We often mention the triumvirate of open source RAW photo editors: digiKam, RawTherapee, and darktable. However, it's the last one we find ourselves using the most. Darktable always used to chase Adobe Lightroom for features and capabilities, but since we last looked at darktable properly a few years ago, we think it has finally surpassed its inspiration and become a powerful photo manipulation and management platform for serious photographers in its own right. We used darktable for our photography in Linux Voice, and it saved us from a complete lack of skill and ability on many occasions, especially when it came to under- or over-exposed photos where darktable can magically turn a black smudge into something we could print. This is all thanks to the various RAW image formats darktable supports, because these files will often contain far more proprietary detail from the camera sensors than can be encapsulated in a JPEG, for example, and every camera is different.

Coming from Gimp or Krita, darktable can be a little intimidating to get your head around. There are two main view configurations which you can switch between by selecting either lightable or darkroom mode in the top right corner. These are analogous to old predigital processes, where you'd look at negatives through light to see which ones you wanted to process, before doing the process in a dark (red-lit) room. In lighttable mode, you can organize your photos into collections, give them a star rating, add tags, and colorize their categories, all for easy storage and retrieval. In darkroom mode, you can edit the photos by enabling one or more processing modules that can do anything from crop an image to compensate for specific lens distortion. The results can be miraculous and utterly professional.

The user interface has been completely rewritten for this release to improve the look and consistency.

Version 4 is a major update and includes over 1,600 separate changes even from the previous 3.8 release, let alone the countless updates darktable has received since we last looked at it properly with the release of version 2.2.0 in 2016. The most important new features all deal with color. You can now create a target exposure or color profile, for example, and apply these to a collection of images for consistency. Fix one photo, and you can automatically match the same fix across a set. The filmic module, introduced in 3.8 to mimic the high dynamic range color response of classic film and derived from a Blender module, is now far more flexible and allows for more saturated colors. Similarly, highlights can now be reconstructed with a new "guided Laplacian" method, deriving more intelligent and natural results from regions close to the highlight. All of these might sound deeply theoretical, and unlikely to be useful to smartphone users, for instance, but this isn't true. Many phones can still save their photos as RAW images, which can all be processed and managed with darktable. It's ideal if you ever need to print something out, create a photo frame of an image, or share something for publication. And darktable is ideal if, like us, you never properly light a scene or change the exposure settings on your camera to compensate for poor or bright lighting. Simply trust in darktable to fix things.

Project Website

To be able to support new cameras and their RAW images, darktable is asking users to contribute their own photos under a CC license.

Role-playing engine

Exult 1.8

Doom notwithstanding, Ultima VII was one of the most brilliant and influential games of the early 1990s. It was a role-playing game with a top-down isometric graphic style that is still being copied today and whose graphics engine is part of the legacy behind Ultima Online, 25 years after its launch. But most importantly, the game itself was one of the first open world adventures where you could go anywhere and do anything. As you took your time to travel from one town to the next, Britannia's denizens would go about their days and seasons as they might in 15th-century England, tending to fields and cattle before going down to the local tavern for a beer and a meal. Meanwhile, your character – the avatar – starts on a quest to solve a grizzly murder that only ends after trekking across miles of landscape and an entire expansion called the Forge of Virtue.

Exult is a long lived project that runs Ultima VII and its expansions on modern hardware. It's available for almost any platform, including Android, and is easy to build yourself if needed. Like many such projects, it enables anyone with the original story files to run an old MS DOS game to be pulled into the modern era, complete with sounds, upscaled graphics, and modern controllers, if you choose. Version 1.8 of Exult, which has been released to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the original, is still adding features, including work on the game editor, now ported to GTK+ 3; added background effects; and a proper annotation in the ending sequence. This last fix is likely to have endured because playing Ultima is so absorbing you never want to actually finish the game, which is still brilliant all these years later.

Project Website

While Exult was built specifically to play Ultima VII, it has since expanded into a map editor and is now even capable of creating independent Ultima-like games.

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