Updated: May 21, 2012
I really like it when I can be enthused about software and behave like a fanboy. Today is one such moment, the reason being, I'm writing a review of GIMP 2.8, so long awaited. GIMP 2.8 comes with all sorts of goodies, including the much-anticipated single window mode, which finally transforms the program into a professional-looking image suite. But there's more than just that.
So let's see what gives. Follow me for a tour of GIMP 2.8. Screenshots taken mostly on Windows, as the software has not yet hit the official Linux repositories. However, there's a PPA for Ubuntu Pangolin, and I'll show you a bit more about that too.
As I've mentioned, this is the big one. Rather than hunting 10 different windows everywhere, it's all contained in a single, static interface. Not only do you gain productivity, the aesthetic appeal has improved significantly.
Hand in hand with the single-window view, you also get tabs. When you open more than a single image, they will be arranged in a horizontal thumbnail bar above the main area, sort of tab-like. Again, you gain productivity and visibility.
In GIMP 2.8, using Save As for images other than the native GIMP format does not work anymore. Rather than just adding the required extension to save your image as desired, you will have to use the Export function. This is a bit annoying, if you ask me, but it works well overall and comes with a handy user-mistake-prevention safety feature. There's also less chance you will non-intentionally overwrite your images after making changes, as there's a separation between project files and presentation files, so to speak.
If you try to save as before, you'll get a sort of warning message.
What I liked is that GIMP 2.8 can work with plugins from older versions of the program. This backward compatibility is important. You can configure this during the installation or afterwards. Moreover, the new GIMP ported all my settings and customizations without any problems. Lovely jubbly.
Another handy addition is the ability to group layers. Rather than having them spread in a flat format, you can well, layer the layers, in a way. Which stands to logics, as some layers apply only to a specific subset of your image, and you want them all grouped for easier manipulation. For images with a large number of layers that represent different logical or post-processing/viewing elements, this is a most welcome functionality, as it improves your usability. Combined with the other features shown earlier, you really gain on spatial ergonomics.
Linux installations, for now
Without the program loaded in the official repositories, you will have to resort to manual installations and PPA in the Ubuntu family line. For example, on Xubuntu, I easily added and configured the necessary sources and installed the program.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:otto-kesselgulasch/gimp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gimp
Some more lovely images, you ought to be pleased.
You will probably like to know more. Well, there's a couple of GIMP 2.8 new feature articles, dated a while back, but still a useful pointer in case you want to explore the program. And of course, the whole of the world wide web is available, but mostly you get the same things, recycled from different angles.
Without going into the old GIMP vs. Photoshop debate, GIMP 2.8 is all about improving the way you work. Most of the stuff is there to aid you getting your art done in the best way possible, with the highest level of visual awareness and the least amount of clutter. On top of that, the single-window mode adds serious professionalism. Probably the most sought after feature all these years.
Throw in tabs, better layer management, new file formats and half a dozen other tricks, and you're in for a real treat. From the purely GIMP perspective, the program has just upped itself a notch or five, more like six. I like it very much, and can appreciate all the hard work invested in the development. There's quite a bit of smart thought in the final product. Rarely do you see quantum leaps in quality, but here's one. Excellent. If you liked GIMP before, you will truly love it now. Must try.