The GIMP turns 25 and promises to carry on being the FOSS not-Photoshop

Image Manipulation Program spawned GTK, which begat GNOME


The General Image Manipulation Program, GIMP, has turned 25.

A brief celebration post detailed how the package started life as a July 1995 Usenet thought bubble by then-student Peter Mattis, who posted the following to several newsgroups:

Suppose someone decided to write a graphical image manipulation program (akin to photoshop). Out of curiosity (and maybe something else), I have a few (2) questions:
What kind of features should it have? (tools, selections, filters, etc.)
What file formats should it support? (jpeg, gif, tiff, etc.)

Four months later, Mattis and fellow University of California Berkeley student Spencer Kimball delivered what they described as software "designed to provide an intuitive graphical interface to a variety of image editing operations."

The software ran on Linux 1.2.13, Solaris 2.4, HPUX 9.05, and SGI IRIX. The answer to the file format support question turned out to be GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and XPM.

The rest is history. Richard Stallman gave Mattis and Kimball permission to change the "General" in its name to "GNU", reflecting its open-source status. Today the program is released under the GNU General Public License. As the program added features such as layers, it grew more popular and eventually became a byword for offering a FOSS alternative to Photoshop even though the project pushes back against that description.

The project's celebration page says volunteers did their "best to provide a sensible workflow to users by using common user interface patterns. That gave us a few questionable monikers like 'Photoshop for Linux', 'free Photoshop', and 'that ugly piece of software'. We still can wholeheartedly agree with the latter one only!"

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As Mattis and Kimball worked to create GIMP, they also spawned the GTK GUI-creation toolkit, which was necessary to evolve the GIMP but ended up becoming a piece of code probably more influential than GIMP itself.

GIMP is found in several Linux distributions and is of course only ever an apt-get away. It's also available for Windows and MacOS (on x86).

In 2018 The Register ran an eye over the then-new version 2.10.6 and found worthy enhancements.

The 25th anniversary has of course resulted in some commentary on social media:

The program is now on version 2.10.22 and updates to the 2.10 series arrive at a rate of "once in one or two months."

Work has begun on version 3.0 that promises to complete a port to GTK 3+. No date is offered for its debut, a reflection of the project being driven by volunteers. However, version GIMP 2.99.2, billed as marking "the first step towards GIMP 3 based on GTK3" emerged in June 2020. ®


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