Most web developers have dealt with picture and/or image data in one of their applications before – examples include the development of an online gallery, profile pictures (avatars) in community software, photo processing for services, pictures inside articles, etc.
Dealing with this kind of data from PHP, you might know that the bundled GD library is limited indeed and you eventually end up looking elsewhere for a more comprehensive solution.
Here comes ImageMagick (IM) to the rescue.
Many developers have used at least one software which relies on IM’s “convert” utlity.
Examples of this kind of software include the infamous gallery called
“Gallery(2)”, another well known one is called “Coppermine”, the award
winning content management system “Typo3”, community software such as
“phpBB” and “smf”, or even commercial ventures such as “vBulletin”.
Even though my list of examples is very PHP-flavoured, interfaces for ImageMagick are of course also available in other programming languages, such as Perl, Java, C and many more.
ImageMagick is quite a powerful tool, beyond the “convert” utility it includes a couple other helper applications – sometimes far too many. Unfortunately the manual is not always detailed enough when it comes to providing examples of usage.
Since all the capabilities never match up to documentation provided, “ImageMagick Tricks” looked very promising to me at first sight. The book is divided into an introduction starting with a short rundown on the utlities (display, convert, import, animate, composite, montage, mogrify, conjure and identify), then continues to “Installation and Configuration”, followed by more in-depth chapters about the utilities and is concluded by three chapters with “real-life examples”.
Getting into it
I started to read this book over the course of three days on my daily U-Bahn (subway) trip to work. So imagine getting on and off the train, not always having a seat – the book is still very readable and easy to understand – once you get home/to work you itch to try out some of the examples.
Due to the nature of a current project, I found incredibly helpful tips in this book – even though I have five years of working experience with ImageMagick, but I guess the saying that, you really never stop learning, has some truth to it. :-)
The overall style in writing and structure reminded me a lot of the various cookbook-books by O’Reilly – a series I really respect, recommend and adore for its simplicity and helpfulness.
You do not have to learn what you do not want to or need to in order to get down to business and solve problems. For example in the beginning I skipped right through the installation part and only used the examples for “convert” since I did not use “compose” (and all the others) in the project.
And that is what I like.
Last but not least “ImageMagic Tricks” is also a book to refer back to every once in a while. It gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling of security to solve more issues when the demand arises.