It has been a long time since GIMP 2.6 came out, the last version of the powerful image manipulation program, launching as a viable alternative to Adobe’s offering. With this pedigree, the latest version of GIMP has a lot to live up to, and the three years of development certainly seem to have helped its cause.
There have been a lot of major changes made to the way GIMP works, and the developers have been keen to promote the new single window mode especially. It’s been a feature requested by the community for a long time, being able to integrate the dockable toolbars into the main GIMP window. While the floating windows were created originally to emulate the look of Photoshop, they never really worked the same way, and there was plenty of times when we just lost the bars as they suddenly moved off screen during start up. The new, completely optional, mode smartly places the tool bars in the main window, allowing you to drag them around and modify completely as you see fit, with multiple columns and different tools. It works great once you get used to the little quirks.
In general a lot of the tools and interface have been overhauled, with the ability to group layers a godsend for those doing some heavy layer work. The text tool now allows you to type directly onto the canvas, and the selection and boundary limited tools have greatly improved with some smarter anti-aliasing. It does feel like a genuine upgrade, with even the smallest gripes or concerns about the previous version properly addressed.
Then there’s all the cool little extras we never even though about, like the ability to do some basic maths in size value boxes, which is great if you’ve ever got out a calculator when you need to do some image resizing but want to keep the same ratio. You can also now rotate paint brushes, which is probably quite useful if you’re having to “paint” an image from the clipboard.
So GIMP 2.8 definitely shows that the extended development time has been put to good use. Everything seems like an improvement, with some of the previous limitations or time consuming tasks either fixed or better enough that they’re not a problem. An essential upgrade.
This new version of GIMP is vastly upgraded over its predecessor, with a mixture of community requested tool and UI overhauls complete with cool extra additions that all generally aid the workflow. If you’ve been on the fence in the past, the best free and open-source image editor just got a lot better.