver? I’d say not yet. But we’re close. I’ve recently downloaded a trio of open source web design and development tools that show some real potential. If you have access to the likes of Photoshop/Fireworks, Illustrator/Freehand or GoLive/Dreamweaver, these aren’t going to replace them…at least not for some time to come. But, if you are on a budget, or simply interested in what’s going on with open source design-centric products, you might want to take a look at this.

The Gimp

We’ll start with the one application that’s been around the longest and—while perhaps not one you’ve tried—likely one you’ve heard of. The Gimp (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a raster image editor. It has long been plagued with a rather arcane user interface and inevitable comparisons to its much more successful commercial sibling Adobe Photoshop. That said, it has matured quite nicely to a respectable version 2.2. And I’m impressed. It’s still not Photoshop (and likely never will be), but it’s close enough that anyone that has used Photoshop can manage their way around The Gimp with ease. And that’s actually saying a lot for an open source user interface.

It sports familiar palettes for drawing tools, layers, channels, paths, brushes and colors. Most of the tools will be familiar to anyone that’s used Macromedia Fireworks, Adobe Photoshop or the like. The icons used throughout are all quite handsome and clear as any commercial application. Like Macromedia Fireworks, this is mainly for web graphics…no CMYK support at this time.

Available for: OSX, Linux, Windows

Inkscape

Inkscape is still an infant. Just barely a year old now and only at version .41, it still has plenty of growing up to do. But it’s already showing signs of becoming a very talented illustration program. Inkscape is an SVG editor. SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic and is a W3C standard. It’s a cousin of Flash, but not yet as popular (though Adobe is on board with it). In terms of traditional illustration packages, it’s akin to Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand. The main difference being that Illustrator and Freehand speak Postscript, while Inkscape speaks SVG XML. But that’s all the geek-speak that no one is really that interested in anyway. How is it as an illustration tool? Well, not bad. It’s not nearly as robust as its commercial brethren, but is still a very capable vector illustration package. All the familiar basic tools are there…shapes, zoom, Bezier curves, freehand drawing, text tools, etc. as well as the important path transformations such as union, divide, intersection, etc. The behavior of the tools may be a tad foreign to users of Illustrator, but anyone that has used Flash to draw will find many similarities (and improvements) with Inkscape. Another anomaly to this application is its extensive documentation and set of detailed tutorials…something that isn’t always a given when it comes to open source projects.

Available for: Linux, Windows

Nvu (pronounced N-view)

Now that we’ve drawn some nice GIFs, edited a few photos, and drew a logo for our website, we need to put them all together with some HTML. When talking of HTML and open source editor, one usually thinks of hard-core hand coders launching their text editor from a few keystrokes from the command line with never a need to touch their mouse. Not exactly user friendly for those coming from the world of Dreamweaver or GoLive. Nvu is an attempt to give those folks an open source option. Nvu is a true WYSIWY(almost)G HTML editor. It’s based off of the Mozilla Composer product (who’s lead developer now works for Linspire…the company backing this open source product). Like Dreamweaver, you can edit HTML in code view or WYSIWYG mode. It includes a built in FTP tool and even a spell checker. Its CSS editor is commendable as well. The only major con to Nvu is that, at least for now, it’s strictly an HTML editor. No PHP or ASP support at this time.

Available for: OSX, Linux, Windows

I doubt any of the above applications are going to be replacing a professional web designer’s shelf full of Adobe and Macromedia products anytime soon. However, one could certainly build a respectable web site if only given those tools. I’m sticking with my Mac and the Macromedia Suite, but my PC now has a nice, acceptable set of tools to get me by when I need them. And given that these applications are many versions behind their commercial relatives, it looks like they will mature quite nicely over the next few years.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2282 FILED UNDER Hardware/Software
PUBLISHED ON Apr.14.2005 BY darrel
WITH 36 COMMENTS
Comments
mahalie’s comment is:

Thanks for the geek speak! Although I'm not quite a Creative Commons nazi, er, Commie...I'm a huge fan of the 'open source movement'. Not because of the free thing, but because of the humanity of it. There exists a real opportunity to create streamlined software thanks to transparent source that is accessible (therefore improvable) by anyone. I also think that in this age of rapidly morphing technology, where every month some new thing comes out that revolutionizes the way we do x, it's a matter of improving the human condition to share information openly. Forward innovation, I say!

There are perfectly logical arguments to closed source commercial apps - especially Adobe's products which require a significant amount of programming and innovation and are truly major works of intellectual property.

On another note, an HTML editor I adore is HTML-kit. It has a huge user community and plug-in programmability much like Firefox. And speaking of extensibility and openness of source - WordPress absolutely makes me swoon!

On Apr.14.2005 at 01:20 AM
Patrick C’s comment is:

Not to be a jerk...but the question that always comes to my mind with this stuff is why bother? So you can feel "good" for supporting an open-source app?

I don't have the time to go searching through all these apps and learn how to use them only to find out that they are "respectable," "still not photoshop," "not nearly as robust," "still very capable," have "no PHP or ASP support at this time." Sounds like a lot of excuses for useless software to me.

You can read John Gruber's thoughts on the basic problem of open source software here:

Daring Fireball

Basically, good software takes time and skill and thus money. There's little money in open source software. So you get what you pay for.

Having said that, I am an avid supported of smaller software companies that produce great software and charge for it (though not much). Panic (I use their FTP programme Transmit), for example, or skEdit (a great HTML editor that creams Dreamweaver and BBEdit—IMO).

On Apr.14.2005 at 08:43 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Sounds like a lot of excuses for useless software to me.

That's being a bit unfair to the hard working folks that work on these projects. Photoshop 1 compared to Photoshop 8 would generate the same type of review. ;o)

Remember, not everyone earns a full time living designing web pages and justifies the price tag for a suite of professional commercial applications. Also, a little competition never hurt. Personally, I've been quite frustrated with the lack of quality control in the last couple of Macromedia releases.

Basically, good software takes time and skill and thus money.

That's pretty much a myth that has already been proven as such by the open source community. Apache, Firefox, MySQL...these are all top-notch software applications that rival (or surpass) any commercial application. Admittedly, the OS community has been lacking when it game to desktop user interfaces. But that appears to be changing. Hence this post. ;o)

There's little money in open source software.

Red Hat, Linspire, IBM, Apple...they may all disagree a bit.

And I love John Gruber, but c'mon...he's a pundit (like any of us are when we get a blog in our hands) doing what he does best. ;o)

On Apr.14.2005 at 09:10 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

That's pretty much a myth

...er...a myth that it requires money. I should have clarified that. Good software certainly needs time and skill.

On Apr.14.2005 at 09:11 AM
Patrick C’s comment is:

That's pretty much a myth that has already been proven as such by the open source community. Apache, Firefox, MySQL...these are all top-notch software applications that rival (or surpass) any commercial application

Except for Opera there is no real commercial browser (by which I mean they're all free). Not to take anything away from Firefox...but I contest that it is a slight anomoly. As for Apache and MySQL...well they're not exactly Photoshop or Illustrator are they? You're comparing apples and oranges here. Show me an open source piece of software that rivals Photoshop or Illustrator and I'll shut up. My guess is that I'll be talking for a long time to come because open source will have a difficult time producing something like that. Furthermore, you've only listed three pieces of software (altough I realize there are more). Three successes in a world of thousands of apps hardly proves the model works.

Red Hat, Linspire, IBM, Apple...they may all disagree a bit.

Here you're helping prove my point (and Gruber's). These companies take open source, alter them, package them and sell them. Red Hat is no longer true open source. What makes Red Hat desirable over the true open source version are all the things that aren't in the open source version (does that make sense?). What I'm trying to say is that Red Hat succeeds by taking open source and adding to it that which is required by many users to make the software usefull and that takes money. Money the stricly open source community doesn't have.

Remember, not everyone earns a full time living designing web pages and justifies the price tag for a suite of professional commercial applications

And these people (the ones making use of the Photoshop Elements that came with their $100 scanner) are the ones who will be searching out open source software!??! Not bloody likely.

On Apr.14.2005 at 09:45 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Well, Patrick, you disagree. That's cool.

On Apr.14.2005 at 09:59 AM
Peter Flaschner’s comment is:

Perhaps open source's strength lays not in competing with the large, established programs, but in emerging areas, where the 'catch-up curve' isn't so great. A couple of examples include textpattern, phpBB, and oscommerce. Allof these products rival their competition on a feature for feature comparison, are easy for non-technical users to setup, and have active support networks.

On Apr.14.2005 at 10:55 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Patrick has valid points, but he's writing off an emerging niche before it's really gotten anywhere. I just think it's too early to write off this niche category just because one doesn't feel the year-old 0.x release of an OS product isn't on par with a decade-old 10.x release of a commercial application.

On Apr.14.2005 at 11:27 AM
marian’s comment is:

Thanks for this post. I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that these smaller programming projects (often Open Source) act a bit like politics and commerce. Basically if you just say "We've got Photoshop/WalMart/Bush, and they are behemoths, why bother trying to start over?" you give them ultimate power, and nothing ever changes. In fact it gets worse.

Take Quark for instance; those bastards were (and perhaps still are) the worst, most irresponsive, arrogant pricks. Their customer service was non-existent, and they just rode on the fact that they were the industry standard for years. OK, so InDesign came from Adobe, but it could have come from a small OpenSource product.

Am i not wrong in thinking that this influences the big guys, causing improvements and change in the behemoth software? I don't deal with Macromedia, but the people I know who do speak of that same lack of service and ... um ... giving a shit, that is familiar from my Quark days.

Open Source software is built by people who use the software and are continually thinking of ways to improve it. Done, I presume, in a collective "hive" like way, it eliminates the need for gobs of cash for a risky startup. And if it gives tools to people who need it; and maybe incites change in the way we all work, i say more power to 'em.

On Apr.14.2005 at 11:27 AM
Patrick C’s comment is:

Actually, I'm not writing off open source. I believe a lot of good does come from it either directly or indirectly (Firefox is a great example). I'm simply saying that the apps required for the design work I do (and I use all the usual suspects) are unlikely to be replaced anytime soon by viable open source versions. That's the nature of the market and the types of apps we require.

I would also argue that open source is not an "emerging niche"—it's been around since the beginning of computing in one way or another. The fact that all these years have passed and we're still not using too many open source apps should say something.

OK, so InDesign came from Adobe, but it could have come from a small OpenSource product.

I don't think it could have and that's Gruber's argument as well. There's no way (in the current market) that an open source project could have taken on Quark. And you probably wouldn't have wanted it too either. Can you image the headaches of an open source layout programme when it came time to talk to different printers? I don't even want to go there.

And if customer support is what you crave...then don't bother with open source because, by default, there is absolutely no customer service. Only forums and newsgroups where you have to go to find what you're looking for.

On Apr.14.2005 at 11:50 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Patrick:

When I was speaking of 'niche' it wasn't Open Source in general, but specifically the niche area within the OS arena of GUI-based web design desktop applications.

In that context, I think we're in complete agreement.

There's no way (in the current market) that an open source project could have taken on Quark.

I think it could have. The big catch, of course, is that few open source software developers really have any interest in that subset of the market...as few open source developers use print-based page layout applications. ;o)

And if customer support is what you crave...then don't bother with open source because, by default, there is absolutely no customer service. Only forums and newsgroups where you have to go to find what you're looking for.

Well there is support. IBM, Redhat, etc...they'll all sell you support packages just as any commercial vendor will.

Also, I find user-to-user forums, newsgroups, wikis and the such typically MUCH better at supporting users than commercial software vendors. Sadly, 'customer support' isn't really a term used much in the commercial software space these days either. ;o)

On Apr.14.2005 at 12:21 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Basically, good software takes time and skill

Amen.

open source software isn't a solution for every task - especially in the design world, however it does and has provided adequate solutions when needed (i.e. the gimp image editor which I used for a year at amazon when working on their unix based intranet).

In many areas open source has been the cutting edge. Here we are not only talking Unix, Apache, PHP, SVG, SMIL and other programming languages, but also browsers mentioned and not (i.e. Camino on mac) as well as a number of usefull applications for mac, windows and linux based operating sytems.

These apps may not be huge players in a designers daily workflow, but nonetheless usefull. While I could use up space here to mention several, a quick visit to Version Tracker will find freeware Text editors, HTML compilers, system maintenance applications, project management, sheduling apps, and so forth. A couple grand for Clients and Profits? Check out the shareware apps before shelling out that kinda of money for non-design or production needs.

I for one am happy to have dedicated software developers collaborating and making their software available for free or at low cost for shareware (yes, transmit is a great app: use it daily and it's light years better than Fetch.

Except for Opera there is no real commercial browser Omniweb on the mac takes safari's rendering engine for speed and adds tremedous features. At 29 USD it's a good investment for heavy web users. It was, the 1st viable alternative to Explorer on Mac OS X.

On Apr.14.2005 at 06:06 PM
marian’s comment is:

nd if customer support is what you crave...then don't bother with open source because, by default, there is absolutely no customer service.

basically, i'm not saying that opensource software can necessarily take over from a program like Quark, but i do think they can give the big guys a run for their money ... and they can be a very true indicator that something else is wanted or needed. For instance, 5 years ago you could have begged for organic produce from Safeway until you were blue in the face, but all it takes is a few small stores thriving on organics, and they wake up and say "oh, look, i guess there really is a need/market for this after all."

Politics in Canada works this way as well. The 3rd party may never get into power, but by winning seats and then hassling the government as the opposition party, they do have a very real effect of change.

Without those small "grass roots" forms of opposition, no change is ever made ... or it's made very slowly. so the opensource software may not necesarily replace the big guys (or it may!) but it's an indicator of dissatisfaction.

i think.

On Apr.14.2005 at 07:32 PM
Fabio Maciel’s comment is:

Also Mambo!

The most flexible content management system for webdesigners.

Greetings from Brazil.

On Apr.14.2005 at 09:56 PM
tuan’s comment is:

they are not enough designers in the open source movement.

but slowly and surely, more and more designer/programmer aware individuals are being produced by society and then it will be only a matter of time.

treehouse project by the aesthetics + computation group

(guess who just attended a john maeda lecture?)

On Apr.15.2005 at 04:43 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Tuan:

Your link is broken. Here's a fixed one: http://acg.media.mit.edu/projects/treehouse/

That is an interesting project!

Since you brought up univeristy sponserd OS software, I'll add one more item to the Open Source web designer's toolkit:

Denim

On Apr.15.2005 at 10:03 AM
Feaverish’s comment is:

My major problem with open-source software is the lack of documentation and support, and the generally poor "finish" of the apps. As a Mac user, I'm used to software looking and working a certain way, and open-source software usually falls short. Like someone mentioned above, there are very cheap or free programs from small, quality Mac software companies like Panic and Freshly Squeezed Software that are fully supported and documented, and that fit perfectly into the Mac aesthetic.

Yes, I could choose from a dozen open-sourced FTP apps, and they'd all get the job done. But I'd much rather spend the $30 and get the beautiful and incomparable Transmit. It installs easily, I don't have to run any alternative desktop environments, it's stable, it's beautiful, and if I do have a problem with it, support (right from the developer) is just an email away — no more searching through hundreds of pages of forums to find the answer to my problem. For something I'm going to use every single day, this is worth $30.

It feels good supporting open-source projects, but it feels just as good to give money to dedicated programmers who are turning out quality products full time (not in their spare time).

On Apr.15.2005 at 01:13 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

is the lack of documentation and support

I agree. That said, that's increasingly becoming a problem with commercial software.

On Apr.15.2005 at 02:04 PM
TJ’s comment is:


Open source is not just for technical stuff. You could 'open source' designs and release the files for a great design after you have finished with it so others can learn from it and use it. that makes it educative and contributes to a commons. Getting hung up on whether open source will make an illustrator killer is a non-argument.

There are some good articles about this such as

Berry, D. M., & McCallion, M. (2005). Copyleft and Copyright: New Debates About the Ownership of Ideas. Eye: The International Review of Graphic Design, 14, 74-75.

Berry, D. M., & Moss, G. (2005). The Libre Culture Manifesto. Retrieved 1/2/2005, from http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/free_issues/issue_02/libre_manifesto/

Lessig, L. (2004). Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Allen Lane.

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2001). Copyrights and copywrongs : the rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity. New York ; London: New York University Press.

On Apr.16.2005 at 06:21 AM
DutchKid’s comment is:

I don't deal with Macromedia, but the people I know who do speak of that same lack of service and ... um ... giving a shit, that is familiar from my Quark days.

Have you guys heard the news that Adobe is taking over Macromedia?

Am I the only one to think this is bad news, competition-wise?

On Apr.18.2005 at 04:55 AM
DutchKid’s comment is:

Oops... here's that link again, sorry:

http://www.macromedia.com/macromedia/proom/pr/2005/adobe_macromedia.html

On Apr.18.2005 at 04:58 AM
Frank McClung’s comment is:

Great article. I wonder though if design could take a nodd from the whole open source concept and produce better work through open source design?

On Apr.18.2005 at 06:03 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Dutch...just say the news this morning. Makes the open source topic that much more applicable, methinks.

It sounds like the Adobe takeover was merely a move to prevent a MS takeover. I would have actually prefered MS take them over, to retain at least some competition. With Adobe taking over, it only means a elimination of half the product line.

Looks like the open source apps above may get a boost of support now. ;o)

On Apr.18.2005 at 08:29 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

TJ: Great set of article recommendations! Thanks.

The Free Software Magazine's Libre Manifesto is chilling in it's implications.

When, as it states, Big Media says it's the True Friend of Creativity, I have a very bad feeling about that. One of those Winston Smith moments...

On Apr.18.2005 at 11:16 AM
gregor’s comment is:

Just saw the news as well....

The Macromedia acquisition likely means the death of dreamweaver and freehand. Dunno if I shed any tears on the part of either given their lackluster "improvements" in MX and MX 2004. Hopefully it will mean a better implementation of the Opera renedering engine for Flash on the Mac.

The long rumored MS acquisition of Macromedia would have been better for keeping innovation going (read pre-Indesign Quark at least), but platform issues would have been rampant.

Hopefully some young upstarts in the open source community will make headway as a result of this.

On Apr.18.2005 at 07:21 PM
TJ’s comment is:

Sorry it wasn't a link before, glad the references are useful:

Here is the easy click link for the Libre Culture Manifesto:

Libre Culture Manifesto

and another interesting article...

Against Intellectual Property

On Apr.19.2005 at 09:24 AM
Vanessa’s comment is:

For Desktop Publishing, there is an open source application available: Scribus.While not equal to Adobe inDesign (mainly font issues and color management)it's making great improvements.

Available on Linux, OSX (via Fink), Windows (via Cygwin)

On Apr.22.2005 at 11:09 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Vanessa:

Thanks for that link! Looks nice.

-Darrel

On Apr.22.2005 at 01:41 PM
Sharlene’s comment is:

I found this post after doing a search for an open source illustration program.

It's kind of interesting to read the comments above now -- a year and a half later -- after the recent releases of Ubuntu / Kubuntu (upgrades) and Windows Vista.

I switched to open source about a year ago and have never looked back. I would even say that the software I use now is much easier to use and more user friendly then the applications I used when I was running XP. In 2004 and 2005 I wouldn't have said that.

On Dec.15.2006 at 12:54 PM
mike warren’s comment is:

Without open-source/free-software, the Web wouldn't be running: routers, firewalls, Web servers, DNS, etcetera etcetera all run mostly free or open-source software.

It's true that a lot of the "desktop" apps aren't quite "there" yet for many people -- and if you don't care about personal freedom and just want "features" then using Photoshop, Windows or whatever is fine, but all the comments about "no good opensource 'cause there's no money in it" are bunk. There's lots of trusted, industrial-strength opensource software out there running stuff you depend on (e.g. Mac OS X's underlying OS, Apache webserver, all the root DNS servers, Firefox/Mozilla, GNU/Linux, OpenSolaris, the TCP/IP stack in Windows [came from FreeBSD], your wireless router likely runs BSD or Linux, etc.)

On May.21.2007 at 02:52 PM
nic’s comment is:

My mac fell ill and thanks to open source I have been able to resuscitate a deadbeat laptop using ubuntu-linux. Hence: / inkscape/ gimp/ wordit/ joy> in time for this month. It's cool to know that you don't owe your soul to a single source. When I get back on my mac [or come up with the money to get a new one it seems], I will for sure return to the usual for complex stuff. This was a healthy experience though. Sure; formatting, croping and resizing to a precise number of pixels was a pain at the gimp; Later I noticed that the thinking was different. No complaints about it; It gives you like, new insights on the reality of the -digital medium- that you are using. Having to think in different ways is always good [for design]. I intend to use gimp and inkscape for wordit and non paid stuff, just to have a second language available.

On May.24.2007 at 10:15 AM
Duncan’s comment is:

I used photoshop for years, then one day just switched to GIMP. Honestly, I don't know why people make a fuss about the differences. Took a few days to get used to it, and that's that.

OK, I do miss being able to record and re-run history/actions (you can script them, but this is slightly more work) ...but I love being able to load a copy of GIMP/Inkscape on every single workstation without worrying about the cost or restrictions.

On Jul.25.2007 at 10:54 PM
tom gleason ’s comment is:

and of course, true designers will prefer open source anyway, since Design can only happen in a free and undistorted public sphere.

As a neomodernist, after learning about Linux, I found the switch to be a very natural and empowering one.

Also be sure to check out Blender, which is a very exciting and useful software. I use PCLinuxOS, which is the most user-friendly.

On Jul.30.2007 at 10:49 PM
Jeff’s comment is:

The folks making the disparaging remarks about Open Source software are missing (or, in many cases, avoiding) a key point. The creators of Open Source are in it for the money as well.

The creators, and primary maintainers, of POPULAR Open Source projects are well-paid individuals. The revenue simply arises because the project exists not because people pay for the software.

Over the long-term which would you prefer, 1) a few billion people that might become users of your creation or a few million people that might be able to afford your creation?

Bill Gates is leaving the company at just the right time. Various Open Source versions of Linux are getting stronger. Hardware companies are beginning to offer Linux as an option. The Open Source applications similar to the expensive Microsoft office applications are already as capable and have been for years. Those applications will be used on those now more friendly desktop Linux versions.

On the software tools side of the equation, PHP and MySQL and similar languages and database management systems are just as capable as expensive Microsoft offerings. I'm still not convinced that Java is the way to go. Perhaps the strength of Sun financially has lead to software bloat (and obsfucation) similar to Microsoft software.

But Adobe and Macromedia take the cake as far as software costs are concerned. GIMP is perhaps the only Open Source tool so far created where the potential size of the user community has attracted sufficient attention to justify a quality product offering. GIMP has gotten better and will probably soon satisfy the majority of needs previously only addressed by Photoshop.

We will have to wait and see whether Inkscape and Nvu or different Open Source projects will remain viable. It will simply depend upon whether the creators, and primary maintainers, can make a good living because their Open Source projects are successful.

It's all about the money and has zero to do with socialistic concerns whatsoever.

On Aug.15.2007 at 10:53 PM
Josh Nekrep’s comment is:

I'm a little late to the party, but this was a good article and I thought I'd drop my relatively non-geek-esque opinion into the mix.

I operate a small business and have need for the typical business-type applications, as well as some "light duty" design tools. I have used the typical Adobe applications for years, and am pretty comfortable with them. None the less, in my current line of work, my needs are not nearly as "robust" as those applications deliver, so I recently decided to embark on a bit of an experiment. I wanted to see if I could function comfortably in my day to day business life using nothing but opensource applications, excepting the applications that came standard on my MacBook Pro. I do most of my work from the Mac laptop, and run a webserver running Ubuntu that, again, is under a fairly light load.

So far, I'd have to say my experiment has gone smashingly. I've encountered minor hiccups with OpenOffice, but nothing that has either shut me down or caused me to go into a tailspin of geeking-out to fix. For my design needs, I've found GimpShop and NVU to work brilliantly (granted, I've not had any need for PHP or ASP support, and I could see that being a problem if I did). Inkscape does the trick for the little bit of vector-based imaging I need to do.

And bingo... I'm running my small business quite efficiently using nothing but open source software. Granted, as I said, my needs are fairly light duty. But I suspect that I'm just the type of person for whom open source software is perfect. I'm not an uber-geek by any means, but I can work my way through most anything I've needed to do, and I am friendly enough with a few genuine uber-geeks to pick up the slack when I've got troubles that I can't solve with some simple searching of a support forum somewhere.

There is the odd time when I miss the beauty of InDesign, but not enough to warrant shelling out the dough for it.

Despite the nay-sayers, I'd have to say that, for me - at least at this moment - it's open source FTW.

-j

On Aug.21.2007 at 08:12 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

My, that was an exciting entry. If you'r bored, dude, go do laundry....


I'm sorry for adding another non sequitor to this thread, but this one is actually important:

The orphan works bill is before congress. It's implementation is TOXIC to a segment of the creative team you work with - photographers and illustrators.
In the end - if stock image banks control images, you designers will lose too. It may seem unimportant now, but in the future you'll have a limited source for images.

Think of it: we are oftentimes the raw source of some of your best design work. We live to express these new images, but the corporations want to destroy our livelihood with infringement on our intellectual property. In other words, they want to steal our images and resell them without us.

Are you people gonna stand for this? Are you gonna help us defeat this legislation? Beleive me: it's not an idle abstract concept. It's our careers and our future on the line.

Here is the newest post from the Illustrators partnership. Please, read it and then contact your congressmen. It's numbers of calls that will make an impact against this legislation. And we need you to help.

I'm asking every designer here to take a moment and failiarize themselves with this bill and then contact their legislator and express solidarity with your friends in illustration and photography. it's as simple as that.

FROM THE ILLUSTRATORS’ PARTNERSHIP

JUNE 2, 2008 An Orphan Works Update
Backers of the House version of the Orphan Works bill are now asking artists and photographers to oppose the Senate bill unless it’s amended to contain at least the “minimum provisions” that appear in the House version.

Although they don’t say so, opposing the Senate bill in this manner is a vote FOR the House bill.

We’ve been asked to explain why:
The Senate bill is similar to the bill we opposed in 2006. The House bill (H.R. 5889) is the result of a year and a half of closed door negotiations between Congress and representatives and lobbyists for special interest groups. These groups have agreed to either endorse the House bill or remain neutral to insure its passage.

The House bill endorses the concept of coerced “voluntary” registration with commercial databases and seeks to make these databases infringer-friendly.

– It would require infringers to file a simple “notice of use” before they infringe.

– It calls for an archive of the notices to be maintained by the Copyright Office or an approved third party.

Why do backers of the House bill want these databases to be infringer-friendly?
Because to thrive, commercial databases (registries) will have to do a robust business in rights-clearing and orphan certification. That means encouraging infringers to infringe.

How will these registries work? No details have been given, but experience with image banks suggests the following:

For unregistered work: infringers will use the registries to identify pictures that aren’t registered. Infringers will probably pay the registry a search fee, then use or market the “orphans” like royalty-free art.

For registered work: the registries will act as a kind of stock house: Users will go to them for one-stop shopping to clear rights to your pictures. The registry will probably charge you a commission when they do.

In other words, urging Congress to pass the House bill makes very little sense to us unless your business or organization expects to become a commercial registry. We believe the only way to oppose these bills is to oppose them both.

If you agree, now’s the time to write Congress or write again.

You can urge Congress to oppose these bills by linking here to a special letter.
Tell Your Senators and Representatives to Oppose the Orphan Works Act at:
http://capwiz.com/illustratorspartnership/issues/alert/?alertid=11442621

Don't Let Congress Orphan Your Work

thank you for participating.

On Jun.02.2008 at 08:50 PM