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Software for assembling figures - (Jan/30/2014 )

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I was wondering whether anyone had useful advice regarding the software in which to easily arrange figures. If your suggestion is MS PowerPoint, please keep it to yourself (IMO nothing should be assembled in PowerPoint except presentations and quick door signs)! The purpose is mainly for inclusion in my thesis although it is possible some will be used in a publication.

 

The majority of my figures will be based around micrographs (5.5 MB uncompressed TIFFs) but there will also be schematical illustrations and basic graphs.

 

I'd love to use Adobe Photoshop or even Adobe InDesign but they're both very expensive. If I don't get any better suggestions I will probably use Inkscape which is free and has many very useful features for making illustrations and for arranging and co-ordinating sizes, layouts and colours. It's not designed for this purpose but I don't presently know of any better solutions other than the aforementioned Adobe programs.

-seanspotatobusiness-

For basic graphs you could use Graphpad. It is free for thirty days so that should give you plenty of time.

-jerryshelly1-

GraphPad Prism? I've used that in the past and it was a positive experience. I don't think I can add TIFF micrographs to it though, right? I may use it in the future to prepare graphs (if Excel isn't cooperative) to later import to whatever program I end up using if not Inkscape.

-seanspotatobusiness-

Gimp and Inkscape are the free alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator (i.e. raster or vector graphics based). Adobe also had a cheaper version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements, not sure if it's still supported.

Scribus would be an alternative to Indesign.

-hobglobin-

From Graphpad:

 

Which kinds of tiff files can Prism import.

FAQ# 1344    Last Modified 22-March-2009

 You can import images onto a Prism graph or layout, and Prism accepts various formats. A popular format for images is tiff, but these files can be created in many ways.

Prism Windows (version 4 or 5) will import uncompressed TIFF images that use the RGB or gray scale color model. It cannot import compressed tiff files, or files that that use the CMYK color model. 

Mac Prism (version 4 or 5) can import uncompressed and compressed TIFF images, as long as the compression algorithm is one of the following: LZW, PackBits, JPEG, CCITTFAX. It can import files that use either RGB or CMYK color models.

Prism Mac 5 will import a tiff file that contain an alpha channel, but the results will be unsatisfactory. The image will look ok when imported, but the imported image will turn into a red X when later viewed. You can use Mac Preview (comes with OS X) to remove the alpha channel from a TIFF file.

Prism Windows 5 will not import a tiff file that contains an alpha channel, but the message it gives is misleading. The message mentions CMYK vs RGB and file compression,  but does not mention the alpha channel. 

 

Edit:http://graphpad.com/support/faqid/1344/

-jerryshelly1-

A bit late but... Photoshop Elements is still maintained and way cheaper than PS. The new Photoshop CC gives you 30 days evaluation if you want to try

 

On the free solutions, the ones hobglobin says are the ones I have

 

PowerPoint can be very useful for some stuff, if you are worried about the printed quality go to advance options and be sure to uncheck the compress images option. In any case, the printed thesis version won't suffer due image compression as the printing size will be relatively small and the micrographs are shrinked to fit the paper. I used it to make the composed images with tiff files up to 15 MB for a new species description paper that fill full pages and the final result was pretty good.

-El Crazy Xabi-

Please no Powerpoint.

 

I use these freeware/opensouce programs to create pictures, schemes and posters:

 

GIMP is "something like a Photoshop" if you don't expect anything like a Photoshop. It can do most of the things Photoshop can, but learn to work with it's interface is allegedly pain in the ass (I can't say, I only ever used GIMP and find learning to do anything in Photoshop a pain in the ass). However, if you're brave enough to learn the basic usage, you are no longed dependent on expensive software for just simple image arrangement and adding some text to them.

I use GIMP for "image manipulation" as the name says, it's a bitmap editor, it can crop, paste, add text, resize, change color levels and contrast, and blur, whatever.. delete out a band you don't like (joking) and make a TIFF, PNG, JPG, GIF.. image you need. 

 

Inkscape is a great vector tool for creating posters that has it's baby diseases years gone. Actually, even being a vector editor, I find captioning images in Inkscape much more user griendly than in GIMP. So if you don't need to crop of modify your image, just import it as a bitmap into Inkscape and add text by the vector tools. Inkscape is renowned for it's text options, for that reasons it's particulary usefull for posters.

Inkscape's native format is .svg file (though a bit modified) but it mostly doesn't have problems exporting to PDF (with certain exceptions.. PDF doesn't support "opacity" option from Inkscape, but you can make things semitransparent by changing the alpha channel too, you just need to remeber not use opacity).

Inkscape can of course also generate bitmap images any size you want, which is great since this is often better solution for paper submitions than finding compatible vector format.

 

Irfanview does nothing special, but it's a very lightweight image viewer and you can easily crop, change DPI (print size), resize, change format and make basic edits to pictures that any of mentioned before.

-Trof-

Well I used Powerpoint to assemble figures for publications and it worked quite well (I combined e.g. two different tiff-graphs from Sigmaplot together with bars and other stuff from PP autoforms).

To improve quality you have to make the image more or less large enough as Xabi mentioned and then you can use Irfanview or Xnview (as alternative to Irfan) to improve resolution without getting a too small image finally. The biggest problem with Powerpoint seems to be that it just uses display resolution 72 pixels/inch as standard.

-hobglobin-

No, no and no.

 

Powerpoint just isn't a tool for posters. It is probably also possible to write letters with a screwdriver, with some effort, but sensible people won't do that regulary.

 

I still have nightmares from times I had to edit someones 8MB poster, 80cm wide in Powerpoint. 

(And I still remember huge internation conference overseas, that offered "free" poster printing onsite, where the only acceptable format was... Powerpoint. My colleague though it was cool and send her Powerpoint poster electronically, so she doesn't need to take it with her by plane. She though it was much less cool, when she found her poster printed without two of the crucial graphs. Ooops. Powerpoint posters are just evil. They will wait until night and then kill you in sleep!)

-Trof-

No, no and no.

 

Powerpoint just isn't a tool for posters. It is probably also possible to write letters with a screwdriver, with some effort, but sensible people won't do that regulary.

 

I still have nightmares from times I had to edit someones 8MB poster, 80cm wide in Powerpoint. 

(And I still remember huge internation conference overseas, that offered "free" poster printing onsite, where the only acceptable format was... Powerpoint. My colleague though it was cool and send her Powerpoint poster electronically, so she doesn't need to take it with her by plane. She though it was much less cool, when she found her poster printed without two of the crucial graphs. Ooops. Powerpoint posters are just evil. They will wait until night and then kill you in sleep!)

well for this you have also pdf and whatever formats I'd take with me (pps in earlier times for example)...and well if you have the money to buy Illustrator and the time to learn it efficiently it's surely better, but I don't have this, so powerpoint is an acceptable evil wink.png

-hobglobin-
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