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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Guru's Guide to SQL Server Stored Procedures, XML, and HTML (With CD-ROM)
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Ken Henderson
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
THE sqlxml book

By reading this book I went from not knowing how to spell xml to being able to build complex sqlxml applications.
The introductory chapter on xml is the best I've seen. I went from not knowing anything about xml to being able to code xml documents, style sheets, and schemas. I was using style sheets to transform xml into html in no time.
The other chapters on the sqlxml features in SQL Server build on this and teach you how to build sophisticated sqlxml-based applications. I especially liked the inclusion of the sp_xml_concat and sp_run_xml_proc stored procedures that work around limitations in the product. By the time I was done with these chapters, I had a good understanding of what was possible with sqlxml and how to use it. I owe that to this book.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Scott Kelby
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
entertaining the beginneers

I scanned it in the bookstore and I thought it looked like it had something I could use. It does, but there is a lot of things I take issue with.

The basic philosophy behind this book is that photoshop, and digital photography, is best mastered by getting "tips" and "tricks" that will go "bam!" like something out of Batman's utility belt. You just have to know what button to press on your digital wizard/photogee-gaw/hookah-and-also-makes-juliened-fries answer device and Presto! It's perfect.

Many will find this appealing. And, Scott Kelby has got that appealing juvenile style a la Dave Barry which makes it seem at least like he doesn't take himself too seriously.

However, his description of how to "color-correct any photo - FAST!" is so misleading I really have to take issue with it.

I just wish I hadn't fallen for the glib tone and paid the huge dollars. What was I thinking?

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Grokking the GIMP
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Carey Bunks
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
I grok "Grokking the Gimp"

This is one of those books where you look at it and say "It can't be any good, there's only a little over 300 pages. There must be a lot left out. After all, 'the other books' have 1000 pages".
In this case, size doesn't matter. Technique does -- and Carey Bunks provides you with the techniques for using the full-featured tools found in the Gimp. You are not just presented with "this button does this and that widget does that", but you are given a understanding of why you would use one tool instead of another to get the results you wish.
From basic operations such as cutting & pasting and selection techniques, to using masks and layers, to more advanced concepts such as anti-aliasing and the use of colorspace and color balancing, you get it all.
With the perfectly illustrative examples that you can spend hours experimenting with, I don't believe you will be found wanting the other 700 pages. Some authors just have the knack for clear, powerful content with fewer words. Carey Bunks, in my opinion, is one of them.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 Idea Kit (Idea Kit)
Publisher: Adobe Press
Authors: Lisa Matthews
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
All You Need To Complete 17 Easy And Fun Projects

Idea Kit is a good name for this book which includes everything you need to complete 17 easy and fun projects. All you need to provide is your own photos. The author, Lisa Matthews, provides you easy to follow, step-by-step instructions and demonstrates several techniques for Adobe Photoshop Elements. The accompanying CD has many project templates, textures and borders.

Matthews begins with a short introduction to Photoshop Elements' Photo Browser, Organizer and Creation Wizard. She then discusses common image corrections such as red eye, color casts, backlighting and cropping. Now that your photos are perfect, you are ready to start the projects.

In the first few projects, Matthews shows several ways to manipulate your photos by altering the background in a photo, changing a color photo to black and white, adding borders to your photos and using Photoshop Elements' painting tools to create some very interesting effects. She demonstrates how to use the software's Photomerge feature to create a panoramic image by combining several photos. Finally, she shows you how to create a collage by blending several images together.

In the next few projects, Matthews demonstrates how to print one photo in several sizes using Photoshop Elements' Picture Package and a Jewel Case/CD cover project using the Contact Sheet feature. Matthews also demonstrates Photoshop Elements' built-in PDF Slideshow and Web Photo Gallery features. Other projects use the many templates stored on the CD including a newsletter and photo transfer project. Finally, you use Photoshop Elements' Creation Wizard to make a postcard, poster, calendar and scrapbook pages.

Lisa Matthews is a commercial photographer and teaches photographic workshops. She also works for Adobe Systems creating demonstration and instructional materials.