GIMP 2.8 Finally Released with New Features

GIMP 2.8 Finally Released with New FeaturesGIMP is a powerful image editor available on Windows, OS X, and Linux that closely resembles Adobe Photoshop in its features and functionality. For years now, it has stood as the go-to image editing application for users seeking a free alternative to the expensive flagship product from Adobe.

This week, a stable version of GIMP 2.8 has been made available for Linux users, with release candidates featuring the latest updates available for Windows and OS X. This latest version features a number of new UI and tool options that extend customization and answer some of the more common complaints about the application.

Perhaps the most obvious change is the ability for the user to operate within a single-window mode rather than having multiple windows open to edit a single image. This has always been my one big complaint about the application as a critical toolbar can easily become lost should you have other applications open within the same space. Where this may be a welcome feature for some, it always made the application seem a bit more scattered to me.

Additional changes in GIMP 2.8 (stable) include:

  • Multi-column Dock Windows
  • More Screen Real Estate For Dockable Dialogs
  • Save And Export
  • Layer Groups
  • Tools Drawn With Cairo
  • On-Canvas Text Editing
  • Simple Math In Size Entries

Keyboard shortcuts have also been adjusted a bit. These changes include:

  • Ctrl+J – Shrink Wrap
  • Ctrl+Shift+J – Fit in Window
  • Ctrl+E – Export to
  • Ctrl+Shift+E – Export…

Layer Groups may be the most welcome feature among Photoshop users seeking a cheaper alternative. Like Photoshop, layers can finally be grouped together and changed as such.

Text editing, which was a kluge of pop-up windows before can now be done directly on the canvas. To me, this is one of the more important changes as text editing was often confusing, especially when switching between GIMP and other image editors. I never understood why GIMP chose to go the route they had, but I’m grateful the project has finally adopted this approach.

Switching between open images is also somewhat improved, allowing you to do so without having to go through the menu.

Exporting your images is the new save, while saving an image allows you to save it in a native GIMP format. In order to save a file as a PNG, JPG, or otherwise, you’ll need to export it. I found this neither better nor worse, but it does fall in line with other professional media editors. Perhaps this will help ease the learning curve from Photoshop?

Brush management is also refined to be a little easier when switching between brush types. This is especially useful for a user with many added third-party brushes.

Speaking of brushes, you can actually rotate a brush now. Huzzah!

Where Can I Get it?

While a stable version of GIMP 2.8 isn’t currently available for Windows and OS X (these are expected very soon) Linux users can enjoy the stable release right now.

You can install the latest release candidate of GIMP version 2.8 for Windows here.

You can download the latest release candidate of GIMP version 2.8 for OS X here.

The source code for version 2.8 (most useful for Linux users) can be downloaded here.

Final Thoughts

It’s been a long time coming, but the latest version of GIMP shows a lot of promise. It isn’t quite there yet, but this is a promising step forward on an open source project that looked to be stuck in a cycle of non-improvements over the past few years.

Love it or leave it, GIMP is a good thing for the software market. It not only enables budget-minded professionals access to pro-level tools without the hundreds of dollars in investment costs, but it sets a bar that commercial image editors must overcome in order to be considered worthy of paying for.

Free programs such as GIMP also empower the impoverished to educate themselves on modern productivity software, making it possible for them to compete on a more even playing field. While you or I might consider GIMP to be a cheap substitute for the “real thing,” it could be the very conduit by which many learn the skills they need to achieve their goals of becoming professional photographers, artists, and designers.

Over all, this new version of GIMP is an improvement, and could have all the bells and whistles that some holdouts have been waiting for. GIMP is still far from a “Photoshop killer” and it would be equally difficult to say these changes are a breakthrough for the open source project. If I had to sum it up in two words, those words would likely be something along the lines of “less kludgy”.

GIMP has a long way to go before it will trigger the downfall of any professional option, but for those that depend on the advanced features and low entry fee, it’s nothing short of a dramatic improvement.

14 comments On GIMP 2.8 Finally Released with New Features

  • Let us know when the Windows and Mac versions come out.  I don’t have the hard drive space to really get serious with Linux.  I would definitely be interested in this.  I have been considering Adobe’s creative cloud thing today.  Every time I have used Gimp in the past it has frozen or crashed on every computer I have tried it on.  If you could put it to the test for the big systems I for one would be very grateful.

    • I’m using it on Windows right now. The RC is pretty solid, for what it is.

      • Harry

        gimp at first run may look as frozen (and may be a windows message about “non responding program”) because needs a lot of time to cache the fonts

        But that only at the first run

        And if you have a decent computer you must enter in gimp preferences to allow gimp to use a reasonable amount of RAM (the default is to allow to be used on obsolete computers with very few ram, that make it really  slow and unresponsive on decent computers if used on images of normal size (as that from modern cameras, let say of minimum 12MB )

        I agree with Matt that the RC seems pretty solid, but for sure no more then previous stable version

  • Let us know when the Windows and Mac versions come out.  I don’t have the hard drive space to really get serious with Linux.  I would definitely be interested in this.  I have been considering Adobe’s creative cloud thing today.  Every time I have used Gimp in the past it has frozen or crashed on every computer I have tried it on.  If you could put it to the test for the big systems I for one would be very grateful.

  • I’ve been a GIMP user for well over a decade.  I wasn’t going to install 2.8 rc1 unless I could install the 64-bit version (hey; it’s a new age) but still have my favorite plugins such as Mathmap, G’MIC (already knew G’MIC 64-bit was available thanks to samj), PSPI, and Factory Filter Convertor (user) filter.   Found out that the developers made GIMPs old 32-bit plugins work in 2.8 (not even the 2.7 beta had this feature that I knew of).  Even the Photoshop folks didn’t do this for CS5 (i.e., old Photoshop filters don’t work with 64-bit PS but both 32 and 64 bit programs get installed by default so you can still use your old plugins with 32-bit PS).   Since no one compiled Mathmap for 64-bits, once I knew Mathmap 32-bit would work in GIMP 2.8 RC1 64-bit, I went ahead and install it.   Though a handful of Script-fus still don’t work, all of my plugins do and all the Script-fus that are my favorites do as well.   A lot of the Script-fu authors will also update their Script-fus for 2.8 as soon as it gets the official release which looks like if finally has.   There were more then a few bugs in 2.8rc1 (slow brush response and TIF file errors to name a few) which I hope gets patched with the current release.   Still waiting for the 2.8 Final Release Windows compile.   Still, happy I am that I pretty much got my cake and can eat it too (all my plugins available and now I finally have a 64-bit GIMP).

  • I should have read your article in it’s entirety Matt.   GIMP may be cheap (i.e. free) but it’s extremely powerful.   I do have CS5 (use it for RAW file processing and that only since I’ve yet to find any RAW processors better or even close to ACR) but I do all my processing (and play) in GIMP (outside of RAW processing of course).   GIMP may not handle 16/32 bit color images, but very seldom is this even an issue.   GIMP can also do things more efficiently then PS too.   I also consider GIMP’s Value layer mode 100 times better then PS’s Luminosity layer mode and G’MIC plugin gives you any layer mode you want; G’MIC is the game changer and nobody yet compiled a PS plugin to use it unfortunately.   I’m not going to brag about myself other then to say, I have been a member of several retouching forums since 2003 and I hold my own with the rest of the bunch.    GIMP is only limited by how well you know how to use it.   I will give PS a few inches in the lead (mainly since it can handle 16/32 bit color images and, again, ACR is superior to any of the other free/ Open Source alternatives, but it’s only a few inches better imo.    I won’t say GIMP’s a PS killer so I will give you that, but it is my main retouching tool of choice.    🙂

  • GIMP is a great image editor, especially if you need the same thing on multiple platforms.  Paint.Net is a good one on Windows.  It’s also free and open source and it loads significantly faster than GIMP, but GIMP has more features.

  • I really like as an alternative to photoshop in a pinch.

  • GIMP is awesome. Using it on Windows and Linux. It definitely has enough functions for those who don’t work in in graphics & design…

  • Gimp is getting going. It had a small development team for many years, and they had a lot of cleanup to do and the code is mostly C. Linux apps get better only as more people use it and contribute to it. This is the official release notes, which show that they are improving things:

  • fearlessjwalker

    Downloaded Gimp about 2 years ago knowing nothing about editing images; it delighted me at every turn while learning it – I’m still learning, of course – when I’m ready for a more advanced feature, I always seem to find out Gimp could do it all along. Can’t believe it was a free no strings attached download. I feel like a heel for not contributing, I will.

    I don’t say, “Is that photoshopped?” I say, “Is that Gimped?” I’m happy with it!

  • I like Paint.NET over GIMP because GIMP seems to take a really long time to start for some reason.

  • I’ve been using gimp in my work and every time I turn around I swear I notices another creative way to do create a better graphic.  Infact the only way it could really improve for me is if I could animate with it like I used to do with flash and work with a larger canvas more easily (for business reasons I’d like to be working with 105 inch by 105 inch canvas’s).  Even without those 2 improvements if I had to pick one graphics program to use for the rest of my life exclusivly I would still choose gimp and just forget the animation.

  • layers of XMPP

    We have been trying to convince Adobe to allow custom layer blend modes in photoshop for more than a decade.
    Will GIMP finally allow custom [layer] blend modes naively?
    G’MIC plugin almost allows it… 😐

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