My complicated and frustrating relationship with GIMP

GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, has a bit of a reputation among some for being…hard to use. It has a steep learning curve, and one of the most common searches regarding it is how to draw a straight line. This is justified by its supporters as “it’s not a drawing tool, it’s an image manipulation tool”, which… is actually a fair point. While it’s not great for drawing, it excels at editing existing images. That said, I had long wondered “why can’t it be both?” But that is not what I am talking about today. It took me a long time, but I’d finally started to get used to it. I could actually find the tool I wanted most of the time. And then, I opened the interface today to find…
it had been completely overhauled.

When this happened, I don’t know, but it suddenly went from being information overload and having a massive wall of tools to choose from, to a design that was, I think, a bit oversimplified. It took me a little while to realize that they had decided to group the tools in categories, with only one tool in the category displaying at a time, and the way to swap between them is… honestly a bit opaque. I am still trying to figure out how to switch between the pencil and the brush. Well, there is a way to do it using keyboard shortcuts (and honestly I can’t remember if that was there before), but my first instinct is still to use the mouse. They also moved the brush customization GUI from the left side to the right side, and the way the current tool being used appears seems to have been overhauled as well. The combination of the two completely threw me for a loop, and I ended up in the highly frustrating position of having to re-learn how to use the pencil tool. They also seem to have added a whole bunch of things to it that were not there before.

Once I got over the shock of having to relearn to use the pencil tool and calmed down (I had opened it to change a couple of pixels on something, and instead of just being able to do it and move on I had to figure out where the pencil was and how to resize it, and was frustrated that something so simple had become more complicated), I noticed some nice things about the change. While I am still getting used to swapping tools, I did notice that the menus seem to have been cleaned up and are easier to navigate, and they’ve either added some features or made them easier to find. It also seems to move more quickly than it did before. It also seems to be easier to swap the panel that a particular menu is on (once I tried swapping the pencil settings from the right to the left, I found I had no trouble). And the new features look like they could be pretty useful.

In conclusion, I feel it is a step in the right direction, but that a happy medium could be reached. Instead of the weird way tools are arranged, what about the ability to expand and contract the categories, so that switching between tools becomes simpler? That way it would avoid information overload but still not be overly-simplified. (Proper shape tools would also be nice, but I know that’s not gonna happen, what with it not being a drawing tool and all.)
My final judgement on it is: Eh, I could get used to this.

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  1. I used The GIMP for about three years. Those were the days when getting an image editing tool was not so easy if you didn’t have the money to pay for such a thing (i.e. Paintshop, Corel Draw, Picture It, etc.).

    I didn’t mind its fun floating panel interface, which was comfortable if you had a 14” CRT screen, but my big frustration with The GIMP was the tool to add text to the image, the cropping tool and the application of some filters.

    However, as time went by, FOSS and freeware applications appeared that allowed me to gradually wean myself off The GIMP: For example, iPhotoDraw and PhotoScape offered easy-to-use text-on-image handling, and FastStone Viewer allowed for quick and uncomplicated application of a number of filters as well as a glorious cropping tool that even Photoshop doesn’t have in its inventory.

    Even Inkscape and Krita – luminaries of the FOSS movement, and whose emphasis is on vector drawing, the former, and free drawing and painting emulation, the latter – offer a wide range of tools for digital image manipulation that I’d like to see in The GIMP.

    Perhaps what bothers me most about The GIMP at the moment is the feeling that its design and functions are stuck in the distant world of pre-2010 computers. If anyone wants to know what I mean, I invite you to try an amazing, multi-faceted digital image manipulation application that takes up a mere 65 MB on your hard drive and is developed by John Paul Chacha, a programmer from Kenya: I’m talking about Chasys Draw IES 5.10.1.0.

    Greetings 🖖🏻.

  2. Interesting update about GIMP. I used it for a bit but, like you, found it a bit overwhelming. So, I’ve been using Ribbet.com since Apple Aperture was no longer supported (and now no longer made) and love it very much. I think it’s the hidden secret. One plus that I like is that when you pay for the pro version it comes with unlimited cloud storage of your edits .

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  7. I love GIMP.
    Using a quite old version (2.8.14 –a version from 2017, I think) but most daily, like my basic tool for editing pictures and PDFs..
    Changes in apps usualy means improvement but with it, frustration for the user as well, as your case.
    And yes, a relationship with GIMP can be complicated and frustrating.
    But as I’ve said, I love it. It’s the first editor I open if I need any..

    So, hope you can finally get used to it… smoothly!

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