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Tutorial: Using GIMP with gestures. Look ma, no keyboard!

#1 User is offline   ragtag 

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 02:22 AM

Gestures are a really handy replacement for keyboard shorcuts when working with the GIMP. This tutorial is written for GIMP on Ubuntu 8.10, but will probably work for most other linux distros.

Note! On Windows you have a program called StrokeIt and on OS X you have xGestures which do much the same, though the best gesture program I've found so far has actually been the linux one.

So lets get started. First you need to install the gesture program. It's called "easystroke" and is available in the repository. If you're comfortable with the command line just type.

sudo apt-get install easystroke


If you prefer GUI, the Synaptic Package Manager is the way to go. It's in the System>Administration menu. You'll be prompted for a password when you start it. Assuming you have sudo (admin) rights on the machine, it should start. Next hit the search button and search for "easystroke". It should show up in the list. Right click it and choose "Mark for installation". Then hit the apply button at the top. Once it's downloaded and installed you can close the package manager.

Now easystroke will show up in the menu Applications>Unviersal Access>Easystroke Gesture Recognition. If you start it, a small blue x will show up in your notification area. If you're like me and run the gesture recognition program more or less all the time, you can have it start on logon. To do this, go into System>Preferences>Sessions menu. In the window you'll see a list of Additional startup programs. Click the add button on the right and enter "easystroke" in the name AND the command field. In the description you can type what ever you want that explains what it is.

Now we're ready to go. Simply click the x in the notification are to open the easystroke window. Let's start with the preferences tab. Here is how it look on my computer.

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I've set the gesture button to 3, which is right click. I use the side switch on my pen to activate gestures. Note that if I don't move the pen as well, I get a normal right click and can still access right click menus. I use XShape to display the strokes, which works fine for me. I've disabled Compiz on my computer as it was giving me trouble with GIMP in fullscreen mode (toolboxes would wind up behind the image for some reason). The rest of the preferences is pretty straight forward (Note! I'm running this on a TabletPC, which is why I checked the Work around timing issues with TabletPCs checkbox...you probably don't need to, unless you have a TabletPC too).

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Now let's get to the action by hitting the Action tab. Now we're ready to create our first gesture. (The screenshots here include lots of gestures, for you it will have none to begin with). To do this hit the Add Action button, at the bottom of the window. You'll be prompted to enter a name for your action. Let's enter "Undo", as that's probably one of the most frequently used keyboard shortcuts ever. :) Once you hit enter, you get a pop-up menu. Select "Key" from the pop-up menu, at which it will say "Key combintaion..." in the argument column. Simply hit Ctrl-Z. We're almost done, all that remains is to define a gesture to use for undo.

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Hit the Record Stroke button. You'll get a small prompt asking you to record a stroke. Using the right button on your pen draw the stroke you want to use for Undo. I like to have the simplest gestures for the functions I use the most. So for Undo I use a simple downwards stroke. The stroke will show up in the leftmost column. Congratulations, you've designed your first gesture. :)

Go back to GIMP and try it. Draw something, then right click and make the same gesture. This will now equal Ctrl-Z or Undo. Now you can set up gestures for the most frequently used keyboard shortcuts, and save having one hand on the keyboard at all times. Gestures can be letters, back and forth line, diagonal lines and pretty much anything. Gestures are especially handy when actually drawing in GIMP, as then you rarely need to enter in text or numbers.

That's it...

...unless you want to avoid the keyboard completely. The you can use a virtual keyboard. This is especially handy when using a TabletPC or a pen enabled screen. I use a virtual keyboard called xvkbd. To install it, simply type the followign on the command prompt.

sudo apt-get install xvkbd


You can also use the package manager as explained above to install it. xvkbd is a virtual keyboard that you can type on with your mouse or pen.

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You hit the Focus key, and then click the field you want to type text into. When using it to enter Layer names in GIMP, you need to actually double click the layer so you get a properties window for it where you can enter the name, as xvkbd doesn't seem to work properly with entering the name directly in the layer window. Other than that it works great. I'm not suggesting you use it to type forum posts or essays with, just layers, names, image resolutions, file names and other tidbits.

You can use easystroke to open your virtual keyboard. Create a gesture, as explained above, but instead of Key, choose command and enter "xvkbd -compact" as the command (the compact option gives you a smaller keyboard with out the F keys and other stuff).

Now you should be ready to use GIMP without any keyboard at all.

Look ma, no keyboard! :o
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Depending on where you work, site may be not safe for work. :)
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#2 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:35 PM

Cool thing! Thanks for the hint! I might try this out, never considered using mouse movements in a gfx program before. :)
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#3 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 11:39 PM

This is certainly not something we have since before. Moved to official.
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#4 User is offline   Pee' Tee 

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 11:41 AM

Noobish Newbie:
I'm confused with the installing the thingy-ma-bop :S
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#5 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 09:29 AM

Pee'Tee:

Apt-get is standard for installing packages in Debian/Ubuntu, you need to read up on it online if you are unsure. If you don't use Linux Debian/Ubuntu, you would not probably be using apt-get installation but your own package manager.
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#6 User is offline   ragtag 

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 04:19 PM

RedHat based systems (Fedora, CentOS and others) use yum instead of apt-get. You need to be root to run it. So it would be:

su -
yum install easystroke


You'll be asked for your root password after you run 'su -'. You can also use 'yumex' instead of Synaptic Package Manger, which is another GUI interface for installing software on RedHat based distros.

That said, I'm not sure easystroke is in the repositories for Fedora and RedHat.

The official site for easystroke is http://easystroke.wi...ourceforge.net/. Though I haven't attempted installing it by hand, so I don't know how difficult that is.
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#7 User is offline   ragtag 

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 03:50 PM

Just a little update. It seems that GIMP 2.6.7 and easystroke on Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmik Koala) don't play nice with each other. If easystroke is running, GIMP wont register all the lines you draw. :(

I'm looking for a solution to this as I use GIMP and easystroke together all the time on my TabletPC.
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#8 User is offline   ragtag 

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 01:42 PM

I found a solution to the problem with Ubuntu 9.10. In short, you need to run easystroke with --no-xi option. See this post for details.

:mrgreen:
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