Big Bubbles (no troubles)

What sucks, who sucks and you suck


What’s up with Bibble?

Bibble is a raw converter and image enhancement application for Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s particularly geared to large scale batch processing of many images. In terms of enhancement features, it supplies almost everything except selections and direct editing functions: for example, lens correction, sharpening, exposure fixing, etc.

The only fly in the ointment is that it’s a pain in the mouse to use.

Let’s be clear up-front: I support the idea of Bibble, particularly its high end feature set, low price and cross-platform availability. There aren’t so many professional graphics applications on Linux that we can afford to be overly picky about them. But Bibble is extremely likely to promote blasphemy, because it often leaves you pounding the keyboard while screaming, “What in the name of holy hell are you DOING??!”

While all the individual settings in Bibble and fairly straightforward and do their job well, applying them in combination to a set of images is erm…non-intuitive to say the least. Using the program, you get the feeling it was developed by someone who thinks differently to you or indeed, anyone else you can imagine. It appears to have a fondness for “randomly” resetting the controls between image selections, probably because changed settings for individual images are transparently saved (to a matching .bib file) and recalled. In particular, it takes a lot of work to make it retain and obey the output scaling parameters. There are several potential sources of setting information:

  • default settings;
  • a saved group of settings, or settings for individual tools;
  • custom settings for an individual image.

My only conclusion to date is that the program carefully works out which group of settings is the one you least want at any moment, and then applies them. To get it to do anything else, you have to force every option you can find to use your desired settings. (To be less facetious, I think the problem is that Bibble tries to be intuitive by transparently doing the right thing at any stage, but its idea of what’s right is a little odd. This causes frustration because the user can’t divine what it is doing.)

For example, for a batch queue that resizes the source images for web display (600 pixels on the longest edge), my solution was:

  1. Adjust the settings for one image, including the scaling (by percentage rather than dimensions, since width/height need to be kepyt proportional and rather depend on image orientation) and then save them as a group.
  2. Tell the queue to use the saved settings from the file.
  3. Oh, and tell it to use the settings to determine the final image size, rather than the default (“Full”) or any of the other preset options.
  4. Oh, and delete any individual settings for the set of images to be processed, since these appear to override the queue settings (Select All and Delete Image Settings).

You’d be surprised how much effort Bibble will apparently make to frustrate these choices and do the wrong thing. Maybe I need to read the manual more closely … or maybe I shouldn’t have to.

However, when it actually does the right thing, it’s a handy way to quickly prepare large numbers of digital camera files for web display or further editing. The interactive queue feature here is a joy, letting you rip through a large number of images, merrily despatching each to an appropriate work queue for processing: this one for web preview, this one same but in mono, this one to a full-res mono TIFF with no sharpening for subsequent proper editing, etc.

I particularly like using Bibble for monochrome conversion, now that it includes a “Black and White” plugin. You can supposedly do a “better” job using the Channel Mixer in an editor, but I find that the mixer gives too many options; I move the sliders around vaguely until I end up with something that sorta, kinda looks right, but always with a nagging feeling that a different set of tweaks would be much better. With Bibble, I can just enable the plugin (which I think simply extracts the Value/Luminosity channel by default), boost the contrast with an S-curve, optionally apply a vignette and then spit out ready-made B/W photos that somewhat mimic the look of XP2 chromogenic film. If the B&W plugin had a toning option, rather than the gimmicky “spot color” feature that will plague us all with selectively-coloured images for years to come, it would be perfect.

The other minor problem with Bibble, in common with other similar programs, is that you can’t apply sharpening after resizing (or can you - again, not an intuitive feature). When will application vendors appreciate that this is necessary to regain clarity, particularly for web-sized images?

Hence if you’re looking a bulk raw processing program on Linux (with a GUI), Bibble gets a qualified recommendation - it does the job after some wrassling, and it’s not like there’s an alternative.