September 3, 2002

The easiest Linux photo manipulation program I've seen

- By Robin "Roblimo" Miller -

No, it's not The Gimp. It's the unpromoted, nearly unknown Linux version of a commercial piece of shareware called CompuPic. CompuPic for Linux is not the 6.1 version shown in the product description, but a 5.1 version last updated in 2000. But it's still the easiest way I've found to work with photos in Linux, and when I say "easy," I'm talking about 10 minutes, at most, to install and learn how to use the program.
Download and installation

I downloaded the CompuPic 5.1 RPM from this page. TAR, TGZ, and Deb files are also available, as are ports for FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, SCO, and Solaris.

Because I use KDE on Mandrake, the installation took no brains at all. I opened up Konqueror, found the appropriate file, and clicked on it. I entered my root password, and Mandrake's installer unpacked the RPM and did the install without any more help. Then I added CompuPic to my program menu with MenuDrake, another no-brainer, and after that I created a link to the program on my little bottom-of-the-screen panel so I could open CompuPic with a single click. All this took less time to do than it just took me to type the description of how I did it. The only knowledge required was two commands: "point" and "click."

Basic CompuPic setup and use

Still no mental exercise, just more pointing and clicking. I clicked on my panel icon and CompuPic started up with a "tip of the day" note I glanced at and disappeared by clicking the little "x" in the tip box's lower right hand corner, and there I was, looking at thumbnails of all the image files in my /home/robin directory, with a tree-format list of other directories on the left side of my screen.

One click on a file gives you a preview. Double-click and it opens. Now you can go to work. There's a little menu bar that appears on the top of your screen when you move your mouse over that area, which I quickly figured out how to display permanently by clicking "options," then clicking "Menus Always Visible."

At this point I could go into a long explanation of how I performed this function or that function, but it was all so easy that this seems pointless. You can either use the menu bar or right-click to call up basic picture modification commands like crop, invert, reduce red-eye, zoom (in or out), rotate, scale, and add text, either directly to the image or in cute little cartoon-like bubbles. There are plenty of color-change options, including the basic "strip away some of the color info so it downloads fast" feature those of us who work on the Web need to use on almost every graphic we publish.

You can save images in a wide variety of file formats. You can print an image by clicking on the "print" command. And then you can go do whatever else you have to do now that you've gotten your photo or other graphic cropped, sized, and color-adjusted for your intended purpose, and you haven't wasted any brainpower figuring out how to do this or that in CompuPic, so you have all of it available to think about the rest of your day's work -- or play.

Pay $39.95 to register -- if you want

If you like CompuPic enough to register it, you can do it from this page , but registration is purely optional. The only real difference is that you will no longer see "Evaluation Copy" displayed discreetly in the navbar. The evaluation copy is not crippleware; every single feature works, including some very cool ones I didn't mention above so that you have a reason to download CompuPic, try it yourself, and perhaps add your own comments below.

Registration entitles you to tech support, though, so if you think you may need a little help getting going with the program or making full use of its features, it's a decent deal. Besides, commercial or free, Open Source or proprietary, rewarding developers who make software you like is always A Good Thing.

The future of CompuPic on Linux

I called CompuPic to ask why the Linux version is 5.1 and the Windows version is 6.1, and got a sadly standard, "We don't make any money on the Linux version so we're concentrating on Windows right now," answer. The reality, for CompuPic and other shareware vendors, is that the commercial Windows software market is easily 100 times as large as the Linux market.

However, the person I talked to at PhotoDex, the company that publishes CompuPic, said there are plans to come out with an updated Linux version, "perhaps next year. It depends on the developers' schedules," so there may be hope.

Meanwhile, I find that the "obsolete" Linux version of CompuPic handles all my simple, home/office, low-volume photo and general graphics manipulation needs quite well. My copy is now registered, not only because I think it's always right to register shareware I expect to use regularly, but also because it might help nudge PhotoDex into coming out with its next Linux upgrade a little sooner than if no one bothers to reward them for their work.

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