Book review: The Definitive Guide to ImageMagick <i>by Michael Still</i>

This book details the functionality of the ImageMagick package (primarily convert), by covering its command line usage, along with most of the valid options available and example images depicting the before and after effects.

The book’s cover

It appears to be more of a cookbook than textbook, which is no bad thing in itself, but is different to what I was expecting. The more involving text, I would expect (from a book entitled “definitive”), is absent and noticeably lacking. The author favours instead a basic run through of the various commands and how they should be used.

The book gives pointers to external advanced discussions which should have featured in the book

The contents

The book’s 360 pages cover the basic and intermediate level operations of the main ImageMagick tool set. It begins slowly by describing the installation process and touches on the source package. This is brief and neither useful in the context of a cookbook, nor in-depth enough for a full-blown article. It then works through each option individually and supplements each with at least one full example, covering most of its available options with before and after images. The explanations are good and easy to read, albeit sparse. The major convert tool is the primary focus, as you’d expect, although the coverage of stegon, mogrify and composite is welcome. The latter portion of the book improves on this by dealing with the delegate and API mechanisms for interfacing ImageMagick with Perl, Ruby and C. Again, this is limited to a cursory explanation, and several pages of source code. It enables you to start experimenting, but little more.

Who’s this book for?

This is intended for casual users and beginners who want to learn the possibilities of ImageMagick from the command line. It is useful for those are new to ImageMagick, or for those who find learning how to do something by matching an example image to command line arguments, easier than dry textual descriptions.

Relevance to free software

The books details only the free software angles, which extends to the development of delegates in the later chapters. It covers the package on both the GNU/Linux and Windows platforms; and while the images covering the complete Windows install process were superfluous, our illustrious free operating system seem to fare better in the author’s commentaries.


The Definitive Guide to ImageMagick covers everything a beginner would want to begin using ImageMagick from the command line. The tone is light and informal throughout, and you do feel that there is a lot to be discovered with ImageMagick. The progression from section to section is well thought out and logical as each “what if” thought from the reader is answered before long.


There are equally useful on-line tutorials (many written by the same author) and manual pages written on the ImageMagick commands that make the book less than it should have been. There isn’t enough high-level technical information to make it useful to the intermediate user or higher. Also, using black and white photographs to demonstrate colour image manipulation should have been consigned to the last century.

Title The Definitive Guide to ImageMagick
Author Michael Still
Publisher Apress
ISBN 1590595904
Year 2006
Pages 360
CD included No
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 8

In short


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