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The GIMP, a Free Alternative to Photoshop

- 2006.09.13

If you're like me, you don't have US$600 lying around to purchase Photoshop CS2.

For those of you who do, turn away - what I'm about to tell you might shock and amaze you. Or you'll simply think, "that program must be a load of junk." Either way, with a few simple keystrokes - www.gimp.org - you'll end up with the GIMP 2.2.13 (or 2.3.11 for developers) a free, open source program similar to Photoshop.

When people say GIMP, you might think of someone who walks with a limp, but GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program.

The GIMP started out with two students at Berkeley who released a stable version, 0.54, in 1996. Ten years later, the GIMP is going strong and hard, and it's putting up a fair fight against Photoshop CS2.

The GIMP has its limitations. Seeing as how it's free, it won't have as many features or tools or effects as Photoshop CS2.

To run the GIMP under Windows, you only need to download the installation file and let it run.

For OS X, however, you need to install the X Windows system (it originated with Linux, not Microsoft) and then download the install file and run it. Along with X Windows system, you also need OS X. The GIMP will not run under any classic version of the Mac OS, and it's very unlikely that it ever will (I learned this when trying to get it for Mac OS 9.2.2).

Using the GIMP can be a little confusing at times, especially if you're used to other systems. A lot of tools in the GIMP are very sensitive to use and need to be used with kid gloves when you start out. Say you're trying to smudge over blemishes in a picture (and not bother using iPhoto) - if you're not careful, you could end up blurring the entire picture.

Some areas are very limited, like trying to take a picture and rearrange it into words or another picture, for example. I tried to rearrange the iDoom words into my own representation and failed miserably, possibly because the program is still limited in many ways - or more likely that I still don't know a thing about editing images. LEM

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