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Perl Graphics Programming Shawn Wallace
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
462 pages
£ 28.50
Published: December 2002
reviewed by John Collins
   in the June 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

This book covers all the graphic and animation formats used today and explains how to generate, manipulate and convert between them using Perl modules.

After defining and explaining the various types of graphic file formats, the book spends a chapter on the Perl modules available for working with the various formats: GD, Image::Magick and GD::Graph. The Gimp is dealt with in Part 1 on Raster-type images, SVG, SWF (Flash) and Ming in Part 2 on Vector-type images and finally in Part 3, Documents and Printing are discussed with discussion of PostScript and PDF Modules. An extensive set of appendices cover how to provide graphics on web pages, how to use the Gimp, Image::Magick file formats and ActionScript (for Flash).

I have used GD and GD::Graph quite a lot and hit a few problems early on in the area of background colours and transparency which I would have avoided had I had this book. It gives a good number of worked examples which illustrate concepts well. I noticed this particularly in GD::Graph where it isn't at all clear from the ``man pages'' where the various titles and legends go and how you can adjust their style and positions. The section on Image::Magick with which I'm much less familiar, seemed equally well-written as did the chapter on Perl plug-ins to the Gimp.

The chapters on SVG are equally helpful with copious interesting examples in areas I haven't worked with to date. I tried a few and they all worked fine. I just wished there was enough time to really explore all the interesting features of some of these packages as with SWF and Ming in the next sections.

The PostScript and PDF chapters likewise have a wealth of useful information and examples of techniques for solving real-life problems.

At various places there are ``boxes'' explaining some of the more obscure features of the format or the Perl pack and unpack operators, for example, in the SWF chapter (as this is required), and tables of functions and operators. Most chapters end with references for further reading, web links and alternative Perl packages to look at in the same area as that which the chapter covers.

In summary, I think this is a very well-written and helpful book. I learned quite a lot from it quite rapidly. Someone with a graphics problem to be solved (and quite a few other problems as well) will soon be put onto the right track with the aid of this book as to what packages to try and what lines to follow. I am sure I will refer to it frequently in the future.

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