If you ask most people to name the most powerful platform for multimedia, you probably won't hear Linux as their answer. Dealing with images, audio, and video, with all their different formats and requirements, is never easy. Since Linux has ain many ways undeservedreputation for being complicated anyway, many people likely figure that multimedia programs under Linux add an extra level of complication.
The fact is that Linux has a number of very powerful and versatile tools, both graphical and command-line, for viewing and editing just about any multimedia content. I admit that I've been intimidated by some of these programs in the past, but as I've gotten more comfortable with the tools, and as they have become more user-friendly over the years, I've come to the conclusion that Linux multimedia tools are not just on par with programs on other platforms in terms of both ease of use and power, in many cases the Linux tools are just plain better.
Compatibility with proprietary media formats has long been an issue under Linux. I remember the days when sites that posted videos in anything but MPEG-1 or -2 were horribly flamed by Linux users in Slashdot threads (not that it takes much to be flamed in a Slashdot thread). I admit I grumbled to myself sometimes as I waited for someone to post a link to a video in a format I could play under Linux. Of course, this was over five years ago. Today Linux enjoys compatibility with just about any media format you run into, even despite the proprietary nature of many video and audio codecs. I've found that these days I end up taking for granted that a videowhether downloaded or streamedwill play on my system.
In some cases, Linux has a definite advantage over other platforms in the multimedia realm. The Web contains a number of really useful tools for media management, from Audioscrobbler to manage music recommendations and chart your listening habits, to MusicBrainz, CDDB databases, cover art, song lyric services, TV listings, and many other web-based services. Nowhere have all of these services been used all together like they have under Linux.
Finally, the free and open nature of most Linux multimedia applications creates an environment where one great tool spawns another great tool. Most Linux multimedia programs are built from a foundation of powerful command line utilities and add either ease of use or integration with other command line tools. Any improvement to the base tools therefore gets incorporated upstream. This means that for most applications you can get your work done whether you prefer a GUI or the command line. In this book, I cover how to access the power of Linux multimedia tools for both environments.