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"Linux Gazette...<I>making Linux just a little more fun!</I>"
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<center><h1>GV: An Alternative to Ghostview</h1></center>
<center><h4><a href="mailto: email@example.com">by Larry
<p>I imagine that most Linux users have tried more than one distribution at
one time or another. I've tried several, and after configuring a new
installation to my liking and learning its idiosyncrasies I'm reminded that
Linux is... Linux! Distributions make installation and package management
easier, but once you're up and running the differences aren't really
<p>These days what I find interesting about distributions is the choice of
software packages to be found in them. You would think that all of the
distributions would offer the same software; after all, it's mostly freely
available stuff from the 'net, available to anyone. There is a core group of
applications which nearly all distributions provide, useful and high-quality
packages such as XV, XFree86, and Ghostscript. But there is quite a variance
when you get down to the smaller, less basic and less necessary
packages. Every distribution I've tried has contained software which none of
the others had included.
<p>Recently I've been using the Debian distribution. While installing
packages I came across something called "GV", which seemed to be some sort of
Postscript viewer. I installed it and learned that this viewer was developed
using Ghostview as a base, but it's much easier to use. Unlike Ghostview, GV
can also display PDF files.
<p>Due to the fact that most computer monitors are wider horizontally than
vertically it's not feasible to read a standard page of a document and
see the entire height of the page at once. GV deals with this by showing a
small rendition of the viewing window to the left of the page and highlighting
the visible portion. Clicking the left mouse button anywhere on the displayed
page and dragging it smoothly scrolls the page up and down, while the
miniature schematic rendition window shows you where you are on the page.
If your window is too narrow to display the full width the mouse can scroll
left-to-right as well.
<p>Here's a screenshot of GV displaying a page
of the included Postscript documentation:<br>
<img alt="GV Window" src="./gx/ayers/gv.gif">
<p>One of GV's optional features (it can be toggled from the menubar) is
aliased fonts. When this is turned on font characters are displayed very
<p>Ghostview has traditionally been supplied as the default Postscript file
viewer. I've found it to be awkward to use; it seems when I have the
magnification adjusted so that the print is legible, the window is so large
that it is difficult to navigate around the document. GV deals with this
problem (which I imagine has affected anyone with a monitor smaller than 21"!)
in a nicely intuitive way.
<p>GV is a good example of the dynamics of the free software movement.
Several years ago Timothy Thieson wrote the Ghostview program; it was a good
program in its time, but has been static for some time now. After all,
writing a piece of free software doesn't necessarily entail revising and
updating it forever! But the source was still available and eventually
Johannes Plass adopted it, with GV as the result. Then the program came to
the attention of Helmut Geyer and he made a Debian package of GV, bringing
the software to a new group of users. Developers don't have to re-invent the
wheel, as there is probably code archived somewhere which will provide a
head-start on any sort of application.
<p>GV can be obtained in source form from
this German FTP site</a>. I believe the Xaw3d widget set is required in order
to compile the source. The Debian version can be FTP'ed from
the main Debian site</a> or one of its mirrors.
<center><H5>Copyright © 1997, Larry Ayers <BR>
Published in Issue 16 of the Linux Gazette, April 1997</H5></center>
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Last modified: Sun 30 Mar 1997
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