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The Book of Inkscape: The Definitive Guide to the Free Graphics Editor
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
One of the most significant barriers to using open source software that I hear from many home users (as wall as others) is the lack of adequate documentation and training materials. So, the publication of The Book of Inkscape makes the Inkscape open source vector graphics application much more accessible to the artist community as well as the general public. It is a rare developer who can provide clear insights into the nuts and bolts of the workings of the features of their software application in language for the non-developer. The author, Dmitry Kersanov, is able to do just that and in clear and complete explanations. The book contains 18 chapters packed with program information followed by six separate tutorial chapters to help you apply your newly acquired talents. There are four appendices: An SVG Primer, Import and Export, The Command Line (for those who must), and Keyboard Shortcuts.

The Inkscape program first caught my attention over two years ago when I was looking for an open source vector draw program. I had been quite proficient in CorelDraw when it was in version 5, but that was many, many versions and years ago. Just jumping back in was not an option, a total retrain would be required. So, here was a perfect opportunity to move over to open source software. However, finding documentation to guide me through the learning process was unavailable at that time. I decided to work on other projects and check back later. Once again, I'm in need of a vector draw program and The Book of Inkscape is just the reference and tutorial that I need.

The book begins with a little groundwork on what vector graphics is and the situations in which the format excels, as well as the limitations. There is an overview of the type of tasks where Inkscape could be used and some background on scalable vector graphics (SVG). There is also a comparison with the three currently dominant vector programs. I have not used Adobe Illustrator, but have dabbled with Xara and as mentioned, had worked extensively with CorelDraw5. Our introductory chapter ends with a bit of Inscape history.

If you've had no prior experience with Inkscape or other vector draw programs, the Inkscape Primer leads you through installing on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Basic explanations of the interface and definitions of vector terminology follow. The material throughout is presented in a friendly, conversational manner and the keyboard and mouse shortcuts for accomplishing tasks are included throughout the pages. Most books include descriptions of the preference settings in the beginning pages. The author's approach is to give a brief overview of the options settings with a note that the recommended modifications are discussed throughout the book in conjunction with the function or feature affected.

The Book of Inkscape is a tutorial as well as a comprehensive reference to all the features of the program. It provides a solid background of information for understanding the concepts of vector drawing (paths & nodes), and thorough instruction on how to use all the Inkscape features. Every topic includes plenty of illustrations. Every time I randomly open to a page of this book, there is another nugget of information and a suggestion for creatively integrating a technique into your drawing. I just randomly opened to page 113, section 7.5.1: Randomizing, Unclumping, and Removing Overlaps. There's a great illustration of randomizing and then unclumping a large number of small filled circles into an interesting pattern. This could make a great page background with a little more transformation.

Vector graphics rule when it come to creating Logos. There is a great deal of information on the text-editing capabilities of the program as well as converting text to paths for further distorting and manipulating the now shapes into a unique `brand'. Inkscape installs with a nice selection of filters and Chapter 17 provides explanations and examples of how to use them and illustrations of possible results. The filters are non-destructive and may be modified at any time. Trace Bitmap (autotrace in CorelDraw) has got to be the coolest tool since sliced bread! It's used to transform a bitmap, such as a digital photo, into a scalable vector graphic. You'll find it detailed in Chapter 18 in the Tracing section. The explanation of how each of the options works is quite good. This is a very resource intensive process so be prepared to wait a bit for the results. A scalable vector rendition means that you can reduce or enlarge your graphic with no loss of detail or legibility.

In Summary:
The Book of Inkscape could easily be used as the text for an intensive 10-week class. It is well organized, conversational in its approach, detailed and well illustrated, and accessible for a vector graphics newbie. The book itself is very legible in terms of type to page contrast, the pages themselves have a nice feel/texture, and aside from a four-page color insert are grayscale on eggshell. The binding was designed to allow the book to lie flat when open, making it easy to read when following along on your computer. If you aren't bound to a commercial application, go open source. You'll be investing only a fraction of your software savings into documentation with The Book of Inkscape: The Definitive Guide to the Free Graphics Editor.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
As a computer geek, I'm always looking for great FREE software that lets me get my work done faster and more efficiently. I also look for the fun stuff as well. And for those that have been around, Inkscape really does provide both. On the one hand, you've got a lightening quick app that is intuitive from the first time you open it, so you can get your work done. AND, it also screams "have some fun!" as well. But, the problem for a long time was that there was no good tutorial/reference style books for the software. This, I'm happy to say, has been fixed.

But before you wonder if The Book Of Inkscape is just an "intro" to a series of books, fear not: it isn't. Not only that but it strives to turn you into an Inkscape Master by the end of it.

The book itself starts off with a bit of history regarding the program, graphics in general and the SVG format in particular. You'll also get a gentle intro to the workspace and how you can customize it to work for you. Indeed, Inkscape can be customized to you and the book goes into this in detail.

The Book of Inkscape also goes through each interface element all the while using examples. This is important and is something a lot of other books miss. It is one thing to tell your readers about a particular feature. It is another to tell and then SHOW them as this will help you get inspired as to what you can do.

And lest you think that it is just a reference tome, The Book Of Inkscape also comes with tutorials that allow you to put your knowledge to practice. And these tutorials are done going from basic (setting up a business card) to more advanced (drawing the rose you see on the front cover).

Now, one key thing that needs to be addressed is writing style. In many books, you'll find that though the information is solid, the way it is presented is boring. Not so in this case. The writing is clear and to the point but you get the sense that the author is very much enthused and in love with his subject matter. You will want to keep reading and trying "just one more thing, Hon!"

In short, if you want to master Inkscape quickly, this is the book for you!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Books about Inkscape are scarce (as opposed to Adobe Illustrator), so I patiently waited for this "definitive guide" (as the title page tells us) to appear.
As a reviewer of Dmitry Kirsanov's book about "XSLT 2.0 Web Development (Charles F. Goldfarb Definitive XML Series)" remarked already, Kirsanov's style is lucid & compact and he shoves a lot of information into the hungry reader's mouth.

As a core Inkscape developer and distinguished russian webdesigner he knows his baby well and offers lots of "hands-on" advice, lots of illustrations (mainly in B&W with a 4 page color insert) as well as in the appendix: an SVG Primer, keyboard shortcuts and examples of command lines (for those who'd like to use the program in a production pipeline).

One important issue in selecting a "definitive guide"-book for me has always been the thoroughness of its index: with 22 pages (prepared by his loving & knowledgeable wife :) ....) it leaves nothing to be desired.

So why did I rate this wonderful accomplishment not with five stars ? -
I missed a webpage with sample images and the python scripts he used in his tutorial:"Creating an animation" as well as some hints about scripting the Inkscape engine with Python (just google for IXML, if you are curious), though he offers at least some results of this tutorial on his webpage.

If all goes well I hope to see some scripting examples & a little more support on the Web with the 2nd edition to raise my rating gladly to five stars, Dmitry :) ....

And I ordered his XSLT Webdesignbook a day after I received his Inkscape book: the man knows his trade too damn well ;-P....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
When I first became interested in finding a drawing program, I tried several graphics programs but was frustrated with different aspects of each of them. I was so relieved to finally find Inkscape, an free opensource program which could easily compete with many of the high-end expensive programs. I soon realized that Inkscape was much more intuitive for me than any of the others, and with the help of some online tutorials I was quickly navigating the program with ease. Following the tutorials helped me to progress from complete novice almost to an intermediate level, but at that point I found that I needed more explicit information on the options and abilities that Inkscape offers . I didnt want to waste a lot of time just troubleshooting when I knew that other people already had the answers. I was also a little embarrassed to ask some of my more basic questions on the Inkscape forum.

So, at that point, I looked for a book that would assist me in learning about Inkscape in a more comprehensive way. Luckily, I found The Book of Inkscape: The Definitive Guide to the Free Graphics Editor written by Dmitry Kirsanov. The author's clear explanations of each point are never wordy or difficult to decipher. I appreciate that Mr. Kirsanov doesn't assume you already know anything, but instead he starts at the beginning and proceeds without skipping over key points. That was a big help to me because I had learned about Inkscape from watching random videos and I was relieved to be able to fill in the gaps with The Book of Inkscape.

He begins by describing what vector images are and how they differ from pixel based drawing and then moves on to teach how to draw and manipulate vectors, including styling, gradients, paths, clones, filters, and many more skills. He also explains how to import and export vectors. There are also tutorials which walk you through the steps of the more complex tasks, like animation or technical drawings. There are frequent diagrams which illustrate his directions, as well as break up the text. I was grateful to find that The Book of Inkscape made me feel confident that I could progress far beyond the level I am at , while also giving me the knowledge to strengthen my current skills.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have been using Adobe Illustrator for many years and had grown tired of the costly updating every couple of years. I tried using Inkscape with little success until I found this book. The book explained Inkscape in easy to understand terms and with it I was up and running with inkscape in no time whatsoever.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
This recently available book is clearly written, down to earth, and fairly balanced in its handling of the material. The fact that the author is a key developer of the software is a great benefit to the reader, and explains the in depth level of knowledge expressed. I would say that for someone looking for the definitive guide, as the title touts, they have found it in this fine volume.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Well written and comprehensive manual that enables you to teach yourself how to navigate and create projects with Inkscape. It contains references for routines that are handled differently in Adobe Illustrator as well as guides for interacting with other graphics programs. The tone is lively and reads easily. An asset on my desk!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm a new user to Inkscape 0.48. The book is well written, easy to follow, and contains many clarifying diagrams. With it, I've been able to quickly find answers to questions that eluded me via Google and Inkscape forum searches.

In the past, I worked exclusively with raster graphic editors. This book has made it easy to ramp up on vector fundamentals, like working with Bezier curves.

The author, an Inkscape programmer, provides background information to explain why certain features work the way they do. Being a programmer myself, I know how rare it is to get that kind of transparency. I appreciate those insights, because they highlight both the limitations and the possibilities offered by this very powerful graphics tool.

Though this book was published in 2009, everything I've tried works in the current 0.48 version of Inkscape. Newer features, like creating fonts, are not discussed in this book. I do look forward to buying an updated version of this book in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As far as I know it is the most complete book on Inkscape, it has very good detail as to how the program works. I've used this program for over two years and use it almost everyday, even though books can become outdated when it comes to subjects like this (I've had the book for almost two years) it still helps me to uncover tips, tricks and problems. The book is a very good primer in the use of Inkscape.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Inkscape is a Free Open Source Vector Graphics Editor comparable in power to Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. I give this excellent tutorial five stars because it will enable an artistically-challenged individual such as myself the tools to create serious graphics arts applications with this otherwise easy-to-get lost in powerful illustration tool. Most individuals such as myself are looking for the ability to create business letterheads, party invitations, and illustrations for articles or advertisements which approach or exceed a professional level of quality. Dmitry Kirsanov provides a step-by-step tutorial which will enable an inexperienced individual to produce high-quality graphic arts for all of their needs. He also provides reference materials for using all of the tools, file import and export capabilities, XML editor and graphic objects necessary to exploit this powerful graphics and illustration program to its fullest. While I agree with other reviewers that the internals of the program and some scripting capabilities may not be completely documented, this substantial volume provides all of the information needed to use this program to produce high-quality graphical illustrations and all of the useful products of graphic design necessary for newsletters, stationary, advertisements and creative expression. The tutorials are carefully presented; and with little more than the Hello World example given on pages 19-21 I was able to produce better, more lively illustrations than with my existing office tools including Microsoft Visio.

Ira Laefsky
Graphic Arts-Challenged Information Technology Consultant and HCI Researcher
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