Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Gnu Image Manipulation Program (The GIMP) a Photoshop Alternative


Today we'll take a look at alternatives to Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is a great program for retouching photos and creating images. Problem is the cost is prohibitively high for teachers who want to teach students the skill of digital image creation/manipulation. Well, (F)ree (L)ibre (O)pen (S)ource (S)oftware to the rescue.

In the area of image manipulation, there are a few options worth mentioning. Applications like mtPaint (, Tux Paint (, grafx2 ( and imagemagick ( all provide good working alternatives to Photoshop. However, I am of the opinion that the best of breed FLOSS image manipulation application available is the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, more commonly referred to as the GIMP (

Note: There is a varient of the GIMP called Gimpshop (, which attempts to modify the GIMP in order to create a user experience that “looks and feels” like Photoshop. I think this is one of the benefits of FLOSS to take an existing application and modify it as you see fit. However the GIMP as a project is much more mature and the documentation and available support materials available incline me to support it, rather than the variant Gimpshop. But hey, try both and see what YOU like.

The following is a brief comparison of the Photoshop and the GIMP.

Photoshop                                                                  GIMP

Version 6 Version 2.7.3
Standalone application Standalone application
Professional Image Editor Professional Image Editor
  • Color Managed Printing
  • Composite Imaging
  • EXIF / IPTC / Metadata
  • Filters & Effects
  • HDR
  • Image Organization
  • Lens Correction
  • Noise Reduction
  • Non-Destructive Editing (layers)
  • Noise Reduction
  • Painting
  • Panorama Stitching
  • Plug-in Compatible
  • Raw File Conversion
  • Retouching / Photo Manipulation
  • Sideshow
  • Video File Support
  • Web Gallery
  • Color Managed Printing
  • Composite Imaging
  • EXIF / IPTC / Metadata
  • Filters & Effects
  • HDR
  • Image Organization
  • Lens Correction
  • Noise Reduction
  • Non-Destructive Editing (layers)
  • Painting
  • Panorama Stitching
  • Plug-in Compatible
  • Raw File Conversion
  • Retouching / Photo Manipulation
  • Slideshow
  • Video File Support
  • Web Gallery
(Comparison data found here. Search done on 3/12/15).

On the surface, the tools are similar. Bear in mind that Photoshop is a commercial tool and is the industry standard when it comes to photo manipulation software. One major feature where Photoshop sets the standard is in color management. Photoshop use CYMK color model which is a subtractive color model, used in color printing. CMYK refers to the four colors of inks used to produce different colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and the “k” represents black. Gimp uses RGB (red, green and blue) to produce colors. The RGB standard isn’t as precise as CMYK for consistent color rendering.

Further, Photoshop has many more third party tools that make the application much more advantageous to professionals in the imaging industry. However, the GIMP is an excellent tool for student to learn image creation and manipulation as well as a great alternative to small companies that offer a limited scope of services and or who are unable to afford more expensive software.

It is important to note that within any industry there are tiers of products and services that can be addressed in a variety of ways. I believe that depending on the need, the GIMP along with other FLOSS tools such as Blender (animation tool) and Scribus (layout tool) provide students with the opportunity to develop transferable skills that are marketable. Additionally, small businesses can produce and provide compelling products and services that can compete within certain segments of the market with FLOSS tools.

Another thing to consider is that textbooks for Photoshop can be pricey. Imagine having to purchase the software to setup a digital photo manipulation course and the course materials for say a class of 20 students. See the comparison of cost below:

                   GIMP                  GIMP                   Photoshop                  Photoshop
                   software             textbook             software                      textbook

per           Free                    Free (PDF)           $699.95 or $20/per      $30 (average cost)

person                                                                  month           

x20 people

in a class

Total           Free                     Free                     $13999 or $400/per     $600 for textbook


The costs alone should be compelling enough for one to at least consider the alternatives to Photoshop. Now I know some will say that it is important that students need to use industry standard software while learning and developing skills. But I would argue that such logic makes about as much sense as to suggest that a student taking an automotive course needs to use industry standard tools like Snap On or KMC in order to be real marketable. The tool isn’t nearly as important as one's work-flow, familiarity with the tool(s), one work ethic and his/her creative. If one is lacking in these areas, the tool wont conceal that. One can do crappy work with industry standard tools, just as likely as one can do outstanding work with limited but functional tools, but I'm just sayin . . .

GIMP Website here

GIMP Download here

GIMP Documentation here

GIMP Training Videos here

Those are my thoughts, what are yours.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PSPP a SPSS clone

Today’s software review PSPP, an SPSS clone.

PSPP is a statistical software package that offers compatibility with SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). SPSS is a well known statistical software package that is used in junior college stats classes, for econ majors in college or even for doctoral candidates doing research. Both SPSS and PSPP are for statisticians, social scientists and students requiring easy analysis of sampled data. The following is a quick and dirty comparison of the two applications.

PSPP A brief list of some of the features of PSPP follows:

  • Supports over 1 billion cases.
  • Supports over 1 billion variables.
  • Syntax and data files are compatible with SPSS.
  • Choice of terminal or graphical user interface.
  • Choice of text, postscript or HTML output formats.
  • Inter-operates with Gnumeric, LibreOffice. Org and other free software.
  • Easy data import from spreadsheets, text files and database sources.
  • Fast statistical procedures, even on very large data sets.
  • No license fees.
  • No expiration period.
  • No unethical “end user license agreements”.
  • Fully indexed user manual.
  • Free Software; licensed under GPLv3 or later.
  • Cross platform; Runs on Windows, Mac and Unix-like systems.
Further PSPP offers the following functionality:
  • Descriptive statistics, cross tabs and other data exploration features
  • t-tests (one sample, independent samples and paired samples)
  • One way ANOVA
  • Chi-square and binomial tests
  • Bivariate correlations
  • Linear regression
  • Factor analysis
  • Reliability analysis
  • ROC curves

SPSS on the other hand has a variety of tools that easily outnumber the functionality found in PSPP. Here is a sample of SPSS core feature set.
  • Data transformations
  • Data Examination
  • Descriptive Statistics
  • Contingency tables
  • Reliability tests
  • Correlation
  • T tests
  • General Linear Model (Release 7.0 and higher)
  • Regression
  • Nonlinear Regression
  • Logistic Regression
  • Loglinear Regression
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Factor Analysis
  • Cluster analysis
  • Multidimensional scaling
  • Probit analysis
  • Forecasting/Time Series
  • Survival analysis
  • Nonparametric analysis
  • Graphics and graphical interface

On the surface some would argue that PSPP isn’t ready for prime 

time, given that SPSS has many more features. But keep in mind 

that for the vast majority of users, PSPP provides all the basic 

functionality that a typical user would need. Furthermore, PSPP is 

compatible with SPSS proprietary file format, so a user could use 

PSPP to manipulate SPSS files. For those who need functionality 

that goes beyond PSPP, there are free alternatives that are better 

that SPSS. One free statistical application of note is R, which is a 

programming language that is designed for statistical computing. 

For the minority of users who want total and complete control of 

data analysis and data mining, R is considered by many best of 

breed in the field of statistical computing. For the rest of us, PSPP 

is a free alternative to SPSS worth considering. Oh, by the way . . . 

did I mention that PSPP is free. Give it a try!

Friday, November 14, 2014 – a drop in replacement for Microsoft Office Suite

LibreOffice suite is comprised of the following applications:

Writer (word processor)

Calc (spreadsheet)

Impress (presentation tool)

Draw (drawing tool)

Base (database tool)

Math (equation & formula editor)

LibreOffice suite has a similar look and feel of Microsoft Office Suite due to a similar graphic user interface.  The layout of key functions will be familiar to user of the Microsoft Office.  In terms of function, LibreOffice is a capable replacement for Microsoft Office.  Also worth mentioning is that LibreOffice is available for Windows, Mac OSX, Linux & BSD Unix.  Further LibreOffice has a couple of features that you wont find in the Microsoft offering.  First, LibreOffice can produce PDFs.  Microsoft can produce PDF, but at a price.  Second, LibreOffice has an integrated drawing program, called Draw.  Third, LibreOffice also has a mathematics and equation editor called Math.  I found that the Math application to be useful ( I am currently working on my dissertation) and compliments nicely with another free libre open source software application called PSPP (a drop in replacement for SPSS). 

As much as I like LibreOffice, there are some areas of concern.  LibreOffice does a fairly good job at dealing with Microsoft's proprietary file formats: docx, pptx & xlsx.  However, the rendering of Microsoft documents isn't always perfect.  Further, macros and fancy Power Point transitions designed for Microsoft Office Suite, usually don't work well in LibreOffice.  However, LibreOffice does have the ability to produce macros and the process is straightforward.  As for Power Point presentations, Impress will provide basic functionality, however if you need fancy transitions and such, it would be better to edit you old Power Point presentations in Impress or just create the presentation in Impress.

All in all, LibreOffice suite will address the needs of most people, handle proprietary file formats fairly well and provide the user with a familiar experience with very short learning curve.  So give LibreOffice a try!  Did I mention that its free?