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Author:  Gremlette
November 24, 2008



What is available for the Graphic Designer
on Linux?

I think it is probably safe to say, that if you have searched for this article, you may already realise the benefits of dumping the Windows or Mac installation …. but what about all that proprietry software that you have been using for years?

I agree that it is a good thing to be able to include some big software names on your CV but at the end of the day it is your creative ability that sings the song of greatness in your portfolio. If you have experienced a variety of graphics packages, you of all people should know that using a different or lesser known package to get the result does not affect your ability to use a chosen proprietary package or the quality of the result achieved one iota.

Specifically raised as important to the Graphics Professional are the following programs. All of these are part of what we would normally include in a custom Linux install service at Symsys Ltd.

Vector Graphics Software for Linux

INKSCAPE is the most popular choice for industry professionals within the Linux community. Whether you are used to Illustrator or Corel (two very different packages) Inkscape has literally combined all the best functions into one and allows you to customize the package layout and panels to suit your way of working. There are now no CMYK issues, it includes colour mixing palettes, barcoding, diagram building, node editing and so on. This will open AI, PDF… even ICO and WMF. EPS import does work on the Linux version, but it has bugs that are being currently ironed out. The best thing is, you know the cure is never far behind and as with most open software, a huge community is there to help you and each other out. 

Photo Editing Suite for Linux

As a graphic Designer for some 15+ years now (crikey), I know that we need something much more than just a meager ‘paint program’ or ‘digicam suite’. 

GIMP is THE Photo Suite solution for Linux. Like Inkscape, do not be suprized if you feel a bit like it is Photoshop or Paintshop Pro re-skinned, because of the familiarity. I assure you it is 100% built as new from the ground up between thousands of minds, as an open source project. At the end of the day, all the icons, menus and features are built upon common sense and popular preference. Yes, it will open your layered PSD’s and TIF’s complete with colour profiles as well as EPS with no problem:)

We would normally also include  ’ Digikam ’ on Graphic Design Linux systems as well as any standard home user installation. Digikam is a light version that gives the capability of importing photo libraries from your camera with common editing features. Digikam now allows you to batch process red eye correction - that can be handy.

CAD Package for the Linux User

Now in all honesty, I have not personally had the occasion to use CAD packages all that extensively, but being experienced in pre-press and other design scenarios, it has been required on a few occasions.

KCAD seems to be the number one option and looking at the screen shots I do see a lot of familiarity in the layout and use of the program. It is confirmed that KCAD does open and saves files in DXF format which satisfies one of the main determining factors of program selection - compatibility.

A related Graphics tool included in the designers pack is the Gwenview image viewer.

PDF and Printing for the Linux System

Naturally, Adobe now finally offer a free PDF viewing program for Linux just as well as it does for any other platform.
Most Linux distributions are equipped with CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System, by default, however any that don’t have it in their repositories so they are simply a command away or a few clicks if you’re using a GUI front-end for the package manager.

Pstoedit - This converts PDF files to Vectors - EPS, EMF, AI etc and back again in most cases.

Xpdf  is a very efficient open source viewer for PDF files. Even though Adobe do supply a free viewer these days, I include this in a Graphic Design package for Linux for other valuable features that Xpdf has. The Xpdf project also includes a PDF text extractor (PDFtoTEXT), PDF-to-PostScript converter, and various other utilities. It can use Type 1 or TrueType fonts.

TC PDF  is a good PDF creation program to try out. It supports Barcodes, spot colour, gradient, transparency etc.

Refer to ‘Page Layout’ and Scribus at the end of this post for everything you could possibly need to know.

Even More Design Pro Software

I have outlined the Linux solutions above that are main concerns for the graphic designer. After that, you will soon find that there are absolutely tons of gadgets out there once you know what you are looking for. Just always remember to put keywords into Google like ‘Open Source’, ‘GPL’, ‘GNU’, ‘Linux’ etc… then what you are looking for and you’ll be sure to find one or more alternatives.


Fontforge - A Font editing tool.
On the subject of what can be every designers nightmare - Font Management.
Have you tried Fontmatrix? There is a good reason that we choose Debian Lenny for new installations. Debian seem to be really on the ball when it comes to developing better solutions on things that matter to the Designer. Get Font matrix from Debian


Scribus is what you need. You will find that Scribus offers everything you require to produce professional page layout for everything for pre-press simple layout to award winning magazines. Go to the Scribus website to find many well informed resources for DTP including quite a bit for PDF tools. 


You should now be really beginning to wonder why companies continue to strangle themselves financially, with keeping up extortionately overpriced packages like Quark and Adobe. If you are out on your own though, hopefully I have shown you the way to a productive and creative career without having to take out a small mortgage to pay for the packages to succeed.

Some of you may start to look at certain design and production centers in a new light.

Some companies are more like ’sweat shops’. I have worked in a variety of situations that may sound very familiar to some of you, such as the company that cannot afford enough licenses for you to do your job without borrowing someone else’s machine, ofter resulting in lowered pride in work, poor budget on necessary equipment and even having to share computers. Bad decisions like spending the maximum amount on software and minimum amount on the increased caliber of equipment to run it, makes for nothing but poor wages and miserable staff, which leads to a high staff turnover, and ultimately lower standards, which all leads to making a lower profit.

Some companies invest so much into proprietary software that they cannot or stubbornly will not let it go when it becomes desperately outdated, or no longer fills the requirement. It is very poor management to take preference to a big brand name … that in reality doesn’t to the job any better, over your staff, and sometimes if not usually these days, this software is not as good as an available open source equivalent.


Donate Donate Donate!!!!!
Keep the Open Source projects alive and well. Remember these incredibly powerful tools are provided to you free (Mostly “as in beer” AND “as in speech”, but at the very least “as in beer”), but the time and money required to allow this to be possible doesnt grow on trees (Even though it’s made of paper, which is made of wood ….. never mind you get the idea). So, If I just saved you  $5,000 NZD or more, per computer, because you didn’t need Windows, or that Adobe Creative Suite CS3/Corel Draw after all .. Please donate to the relevant sources and keep the community going. 


Following Editions:


Linux PC Setup for the Web Designer, 

Linux PC Setup for the Multimedia Designer

And on to the Geek, the Office, the Corporate, Fun and recreation, and for the kids.

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Author:  Hollow
November 21, 2008



Custom, Web design? - not at Xtra New Zealand - Its all pay for poor DIY tools

After doing some research in the Waitakere area recently we discovered that a lot of companies out West don’t actually have a website, with some further research we discovered that some do, but it’s just a holding page or a very poorly designed one, which is obviously built from a template and … just … well, doesn’t do much.

A little further research took us to the website as the root cause of this. After some seriously furious clicking to get to the right page we find some very disturbing slogans:

Get a Custom website built

but then

The Custom template layout is similar to the EasySite template layout with….


Get your website built for you by a website design expert

but then

Get Your Website Built for You from Templates

Telecom Xtra just doesn’t get it

Anyway needless to say that the words “custom” and “template” don’t really go hand in hand when it comes to web design, or anything in fact. Your web design is either done from scratch, in which case it’s custom, or it’s done from a template, in which case it might be “cusomized” from a template and the amount of customization varies.

Another little gem we found out recently, whilst dealing with an Xtra/Telecom website customer, is that if they register your domain for you, you cannot delegate the DNS (Domain Name System) services to anyone but them. This means they control your email, where your website is hosted, they’re responsible for your anti-spam and ultimately your website. With this in mind I HAVE to recommend to anyone in NZ that they DON’T register a domain with Xtra, period.

Overpricing to the MAX!

They advertise that you can register a domain for as little as $39.95, when companies like (Free plug for them because we register our domains through them) will register it for $38 flat, inclusive of GST and you can nominate your DNS nameservers and are not forced to be tied in to them forever. iServe also offer a basic hosting plan for $20 per month, you don’t get much with it but it’s enough if you can design the site yourself, maintain it yourself and you’re acustomed to sorting out email issues etc. Or you can nominate a different nameserver, for example if you’re hosted with us (Only offered to web design and technical customers, not offered as a service to the general public) you can use our nameservers and we can look after your site for you, not just the hosting, but we help you manage it, filter your email for spam and more, all for as little as $35 a month.

So how much does Xtra site design cost? This fabulous customization of a template, using an online program called EasySite, or EasySite Plus if you pay more? (Been available from LOTS of hosting companies for a long time and for free if you purchased a domain through them, if you’re in the U.K check out Well nothing, you use the site builder yourself to design it from a template, so you don’t actually get Web Design services, you get a program and do the work yourself.

The hosting is just silly!

Not only is this a terrible thing to offer, site design services by a program you have to use, but also their hosting isn’t great. They offer a $12.95 package, which granted is cheaper than us or iServe, but for that you have 200MB of storage, compared to only 20MB with iServe (the average 4 or 5 page site is less than 5MB in size unless it has LOTS of photos or extra programming) and only gives you 2GB of traffic compared to 7GB with iServe and 10GB with us, the traffic is the important part here, if you have a small site but hope for lots of business, the more traffic allowance you have, the better.

The next package they offer is no better, you get 10GB of storage (WAAAAAAAAAAAY to much for any standard website) and 400GB of transfer, (again WAAAAAAAAAAAY to much for any standard website) and you get upgraded from EasySite to EasySitePlus, everything else remains the same, you only get 2 domain email accounts, so and compared to unlimited with iServe and 5 with us here at Symsys Ltd. In typical Telecom style they charge for overuse, 10cents per 1MB you go over your traffic allowance (Easily done on a good month, trust me) and 75cents per 5MB over your storage allowance (Thankfully since they provide so much you shouldn’t exceed it).

So do they actually offer custom websites then?

No not really, if you click on their link to have a custom site built without templates you get the following as the second paragraph:

The Custom template layout is similar to the EasySite template layout with a banner design along the top and navigation along the left hand side so it is equally suitable if you already have an EasySite website and want to improve it.

So they’re not actually offering custom sites at all, they’re just offering you the EasySite pro package, so you’re once again doing it yourself, but paying them for it.


The conclusion is this, if you want a customised website that works for you, is optimised for search engines AND speed of loading then you need to go to a professional, we’re a professional and if you don’t like us there are quite a few other professional designers out there in NZ as well, you just need to look for them. We don’t use templates at all unless the customer asks us to make one for them, in which case we start from scratch and produce a template for the customer that they can then use to produce extra pages at their own will, instead of having to pay us.

It’s never a good idea to design your companies site yourself, unless you’re one or preferably all of the following:

A Graphic Designer

A Web Coder

An SEO specialist

We are in fact all of the above bundled into one company, we have a B.A.(Hons) qualified designer on staff, diploma qualified programmers and we have resources at our fingertips to provide quality, GENUINE, SEO services that will ensure your site gets found on a search in google, whether it gets found first or 21st just depends on how much competition you have, how much content you give us to put in to your site and how often the submissions to the engines get made. Making a site come top of the listings when you search for it’s company name is simple, making it come top of the search engines when someone searches for the service that company provides and doesn’t know the company exists, well that’s a science, and one we’re VERY good at.

If you want your site to look good, function properly and appear in the search engines (We’re not promising you’ll be at the top of them because that’s a promise NO ONE can keep), then you need to speak to us, or someone just like us, not design it yourself through Xtras proprietary software offer.

So once again, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t buy your domain, hosting or site design through Xtra, I don’t care if you don’t come to us, but for the love of good look elsewhere! Oh and if you REALLY must use easysite you can, check out their homepage here for more information on what they provide. But seriously, and I mean SERIOUSLY, pay someone to do it, or download something like wordpress, joomla or another CMS (Content Management System), then buy some PROPER hosting from someone like iServe or WebBase or Site5 and do it yourself that way, at least CMS programs tend to be very searchable based on content.

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Author:  Symsys
October 23, 2008



Symsys Fleet Car Livery - Front/Side

Symsys Fleet Car Livery - Front/Side

In line with Symsys’ continually bright and cheerful identity, our vehicles are very distinctive.

If you see one of us driving around I think that you would find us extremely hard to miss. Of course, once you are driving something like this, the days of any ‘fun’ in the car goes, ;) but the pride we have in the design and the company we run is reward enough.

The car shown in the images, already stood out but we thought we would go the ‘whole hog’ just like we love to do for our customers.

Symsys Vehicle Livery - Rear/Side

Symsys Vehicle Livery - Rear/Side

All the design work, mock up vehicle images etc. were done in-house by Symsys, using very high quality digital images along with some intricate vector graphics.

If you are looking for design for Corporate identity, Graphic Design or advertising in any format, or for any purpose, then contact Symsys on 09 813 0043. Find out more about us via our main website We are based in West Auckland NZ but also very accustomed to working remotely on projects to serve you wherever you are.

Hopefully you should see us driving around Auckland and the surrounding areas and like the title of the post says, their’s no mistaking us and hopefully there’s no missing us either.

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