Ubuntu creative suite

Doing some web design these days, I find that Ubuntu offers a really mature stack to tackle the job with powerful applications and good OS integration. Drag’n’drop a wide spectrum of objects between applications to avoid having to browse through your files, multiple desktops to reduce window chaos and the do-one-thing-but-do-it-right philosophy stemming from the terminal era and general speed are some of the advantages that you notice quite quickly as really helpful. I’ll shortly cover some of the apps I use and their best features.

For the initial concept forming I use:

  • Shotwell – great for importing & organizing “inspiration” photographs; tags and grades really help a lot and it’s cool to be able to quickly colour-balance, straighten and crop photos
  • Nautilus – with its multiple tabs, split windows and drag’n’dropability of files, folders, & bread crumbs, it is an essential helper throughout the whole process (the dash is also a good sidekick with quick search capabilities for far-away files and apps)
  • Gpick – creating colour systems by picking colours from photographs, pdfs, extending them through colour harmony rules, ctrl+c-ing hex values to your clippboard or dragging colours or importing full profiles to Inkscape or GIMP… a tad unstable, but powerful as hell!

Come design layout creation, some all-time classics sit on this throne:

  • GIMP – traditional photo manipulation; most importantly providing colour levels, channel mixers and the healing tool; I recommend the cool single-window view available after upgrading to 2.8 for easier workspace organisation
  • Inkscape – maybe not as user friendly as I would like it to be, but still a mighty vector graphics program allowing you to pull of a lot of designer/illustrator stunts; good at: gradients (which reminds me, I still have to try out Gradiator), object alignment, snapping, tablet support
  • MyPaint – possibly the best open source digital painting application, really good brushes and pencils that come out-of-the-box and great support for tablets (pressure sensitivity, tilt etc.)
  • Ubuntu’s HUD integrates well with these applications which is nice as they are quite complex in term of available options and speeds you up a lot when coming from other applications (e.g. the Adobe suite)

To implement the design in CSS, as a WordPress theme for example, a w3 schools reference and one of these two combos outshine Dreamweaver:

  • Firefox + Firebug plug-in – still my favourite, due to out-of-this-universe tab groups, a very intuitive Firebug GUI and its features such as holding arrows above CSS properties to see live changes and $$ commands to test CSS selectors
  • Chromium – its integrated development tools basically offer the same features as Firebug, a bit faster than Firefox, though I prefer the former’s interface

And a good combo to edit the site live on a (staging) server to avoid having to install the whole environment (Apache, WordPress etc.) locally:

  • Nautilus: file – connect to server through FTP or SSH brings you your website right alongside your local folders (bookmarks make it even more accessible)
  • Gedit – a reasonably good editor that integrates with the above so you can double click & edit files

There you go, all graphical applications (who says you need a terminal every time 🙂 that lead you through the whole process from sketching to implementing a web design, a fully valid alternative to Adobe’s suite – all open source and available in the Ubuntu software center. To conclude, this is what the workspace looks like from a 100 m:

… and there’s still enough desktop space to DJ a groovy set-list 😉

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Building apps, analysing data at Punk Rock Dev and sharing weird & cool photographs, drawings, music, films, games... More about me here. You can get new blog posts via RSS or follow @metakermit on Twitter where I also announce new stuff.

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