For many people, the biggest hurdle to using The GIMP is the user interface. When The GIMP began it started out with a very different UI than any other application.
That UI was sustained, pretty much as-is, until The GIMP 2.6. With the adoption of 2.6 the user interface took a turn towards being more user-friendly. But with the new interface came enough change to confuse some of the old school users like myself. But like any user interface, once you get to know your way around the UI, it's second nature.
So let's break The GIMP's UI into its constituent pieces and make using this excellent application a snap to use.
When you open up The GIMP it defaults to three main windows: The Main Window, The Toolbox, and the Utility Window. These are the meat and potatoes of The GIMP. To get a better understanding of the whole we have to break it down into its pieces. We'll start with the Main Window.
From the Main Window all actions can take place. But the main action with the Main Window is opening and saving images. If you were a user prior to 2.6 this is where you will notice the biggest changes. One of the issues new users had was that once an image was opened they didn't realize there was a right click mouse menu they could use when they were working within images.
As you can see, in the image above, the Main Window now has a built in menu. Prior to 2.6 the Main Window didn't include this menu. To get to this menu you had to click on the right mouse button. Now 2.6 has both. This menu contains pretty much everything you need to work with your image. But you don't have to count on just these menus for your work.
The Main Menu has one other very nice feature. You can drag an image into this window to open the image. To do this open up Nautilus (or Dolphin, or Konqueror), select an image, and drag the selected image to the Main Window. When an image opens the Main Window seems to disappear. What really happens is the images opens up within the Main Window. When you close the image the Main Window returns to its former self.
The next window is the toolbox (as shown in the image to the right). This window allows you to quickly access all of the tools available.
When you click on a tool the lower half of the window will change according to the tool. This window is handy to keep open because it gives you fast access to every tool available. Another nice option with the Toolbox is, when you customize a particular tool you can save your customizations. The bottom left corner is the save button for saving tool customizations. You can also customize this window. The small left-pointing arrow near the middle is actually a menu. Click that and you will find other options you can play with. You can add tabs with this menu, lock the tabs to the dock, and save your options.
The final window is the Utilities Window. This window is one of the more often overlooked tools of The GIMP. It shouldn't be. This is where you deal with layers, channels, paths, etc. And you can add/remove as many tabs from this window as you like.
One of the most powerful aspects of The Gimp is the ability to do layering, channels, and paths. The Utilities Window (shown at the left) allows you to add or remove tabs that relate to just about any task you need. By default the Utilities Window has four tabs open: Layers, Channels, Paths, and Undo History. You can add tabs by clicking the left-pointing arrow and then navigating through the Add Tab submenu. Each utility tab is different from the next depending upon the utility. The Layers tab, for instance, has six buttons near the bottom of the tab (which is actually near the center of the window): New Layer, Raise the selected layer, Lower the selected layer, Duplicate the selected layer, Anchor the selected layer, and Delete the selected layer.
You will also notice, at the top of the Utilities Window, a drop-down box. This allows you to select an image to work on when you have more than one image open.
And that's it - the basics of The GIMP user interface. Once you get used to this interface you will find it very simple to navigate and much more user-friendly than you thought.
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.