thanks Sven and Carol for your answers... I'll get back to you with more details about the GUI, as i'm working on an art project at the moment, but to answer some immediate queries:

- I'm using Photoshop 7.0 - strangely enough, I find it, and all the other tools I use, highly intuitive - the essence of a tool that a graphic designer can use is its intuitiveness, rather than usability.

Perhaps in this case we should use graphic designers as testers, alongside bug-testers?

- I was using the GIMP supplied by Mandrake 9.2, but I'll download the latest version.

- First thing I'd suggest is stacking the Layers / Brushes etc. screens which at present you have to open from the top left hand menu - Photoshop keeps these permanently in appearance, stacked at the right hand corner, although you can double-click on the top of these mini-screens

- A Navigation tool for zooming would be essential - again, somewhere in these mini-screens.

- This might become a patent problem - but what i'm really suggesting is to keep all the tool option screens in one place, and let the content and menus of the tool options change within this space, rather than having to open a new Options window when you click on the brush tool, for example. Thats one of the areas where Photoshop / Paint Shop Pro users find GIMP most difficult - the choice of tools is obscured, and you can't keep control of all the tools in one place, you have to keep opening and closing menus.

- Its pretty hard to find where the effects are, and to know you have to right-click on the image to produce these. But that in itself is elegant, and avoids patent issues...

I think the essential problem with Effects is that its difficult to find out a) where they are located in the menu and b) what the heck do they do?... Also many of the effects are outdated or not as accurate as the Photoshop versions.

- One thing i /LOVE/ about the GIMP is that you've now implemented layer effects (Multiply, Color Dodge, Color Burn etc.) - but these really need to be in a permanently open menu.

The problem is that there are too many screens appearing in random positions - even if the layer menu is the only one open, it could appear aligned on the right hand side, and then when you select the brush tool, the layer menu stays in place, appearing below the layer menu. A navigator screen should be in place always - this is a feature I find essential, and makes it impossible for me to use the GIMP - while i can zoom in and out, its very difficult to drag the screen around to the place where I want to work.

As for Illustrator / Fireworks / Dreamweaver / Flash: (my own 'essential' tools)

Illustrator is a print design tool, on the level of GIMP. At the moment we have a few imitations but they are too poor to be used for print preparation - there are a lot of features (which I can describe, but it would require a new and very extensive project) especially the ability to create pictures at 300dpi +. This is vitally important when preparing either a GIMP, vector design or print design tool - screen resolution @ 72dpi will produce fuzzy results and embarrassment on the part of the designer when you take it to the printers! ;)

Fireworks is a vector design tool. Sodipodi is getting close, or aiming in the same direction, but really is only in the early stages - I find Fireworks essential for designing either print or web material - particularly web material and it exports to png by default. It also has an optimising screen for jpeg/gif (ewww, but essential). Fireworks allows you to slice the image and export the slices to HTML or simply to images - there are a variety of options, which Photoshop uses also, albeit in a rather obscured way. Photoshop tried to implement vector graphics but nobody could make head or tail of them - the only bonus is that you can export to ImageReady and to Illustrator.

Flash is an absolute essential - we have no tools at all at present for animation. Flash uses vector graphics as well as being able to import movies, images in any format, and sound. It also allows for javascript to be applied to objects (objects in this case meaning physical objects on the screen - this taught me a lot about programming 'objects' too). Flash also has its own language - 'ActionScript'- which is based on Javascript. Likewise, Quicktime works in a similiar way although I'd never reccomend it because you have to download and make sense of the SDK. Flash is more intuitive.

Flash works on timelines - the closest thing I've seen was that application for music/video mixing which was discontinued due to patent problems, and then re-adopted under a different name by Mandrake - the name slips my mind for the moment. Timelines are how we compose layers, putting an object on each timeline and seamlessly moving it about by using 'motion tweening'.

Personally speaking, I'm just sad that I can't use Free software for my design work, and would love to be able to migrate entirely to GNU/Linux. A thought - the older SGI IRIX O/S had many of these tools - perhaps free ports of these may be easier to implement. 3D design is nicely taken care of by Blender, which has become an essential on Winblows machines also.

Hope this is of some help at least... I'll get back to you with more details, and feel free to ask.


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