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Gimp 2.4 - A Proper Review

Date/Time Permalink: 10/26/07 04:05:23 pm
Category: Reviews

Now that I've gotten all the fussing about the wrong-headed design changes last time, it's time to talk about the good news: the new features. There is no merely discussing this as "an upgrade". This is basically a reinvention of the Gimp as we knew it. Keep your hat on, as there is just too much to talk about to proceed through in any kind of orderly fashion.

Also see Gimp release notes and Red Hat Magazine's write-up. Click the shots for full-size images. [happy now, Eric? q;o)]

The New Look - Lip-smackingly tasty. The new icon set plus the new widget integration makes Gimp look 100% better than it did before. I can't speak for other systems, but on Linux with KDE it does indeed adopt the desktop style.

brushes screenshot

Brushes - The first feature I noticed with the brush was that I could easily draw a straight line. The lines at the top were not done with holding down the shift key; instead it seems to detect when you're trying to go straight (hint: drag slowly) and keeps it that way. But only horizontally and vertically.

The brushes are indeed scalable, and in addition to pressure sensitivity, have "jitter" as well, making it so you can drag straight while applying a scattered trail. Altogether, the brush is much better and the functions are combined well in one dialog. The same attributes apply to erasers, pencils, etc.

selections screenshot

Selections - The selection dialogs are now movable. This is handy when you want to draw a circle and just miss the guide. After laying the selection down, you can move it with the handles in the corners. Unfortunately this only works with the square and circle, but you can still get other shapes by making a path and doing path-to-selection. You can also round the corners; even after you've made the selection. To compact a couple of points, the crop tool works in similar fashion.

Foreground Select - This brand new tool could use a tutorial or two all by itself. But briefly, you first use the tool like the lasso, drawing around the object. Then it will turn everything not in the selection blue (or whatever color you pick). Then you use paintbrushes to draw in the foreground, and cut away background. Each time you do so, the program will update the selection.

I saw the Google video and that's a nice, clean image of scissors they're using, but let's test a real-world object that isn't quite so set up so you could just as easily do it with one click of the magic-wand selector. How about the Model-A Ford from my old (now outdated) masking tutorial?

foreground selector screenshot

Something I've learned the hard way already is that you do not click on another tool while using the foreground selector or you lose your selection. Also, you may think you have the whole foreground painted in, until you hit enter and discover little pockmark holes in the selection. And so on.

That being said, it isn't all that different from the usual masking techniques out there; it just combines several steps and tools into one tool. I'd still want to use color channels and intelligent scissors along with this selector, either before or after. Still I am raving happy about this feature. Masking is a huge pain in the patootie, and any new tools I can use to tackle it are a winner in my book.

aligning screenshot

Aligning - The old "align visible layers" entry at the bottom of the layers menu has been turned into its own tool in the toolbox, and been re-thought. You will be clicking furiously here and doing nothing until you follow the rules: (1) The selection must be floating. (2) The dialog from the tool must be open. (3) after you get the tool, you must click inside the selection you want to move. Redundantly, since you can only have one floating selection at a time. (4) No, you cannot use the arrow keys like with the move tool. You have to click the little arrow icons in the dialog.

color picker screenshot

Color picker - The dropper tool in the color dialog can now pick any color from your desktop, not just from a Gimp window. For instance, this screenshot shows I have grabbed the roof color from KDE's "home" icon. You no longer have to open a whole new tool just for this and then copy and paste the hex number!

color picker screenshot

Text along path - The text dialog has a new function. To do this, you have to draw a path first, then put in text, then click text along path. This gave me an outline path which I then had to fill with the paint bucket. I'm dead sure that I'm not doing or telling this right; I'm going to have to RTFM on this one. But once again, as I always say with curved text, this is a job for vector editing and not raster editing. Nice though it is, I'd still rather do intricate text manipulation in Inkscape, then export it as a transparent PNG into Gimp for the other stuff.

color picker screenshot

Map Object - This isn't a new feature, but I pointed out the short-comings of this dialog once upon a post. Specifically, the rotation movements were goofed up. Well, I'm happy to say that they have now fixed it. It works perfectly exactly as you would expect, and furthermore I've noticed better performance, so it runs smoother now.

As you can see from the links, there's tons more new features all over the place. It really does show that they rebuilt many parts of the Gimp from scratch. There's so much more new stuff going on, that this is the landmark release in Gimp's history. The new features are a fantastic improvement, and I'll of course be getting some use out of most of them.

An End Note

In my previous coverage, where I took up a whole post to waaahh about the interface re-build, I had comments absolutely aghast at my audacity. One commenter was quoting Yoda, "You must unlearn what you have learned." Yoda, for Odin's sake!!!

Well, Mr. Tunnel Vision, you have given an Academy-award-winning performance in missing the point. To put it in Yoda terms:

Not important what was changed. Important is WHY was changed. If change for making better Gimp, change good will be. If change for making Gimp more like Photoshop, only bad can come.

There, is that simple enough for you? The Gimp development team is tiny. Their resources are limited. Making Gimp more powerful is a worthy use of those resources. Dumbing Gimp down to make it more Photoshoppy just because some wimp whined that it's too hard to learn is a huge - dare I say - a TRAGIC waste of talent, time, and resources.

Had Gimp the money and patents of Adobe, and Adobe nothing but a GPL and the tiny band of developers Gimp has, Gimp would be held up as the shining pinnacle of achievement that Photoshop could never match.

See, look: Gimp puts "script-fu" at the bottom of its filter menu and everybody has a cow. Blub-boo-hoo-hoo! Too hard to understand! But Adobe puts "digimarc" at the bottom of Photoshop's filters menu in CS3? Oh, that's honky-dory!

Because, see, Photoshop is proprietary software which means it comes from a culture that doesn't share, and "Digimarc" is a proprietary technology which has to do with Not Sharing, making your image digitally watermarked. Open Source is based on Sharing, so instead, our foreign concept is "script-fu", which is a language designed to write Gimp plug-ins with and share with the world. If Adobe had script-fu, it would be patented and trademarked and they'd make little teddy bears with karate robes with "script-fu" blazed on them and hand them out at trade shows, and everybody would love them for it and cry if it was taken away.

Do any of you people who complained about "script-fu" being there ever just step back and look at yourselves? To see how petty, how pathetic, how small that is? So there's a menu category you don't understand. Don't use it. So there were two color entries, one for the main and one for layers. Can you find it in your heart to carry on with the grim agony of your dark and cold life anyway?

Hey, I love you all! Even the trolls! But I'm still going to point out that it's easy and fun to sit on your fat ass and complain. Here, watch, I'll do it:

"The first computer I learned was a Commodore VIC20. I hereby condemn all technology that came afterwards because it isn't exactly like the computer I accidentally saw first. Bah to 3D graphics! Foo on all this WWW stuff! It's new, so it's too hard to learn! And how is Joe Sixpack supposed to deal with knowing what a 'font' is? Text should JUST WORK! Now, I demand everybody rushes out and rebuilds all computers to be nothing but a BASIC interpreter that hooks up to a TV set, and you have to give it to me for free and right now."

Is that how it goes? Did I do it right?

The vast majority of people just aren't wired up in their heads to understand this point, but oh well. The truth is there and it's never going away. Rest assured, I still love people, flaws and all.

Update: 11/07/07 - So now Adobe announces a major overhaul of Photoshop. "We must make Photoshop dramatically more configurable..." they say. Oh, you mean more like the Gimp? You know, like Phototrolls are always complaining about the lack of a standard interface across tools in Gimp and GTK.

Abandoning technology and joining the Amish never looked so good.

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