Index for my Inkscape tutorial series in Full Circle Magazine

For several years I have been writing a monthly column about the Free vector graphics program Inkscape, for Full Circle Magazine. Many of the articles have also been collated into “Special Editions”. Both these and the original magazines are available to download free of charge.

I used to maintain an index of the articles at the semi-official Inkscape forum, however that has been offline for several weeks now, and may never return. So it makes sense to host an index here, on my own site. The individual articles are listed first, in case you only want some reference material for a single topic. If you are planning to work through the tutorials from the start then the Special Editions may be more useful: these are listed at the bottom of the page.

Individual Magazines

  1. Full Circle Magazine #61: Getting started. Circles, arcs and segments.
  2. Full Circle Magazine #62: Basic keyboard shortcuts. Rectangle tool.
  3. Full Circle Magazine #63: The status bar. Stars and polygons.
  4. Full Circle Magazine #64: The colour palette, and the Fill & Stroke dialog.
  5. Full Circle Magazine #65: Fill & Stroke dialog continued. Gradients.
  6. Full Circle Magazine #66: Introducing paths.
  7. Full Circle Magazine #67: Paths and Boolean operations.
  8. Full Circle Magazine #68: Selections and groups.
  9. Full Circle Magazine #69: Layers and blend modes.
  10. Full Circle Magazine #70: The text tool. Flowed vs normal text.
  11. Full Circle Magazine #71: Text tool continued: controls on the toolbar.
  12. Full Circle Magazine #72: Saving to different formats. Exporting bitmaps.
  13. Full Circle Magazine #73: Clipping.
  14. Full Circle Magazine #74: Masking.
  15. Full Circle Magazine #75: Using bitmap graphics.
  16. Full Circle Magazine #76: Manually tracing a logo (Guidelines, snapping, colour picker).
  17. Full Circle Magazine #77: Manually tracing a cartoon sketch (Bézier tool).
  18. Full Circle Magazine #78: Manually tracing a cartoon sketch, continued (Pencil tool, Calligraphy tool).
  19. Full Circle Magazine #79: Single scan (black & white) tracing using the Trace Bitmap dialog.
  20. Full Circle Magazine #80: Trace Bitmap dialog continued (multiple scans, colour tracing).
  21. Full Circle Magazine #81: Colouring a black & white trace. Bucket fill tool.
  22. Full Circle Magazine #82: Tweak tool (object tweaks).
  23. Full Circle Magazine #83: Tweak tool continued (node tweaks).
  24. Full Circle Magazine #84: Zoom tool, plus other zooming tips.
  25. Full Circle Magazine #85: 3D Box tool.
  26. Full Circle Magazine #86: Spray tool.
  27. Full Circle Magazine #87: Eraser tool and Connectors tool.
  28. Full Circle Magazine #88: Introducing clones.
  29. Full Circle Magazine #89: Clones continued: creating mirrored or kaleidoscopic effects.
  30. Full Circle Magazine #90: Clones continued: using “unset” fills and strokes.
  31. Full Circle Magazine #91: XML Editor (to fix an issue with clones).
  32. Full Circle Magazine #92: The advantages of combining clones with clipping and masking.
  33. Full Circle Magazine #93: Using the “Create Tiled Clones” dialog.
  34. Full Circle Magazine #94: The Scale, Rotation and Blur & Opacity tabs of the Tiled Clones dialog.
  35. Full Circle Magazine #95: The Colour tab of the Tiled Clones dialog.
  36. Full Circle Magazine #96: Finishing the Tiled Clones dialog, covering the Trace and Symmetry tabs.
  37. Full Circle Magazine #97: Grids.
  38. Full Circle Magazine #98: Align & Distribute Dialog: Aligning.
  39. Full Circle Magazine #99: Align & Distribute Dialog: Distributing and other features.
  40. Full Circle Magazine #100: Celebrating issue #100 with 100 Inkscape tips and tricks.
  41. Full Circle Magazine #101: The Arrange (formerly Rows & Columns) and Transform dialogs.
  42. Full Circle Magazine #102: Introducing Live Path Effects: Spiro Spline and Gears.
  43. Full Circle Magazine #103: LPE implementation details, and the Bend LPE.
  44. Full Circle Magazine #104: Envelope Deformation and Knot LPEs.
  45. Full Circle Magazine #105: Construct Grid, Hatches (Rough) and Interpolate Sub-Paths LPEs.
  46. Full Circle Magazine #106: Pattern Along Path, Ruler, Sketch, Stitch Sub-paths and (barely) the VonKoch LPEs.
  47. Full Circle Magazine #107: The last of the LPEs: Power Stroke and Clone Original Path.
  48. Full Circle Magazine #108: Introducing filters: creating a basic drop shadow filter.
  49. Full Circle Magazine #109: Filters: The Color Matrix filter primitive.
  50. Full Circle Magazine #110: Filters: The Composite filter primitive.
  51. Full Circle Magazine #111: Filters: The Flood and Turbulence filter primitives.
  52. Full Circle Magazine #112: Filters: The Image and Morphology filter primitives.
  53. Full Circle Magazine #113: Filters: Speeding up rendering, and the Displacement Map primitive.
  54. Full Circle Magazine #114: Filters: The Convolve Matrix primitive.
  55. Full Circle Magazine #115: Filters: Diffuse and Specular Lighting primitives.
  56. Full Circle Magazine #116: Filters: Component Transfer primitive (Inkscape 0.91+).
  57. Full Circle Magazine #117: Filters: Using “Background Image/Alpha” and chaining filters.
  58. Full Circle Magazine #118: Some SVG and web politics, installing 0.92, and the “paint-order” feature from SVG 2.
  59. Full Circle Magazine #119: Mesh Gradients.
  60. Full Circle Magazine #120: It’s the 10th anniversary of the magazine, so I made a cake!
  61. Full Circle Magazine #121: The Measurement tool.
  62. Full Circle Magazine #122: New in 0.91/0.92: Finding & selecting objects.
  63. Full Circle Magazine #123: New in 0.91/0.92: The Objects dialog
  64. Full Circle Magazine #124: New in 0.91/0.92: The Symbols dialog
  65. Full Circle Magazine #125: New LPEs in 0.92: BSpline and Simplify.
  66. Full Circle Magazine #126: New LPEs in 0.92: Roughen and Show Handles.
  67. Full Circle Magazine #127: New LPEs in 0.92: Fill Between Many and Taper Stroke.
  68. Full Circle Magazine #128: New LPEs in 0.92: Fill Between Strokes, Transform By 2 Points, Interpolate Points and Join Type
  69. Full Circle Magazine #129: New LPEs in 0.92: Perspective/Envelope, Lattice Deformation 2, Rotate Copies, Mirror Symmetry, Bounding Box, Ellipse by 5 Points, Attach Path
  70. Full Circle Magazine #130: An introduction to Extensions: Colour > Brighter, Colour > HSL Adjust, Render > Function Plotter, Render > Barcode > QR Code, Render > Hershey Text
  71. Full Circle Magazine #131: More extensions: Arrange > Deep Ungroup, Arrange > Restack, Text > Lorem Ipsum, Text > Extract, Text > Merge, Text > Split Text, Images > Embed Images, Images > Extract Image, and a warning to steer clear of anything in the Raster submenu.
  72. Full Circle Magazine #132: JessyInk
  73. Full Circle Magazine #133: Using SVG in a web page. Introduction, exporting as PNG, and linking directly to an SVG file.
  74. Full Circle Magazine #134: Using SVG in a web page. Using SVG files in <object> tags or as inline code. An introduction to XML namespaces with an eye to reducing the file size of exported SVG images.
  75. Full Circle Magazine #135: Using SVG in a web page. Basic CSS animations.
  76. Full Circle Magazine #136: Animating SVG using SMIL (1/2)
  77. Full Circle Magazine #137: Animating SVG using SMIL (2/2)
  78. Full Circle Magazine #138: Creating a self-drawing path with CSS
  79. Full Circle Magazine #139: Showing part of an image in a browser using viewBox and named views.
  80. Full Circle Magazine #140: Showing one group or layer from an image in a browser using the CSS “:target” selector.
  81. Full Circle Magazine #141: Changing the colour of inline SVG using the currentColor CSS keyword.
  82. Full Circle Magazine #142: Introducing some JavaScript into your SVG files.
  83. Full Circle Magazine #143: Using embedded JS scripts to change an object’s style.
  84. Full Circle Magazine #144: Using CSS classes to change an object’s style with JS.
  85. Full Circle Magazine #145: Creating a clickable button with JS and CSS classes.
  86. Full Circle Magazine #146: Extending the clickable button from last time to control a different object, using an external JS file.
  87. Full Circle Magazine #147: Using Inkscape, JavaScript and a browser to create an animated set of traffic lights.
  88. Full Circle Magazine #148: A deeper dive into SVG and JavaScript.
  89. Full Circle Magazine #149: Using JS in the browser to add, remove and re-order SVG elements.
  90. Full Circle Magazine #150: Using JS in the browser to animate SVG objects.
  91. Full Circle Magazine #151: The "transform" attribute.
  92. Full Circle Magazine #152: Using JS in the browser to manipulate the "transform" attribute.
  93. Full Circle Magazine #153: Using JS in the browser to manipulate the "transform" attribute (cont’d).

Special Editions

These can all be downloaded via this page.

  • Inkscape Special Edition #1: Prequel article, plus parts 1-7 in one handy download
  • Inkscape Special Edition #2: Parts 8-14 in one handy download
  • Inkscape Special Edition #3: Parts 15-21 in one handy download (Updated in January 2017 – parts 22-24 were split off into Special Edition 4)
  • Inkscape Special Edition #4: Parts 22-28 in one handy download
  • Inkscape Special Edition #5: Parts 29-35 in one handy download
  • Inkscape Special Edition #6: Parts 36-42 in one handy download

Off-screen windows with Inkscape on MacOS and XQuartz

My go-to editor for vector images is Inkscape. So much so that I use it in the creation of my cartoons and comic strips, and have been writing a monthly column about it in Full Circle Magazine for over six years now!

Just recently I’ve switched jobs and have to use a Mac as my day-to-day work machine, rather than the Linux box I’m used to. Whilst Inkscape is available for the Mac, there is no maintainer to release native builds. For most releases, therefore, the Mac offering is a straight port of the Linux version, and uses XQuartz as its X Server. Unfortunately XQuartz has more than a few “issues” – not least of which is a significant problem with multi-screen setups. At my new job they suffer from the delusion that more screens are better, so I have to work with a 3-screen arrangement that would make an air traffic controller proud.

The biggest problem with XQuartz on a multi-screen setup is that it has an annoying tendency to place new windows off-screen. This manifests itself in Inkscape as dialogs disappearing into the ether before you ever get a chance to see them. Open the Document Properties dialog and there’s a good chance it will be placed at some obnoxious coordinates that render it invisible to the user. The same with the Fill & Stroke dialog, the Inkscape Preferences, the Align & Distribute dialog, and all the others. If you get lucky some might appear where you can use them, but enough will go missing that it makes working with the program virtually impossible for anything but the simplest of uses.

This issue is well known to MacOS users of Inkscape, and has been reported on Launchpad at least twice, has its own entry in the Inkscape FAQ, and also crops up on the main Inkscape forum. There are various workarounds mentioned on those sites, but they’re all a little clunky, to say the least.

So I’ve crafted my own clunky (but hopefully slightly less clunky than the others) solution to the problem: a shell script to find all the Inkscape windows and move them to the top-left of the XQuartz screen. But that seemed like overkill when it’s usually just the last dialog you tried to open that you need to move. And what about other applications? Surely Inkscape can’t be the only program that XQuartz has problems with. So I expanded the script to cover all those cases.

1) You’ll need to install the ‘wmctrl’ program, which does the hard work of repositioning the windows. I installed it using Homebrew. (brew install wmctrl)

2) Download the script using this link

3) Please take a look at the script (it’s not that long) to confirm that it’s not sending all your bitcoins to me, or anything equally dodgy. Then you’ll need to make it executable by running:

chmod +x gather_windows.sh

4) To use it, open a terminal within XQuartz and run it with either no options, or a single option, as follows (this is the result of running with the -h option):

Usage: gather_windows.sh [option]
With no options : move the last opened window to the top left of the screen
-1, -p, --previous : move the previously opened window to the top left of the screen
-i, --inkscape : move all the Inkscape windows to the top left of the screen
-a, --all : move all the windows from all applications to the top left of the screen
-h, --help : show this help text
With any other option, try to find windows that match the string provided as part of their WM_CLASS property, and move them to the top left.

Note: the -1 option lets you open a terminal to run this script *after* your window has gone missing

E.g. gather_windows.sh xterm will move all your Xterm windows to the top left, gather_windows.sh -i will move only the Inkscape windows, and gather_windows.sh will just move the last window you opened. As the note in the help text suggests, if you try to open a dialog in Inkscape (or some other program) and it doesn’t appear due to rendering off-screen, you can then open a terminal and run gather_windows.sh -1 (or -p or –previous) to move the window to the top left.

Please note that this script probably isn’t very robust, and any efforts to move the “last” or “previous” windows are purely based on the assumption that wmctrl -l lists windows in the order they were opened. It has worked well enough for my purposes, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you.

For bonus points you can add the script to the ‘Applications’ menu in XQuartz, so it’s always readily available when you lose a dialog. In that case it’s best to call it with no options, so you can select it as soon as a dialog goes AWOL.

Posted in Miscellaneous, SVG, Tech. Tags: , . No Comments »

Ubuntu 12.04.3 EDID checksum error

A colleague of mine came into work to find that his dual monitor setup on Ubuntu 12.04.3 was no longer working correctly. The main monitor (connected via HDMI) was being detected okay, but the secondary monitor (connected via a VGA cable) was appearing as “Unknown” and limited to a resolution of 800×600. He was also seeing errors about the “EDID checksum” in his logs.

After a bit of searching on the internet we tried various ways to fix the problem, from the obvious re-seating the VGA cable to the less obvious installation of “mesa-utils”, but to no avail.

The thing that finally worked – as is often the case with computers – was to turn it off and on again. Obviously that was one of the first things we’d tried: the computer had been shut down, the monitor turned off, then monitor followed by computer switched on again. But that alone wasn’t enough to fix the issue.

What was actually required was to completely unplug the mains lead from the monitor. Simply pressing the power button on the front isn’t enough for the monitor’s processor to do a full “reboot”. Pulling the power cable (and VGA lead for good measure), leaving it for 30 seconds, then plugging both back in fixed the issue immediately. Ubuntu could recognise the monitor once again, and it was automatically set to its intrinsic resolution of 1280×1024.

So if you find yourself with an EDID checksum error, before you get too deep into the world of xrandr or Xorg.conf files, try completely removing the power from the monitor. It just might save you a lot of time and effort!

Posted in Linux, Tech. No Comments »

Full Circle Magazine, Issue 66

The latest issue of Full Circle Magazine, featuring Part 6 of Mark’s Inkscape tutorial, is now available for free download.

Full Circle Magazine is a free publication which focuses on Ubuntu and Linux in general, though the Inkscape tutorials are largely applicable to Windows and MacOS users as well.

Posted in Linux, SVG, Tech. No Comments »

Full Circle Magazine, Issue 65

The latest issue of Full Circle Magazine, featuring Part 5 of my Inkscape tutorial, is now available for free download.

Full Circle Magazine is a free publication which focuses on Ubuntu and Linux in general, though the Inkscape tutorials are largely applicable to Windows and MacOS users as well.

Posted in SVG, Tech. No Comments »

The Ubuntu Shopping Lens Debacle

It seems that Canonical are attempting to raise some money by inserting affiliate links into your Unity Dash when you type in a search term. Currently the main target for these links is Amazon, but I’m sure others will be added over time.

I’m not a fan of the Dash at all. I find it slow and cumbersome to operate with a mouse, and frustratingly ineffectual when I try to type a search term. Of course it doesn’t help that my 1980s vintage clacky keyboard lacks a Windows key, so all the “just hit the META key and type…” posts are useless to me. My dislike of the Dash aside, however, I think adding affiliate links to the desktop is a great idea. Free software often struggles to become financially self-sufficient, so more experimentation in this area is a good thing.

Except that the implementation in Ubuntu was an obvious PR disaster from the outset. Did they really think that people would be happy that the search terms they use when looking for files and applications on the local disk are also being sent to Amazon and other retailers as a matter of course? Mark Shuttleworth was quick to point out they’re not “putting ads” into Ubuntu and Jono Bacon posted that no user-identifying data is sent, but that just ignores the fact that there could be user-identifying data in the search terms themselves.

Mark Shuttleworth’s answer, early in the comments on his post, seems a little short-sighted to me:

…the Home lens of the Dash is “search everything”. If you want to search locally only, use the hotkey to specify the specific scope you want, like Super-A for apps, or Super-F for files.

So if I don’t want to send my search terms to Amazon, I have to search each separate scope individually (remembering a few more keyboard shortcuts along the way). That sucks.

It looks like there may be an option to disable these searches coming along as a result of the backlash. But even that solution is overkill – it becomes all-or-nothing, you either get affiliate links or you don’t. Wouldn’t it be better to just put a button at the bottom of the local search results to “Search our online shopping partners”? Perhaps beside a more general “Search online” button to perform a search using the user’s preferred search engine. No information would be sent out until one of the buttons was pressed, allowing the user to keep their local searches local, but making it trivially easy to perform affiliate and other searches when they want to share their search terms with the world.

I hope that Canonical, and other Free software vendors, can find sustainable ways to make money. But treating your users’ data – and that includes their local search terms – as anything less than confidential by default is not the way to go about it.

Full Circle Magazine, Issue 63

The latest issue of Full Circle Magazine, featuring Part 3 of my Inkscape tutorial, is now available for free download.

Full Circle Magazine is a free publication which focuses on Ubuntu and Linux in general, though the Inkscape tutorials are largely applicable to Windows and MacOS users as well.

Minimus AVR USB

Thanks to this overly syndicated blog post (really – Planet Ubuntu I can understand given its content, but Planet Mozilla and Planet Inkscape, too!?) I discovered a wonderful little device called Minimus AVR USB. Basically it’s a USB-enabled (and USB-programmable) AVR microcontroller on a board with the I/O lines brought out to solder connections and just enough on-board peripherals (two buttons, three LEDs) to do some basic things without breaking out the soldering iron.

I’ve been meaning to get back into microcontrollers for a while and been tempted to go down the Arduino route, but too little spare time meant that I never got any further. Because of their slightly illicit origins as PS3 modding tools, Minimus boards are readily available at modding sites for just a few pounds (I bought mine for less than £5 from here).

I hope to post more about these in future, but I wanted to get an early post in to mention a little pitfall I fell into. I’m developing on a Ubuntu box and managed to get the AVR toolchain installed and working easily enough. I grabbed the demo code from the Minimus site and was able to push the hex file to the board in order to get the lights flashing and the buttons working. At least I knew the little board was operational.

Next I opened the source code, but as it’s been written to compile using AVR’s Windows toolchain I promptly ignored the build instructions and make file. “It’s just a few lines of code”, I thought to myself, “I can hand compile it easily enough.” So I did. And it compiled. And I converted the resultant file into a hex file for pushing to the Minimus. I pushed it with no errors, reset the device and… no flashing lights.

Many hours of tweaking that tiny source file proved that I could turn each of the lights on permanently, or off permanently. But I couldn’t persuade them to flash, and I couldn’t read the state of the hardware button. I threw in snippets of code I’d found to disable the watchdog timer, but still no joy. I tried setting the I/O lines using binary, hex, decimal, bit shifts and any other method I could think of. Nothing worked.

The solution finally came when I found some other code online and built using the make file. Suddenly the lights were flashing and the button was working! Something in the make file – one of the many switches to GCC probably – was sufficient to get things working. So if you find yourself here because you’ve bought a Minimus to play with and can’t seem to get it going, check that you’re building with a make file, not compiling by hand.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Tech. 2 Comments »

It’s not over ’til the fat Chumby sings

I’ve written about my Chumby on this blog in the past (and this one, too). Alas! Chumby Indistries is effectively no more, the staff having moved on and any worthwhile intellectual property in the hands of a corporate trustee.

Fortunately the servers are still serving, so my Chumby is still working as well as ever. There will come a day when they’re switched off, but one advantage of the Chumby’s open source nature is that a couple of the users over at the Chumby forum have been able to create ‘untethered’ versions of the firmware which don’t rely on the Chumby Industries servers. I’m sure I’ll lose some functionality when the servers go dark, but at least my squishy little friend won’t turn into a brick.

Make Magazine has a long and interesting interview with Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang talking about his time a Chumby Industries, and more. It should be required reading for all those Kickstarter projects hoping to create the next big thing in hardware…

There’s a certain irony to Chumby Industries closing down, right at a time when other people have raised millions of dollars with a similar idea. Yes, the Pebble Watch may be more portable than a Chumby and fill a slightly different niche, but the idea of a clock/watch that can switch between various single-purpose applications and feed you with information from the internet makes them more similar than different. There’s clearly a demand for such “third screen” devices and I think the Chumby was simply an idea ahead of its time.

So while my Chumby still works as Bunnie intended, I’ll continue to enjoy the eclectic delights it offers up. With luck an untethered firmware will extend its life even further. Chumby Industries may be gone, but Chumbys live on.

End of life for Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat)

Today I turned on my computers at home and at work to be presented with an alert telling me that the operating system on them, Ubuntu 10.10 “Maverick Meerkat”, has reached its end of life. This event has reminded me just how frustrated I am with some of the decisions Canonical has made in the transition to their Unity interface…

I’ve been a Ubuntu user since its first release, choosing to live life on the bleeding edge of the regular six-monthly releases, rather than relax with the LTS releases. Generally this approach worked well for me, until the problem trilogy of 10.04, 10.10 and 11.04.

  • 10.04, “Lucid Lynx”, was an LTS (long term support) release which used the old Gnome 2 interface. It’s still supported for another year, until April 2013.
  • 10.10, “Maverick Meerkat” was a normal six-monthly release which used the Gnome 2 interface. Support has just expired for this version.
  • 11.04, “Natty Narwhal” was a normal six-monthly release which used the Unity interface and is supported until October 2012.

Back in 2010 I went through my usual two upgrades, the first putting me on an LTS release, and the second taking me back off that track to the six-monthly cycle. I had expected to upgrade to 11.04, but then Unity happened.

I’ll admit that I’m one of the people who doesn’t like Unity. In its current form I find it far less efficient than the workflow I’d established with Gnome 2. It doesn’t work with my preferred choice of focus-follows-mouse. Most of all, it’s fundamentally broken with my multi-monitor setup (something that the developers are actively addressing, though, so I might be in luck with 12.04). That last point meant that upgrading to Unity just wasn’t an option, regardless of my opinions of it as a user interface.

That’s my real gripe. If Unity had first appeared in 10.10 then I would have found that it didn’t work, stuck with 10.04, and still have until 2013 for Unity to get fixed, or for me to find an alternative. So please, Canonical, if you decide to make any more significant changes that may stop people upgrading by failing to work with their not-very-exotic hardware, at least do it in the version immediately following an LTS release.