I spent most of last week using Linux’s Ubuntu. My hard drive broke you see, and my replacement drive would not arrive for 5 days (including the weekend) following this sad but unsurprising event. I bought a Seagate drive almost three years ago and I had been having issues for almost the whole duration. When it finally collapsed and I was unable to boot Windows, I popped a USB key in my computer with Ubuntu 12.04 running live on it.
Originally expecting a tough and long week on this system I didn’t know well, I discovered Linux is in general fairly easy to use for the simplest tasks. I was even positively surprised by Gimp’s performance when it came to painting.
Here’s my experience as an artist and graphic designer:
Nice interface and easy to use OS for everyday tasks
The first impression I had of Linux’s Ubuntu (you can try a live preview here) was that it felt like the result of the copulation of Windows and OS X. Although its explorer and icons are similar to Windows’, its Software Center, top menu bar and Dash home are reminiscent of Apple’s recent OS. Using it is pretty straight forward and unless someone wants to tweak the operative system by, say, installing new fonts purchased over the internet or match their tablet with the graphic software offered on Linux, there will be no need to open up Firefox or Chromium to dig for information.
If you are an intermediary or advanced Windows or Mac user though, using Linux will, in my experience, require a minimum of curiosity and patience.
The greatest features I had the chance to try during those five days on Ubuntu are the Software Center (something Windows lacks), LibreOffice (I had previously heard of it but never tried it – it’s excellent for most text editing needs), Gimp (more to come on this) and the simple System Settings (which often seem like a maze on Windows, even for long-time users like me).
Although my use of Linux was fairly light, I recognized several features which made me wonder why I was using Windows in the first place. But then I remembered…
The designer’s dilemma on Linux
No creative Adobe software on Linux. Ouch. That hurts. Feeling a bit lost, I downloaded Gimp through the Software Center. My expectations were fairly low. I realized quickly enough however that the application wasn’t half as bad as I thought; after downloading a set of brushes from DeviantART, I used it to draw and paint with my Intuos4 (I had to change some preferences in Gimp but all went well). Granted, the LED display of my tablet did not work (I read it is possible to tweak it but I got a bit uncomfortable when I saw the lines of code I had to enter into the Terminal), I had some issues with the eraser (I decided to simply change tool manually instead of using the pen’s built-in eraser to solve the problem) but other than that, it responded well and the sensitivity was accurate. Gimp isn’t as intuitive as Photoshop and the text tool is in my humble opinion mediocre, but it holds most of the software’s basic features. Let’s just say it is a good alternative for users who have no access to Photoshop or who want a free application.
After this experience I do have a lot of hope for Linux’s future. As I pointed out earlier, for everyday use it is a good product. Where it seriously lacks is in the availability of advanced graphics software and that is why (unfortunately) designers will keep on using Macs and PCs.
If this situation was to change in the future, if a group of developers were to team up with designers in order to give birth to software that could maybe rival Photoshop, then I would personally reconsider. For now though, it is simply not a viable long-term option in my field of work.
With all my heart, I wish the best of luck to Linux developers and I’m looking forward to future improvements.