Helpful Computer Programs: Part I

inPresence geeks Dan and Ross spend a lot of time on the computer. A lot. Due to our endless hours of screen time, we’ve learned the ins and outs of more than a few computer programs, and we’d like to share with you our favorites, and a few helpful tips about learning them. This is Part I of our series.

Neither of us took formal courses to learn any of these programs. A few hours of practice, maybe a trip to the library and a good attitude will take you a long way. You can do this! We’ll show you how:

Dan: So which program should we talk about first?

inkscapeRoss: We should probably start with the one we use most. I’d have the easiest time talking about InkScape, since I use it every day.

Dan: Why don’t you tell our readers what InkScape is all about?

Ross: InkScape is an open-source (free) image editing program. You can use it for any photo editing or illustration. It’s really good for making logos and tweaking pictures before you post them on a blog or website.

Dan: It sounds like PhotoShop. What’s the difference between InkScape and other, more expensive programs?

Ross: Well InkScape is free, so it’s lacking the fancy layout and expansion options of PhotoShop. It also can’t connect with movie-making and powerful document creators like Adobe Pro. But the modest design of InkScape is something I really like; once you get the hang of it, the features are really easy to use and straightforward.

Dan: How hard was it to learn?

Ross: Pretty easy; the hardest part to learn was the vocabulary of image editing. Words like path, node, and clip are essential for making progress, and you’ll mess up every stage of the editing process a few times before you get it right.

I had trouble adapting to each phase of the editing process, and made a lot of mistakes. Coming from Microsoft Paint, where you can just click and drag your images, I had to adjust to InkScapes robust features. Once you get a handle on the program, you can drag, drop, resize, remove backgrounds, change textures, and add 3-D quickly and easily. Before that, however, you might do a lot of Edit—Undo first.

Dan: Clearly, you made some mistakes when you first started with InkScape. Do you have any tricks for our readers to simplify the process?

Ross: Use YouTube! Lots of people around the world use InkScape and the user community is very friendly. People post video tutorials for everything from simple photo operations (cropping and saving) to advanced illustrating techniques (Bezier lines and Spiros). Watching the videos will make learning quick and (kind of) easy.

I would also make sure you’re focused and relaxed when practicing your InkScape techniques. Having a good attitude will help when you are making all the little adjustments your pictures need. Editing, checking, and re-editing takes patience. If you have a lot of other things going on around you, your concentration might slip and a detail might go unnoticed.


A quick logo made in InkScape

A quick logo made in InkScape

Dan: How long did it take you to learn?

Ross: To get the basics was a few hours. I needed to really study to get to a comfortable intermediate level, so maybe 3-4 days. Getting to really know the ins and outs of the program took a few weeks. Obviously, drawing from scratch takes longer, so I’ve been working on new designs and experimenting with features I didn’t use before. It could be a full month, working at InkScape every day for a few hours, to become a pro. The program is definitely worth your time, though. It is very robust and satisfying.


A cool, creepy Spiro made with InkScape


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