Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hacking Python

16 days of school left before the end of the year. Good. I've spent almost all of my waking hours the last week and a half somewhere besides at home. For me, this is definitely not a good thing. I've been learning a bit of Visual Basic in VB.NET 2008. It's OK, but it seems like a weak cross between C++ and Python. The last day or two, I've felt more like it's a waste of time to learn VB when I can learn something like wxPython, which should be just as productive and cross-platform to boot.

I've liked Python for quite some time, but I never really had any need to use it. Until now. I haven't used BeOS lately because I've been trying to iron out some production limitations for office-related work done at my school and my church. What are they? I need a flashcard program that can handle pictures or text card and can be used in a way as to be done with an LCD projector with a class. Nothing out there does that. There is also a complete lack of a clipart manager for Linux, which for a teacher or church secretary is an automatic no vote.

The state of consumer-level desktop publishing under Linux is abysmal. Yeah, yeah, I know about Scribus. It could be workable if there were WMF support. KWord and OOo Writer can do frames, but neither is very easy to do even somewhat complicated layout work. I'm thinking of something along the lines of Broderbund's The Print Shop or even (blech) Microsoft Publisher.

The major problem with Linux DTP is that unless you're someone who does it professionally and knows the intricacies of things like working with a printer and such, it's not very easy to use. I hate to say it, but Scribus could be a really killer program if it were able to utilize WMF and EMF files. The pro doesn't need them, but a large number of other people depend on them. The part that bugs me most is that the website offers a crappy workaround which, while providing results with varying levels of quality, is too technical for Joe User to really get a handle on and, frankly, too much effort to want to manually bother with.

Barring the Scribus development team to implementing this (fat chance), the solution would be to build a manager which can import and manage collections of clipart from different sources and then export them to the clipboard or to a file in a variety of formats. That is the goal, but first, I must learn to walk before I can run. Alas. The fruits of my first efforts? A script to extract clipart from MPF files served up by the clipart obtainable from the Office website. I'll post it a little later when I have more opportunity. For now, I've got some serious reading and hacking to do.

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