The GIMP 2.6 Review (rant)

gimp-splash.pngI use the GIMP at work probably 2-3 hours a day. When I reloaded windows I had to reinstall the GIMP, which is when I realized that a newer version had come out. Image editing software usually works “good enough” and you rarely check to see if there were any updates. I was surprised to find out there had been a major version change recently. Since the user interface on the GIMP hadn’t changed hardly at all since I was in high school, I was a little shocked to see how drastically it’d changed since last install.

For the most part the program remains the same, but the GUI does have some polish to it. tool icons look a lot nicer (but they’re wider – five across actually- so your toolbar takes up more space, but it looks like this is fixable), and they finally added a true polygonal lasso tool. The GIMP still lacks a true magnetic lasso, but I’ll take any gains I can get. I should stress that I work with a lot of catalog images, which is mostly cropping, combining and removing distracting backgrounds to meet our visual needs for the product presentation.

Speaking of which, the new select/cropping process is amazing. It’s similar to the cropping tool introduced to Photoshop in the CS series, which is adjustable after you release the mouse 1 button. I probably save 5 minutes a day right there not having to fuss with that anymore. Zealous crop is a little faster (SMP enabled perhaps?).

Probably the most annoying thing though, is the “Toolbox Menubar Removed”. This is a Neat Idea, in that it forces people to use the “empty image window”, but in reality it just clutters the screen. If your workflow has been finely honed to always be able to see the menubar at the top of the toolbox (I call it the toolbar) to easily open an image from any point in my workflow, you’re going to be sorely dissapointed. To add insult to injury, where the file and edit menu options were always visible before, is now a blank space that simply says “drop images here to open them”. Right clicking does nothing. NOTHING! Argh. Give me right click contextual menu in that big, empty space at the top – that’s prime real estate and it’s being wasted!

gnome-1280×800-fresh-start.jpg

Further insulting, after removing my File->Open command from the main toolbar, you’re forced to keep open the utility window to have any actual functionality. Gone is the versatility of being able to open a file from any window. If you close all the images you’re currently working on, the utility window still stays on your desktop. If you close the utility window, GIMP closes. If you close the toolbar, GIMP closes. You can’t ever turn off one or the other. Argh!

This is pretty frustrating, but the highly improved crop and polygonal lasso are worth it for the upgrade in the long run. Also the text tool inherits a lot of the new crop tool’s functionality which makes text a lot less of a chore than it used to be. The rotate feature finally gets it’s own button, but now there’s too many transform functions on the toolbar by default.

Other minor niggles, the in-program file browser is a little slow to populate a list of files. My workflow is organized into folders of about 50 images, which the previous GIMP had no issues opening and populating instantly. There’s a momentary pause now, which is somewhat annoying if you’re doing a bunch (20 or so) of quick minor edits not worth scripting. This is the 21st century, everything should be instantanious on my 2+ ghz dual core workstation, no excuses. The zoom % feature feels broken. I’m not sure what’s wrong with it but it used to be a lot more fluid, now it feels more cumbersome. If I ever reload the old version (GIMP 2.4.x) I’ll have to see what it is exactly that they broke in the new version.

Cool feature: date is no longer just by date and “today”, today is broken down by time saved, which helps me a bunch. Really digging that tweak.

You can download the GIMP for your favored OS here.

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