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GIMP the Image Editor

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009

GIMP, the free image editing software, stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is not to be confused with the duplicitous villain, Keyser Soze, nicknamed the gimp, from the film The Usual Suspects. GIMP is an open source and feature-laden image editing program that has an unbeatable price.

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    GIMP is basically a photo editing software launched by two bright Berkeley students back in 1996, which can be downloaded free of charge at Since its inception, GIMP developers have greatly improved their product and expanded their user base to the point where it can compete with rival software in the image editing arena that you would have to pay for. You can use this free program to retouch your photos, for image composition (tone, sharpness, scale, and arrangement), and for image authoring. GIMP was originally written on a UNIX platform but it now works well on both Windows and Mac OS X.

    Just to name a few, GIMP features include a full arsenal of painting and editing tools, the ability to store as many images as you have disc space for, plus channels, layers, paths, and a mass production image renderer. The user interface tends to be a little bit complicated and overwhelming for the novice user but fortunately there are many tutorials (use the F1 key) available to help you along. Plan to spend some time getting to know the onion-layered GIMP. Maybe it’s not unlike the limping Keyser Soze in that respect.

    The GIMP download took less than ten minutes and required a restart. Once GIMP was installed, I used its familiar File > Open command to see that all my photos were automatically made available to be doctored up. I chose one of my favorite scenes from Glacier National Park. [Image 1] The photo appeared with all of the GIMP commands and features on top with drop-down menus. I adjusted the contrast and brightness easily by drilling down the Colors menu to create a more aesthetically pleasing photo although I am legally color-blind so you may not agree. [Image 2]

    While trying to learn the many capabilities that GIMP offers, I accidentally inserted a Supernova effect from the Filters menu. So now we know what a Supernova might look like before it's too late. [Image 3 and 4] Finally, I used GIMP's cropping function and Colors options to transform a great night out with old friends into a nostalgic event that might have taken place in the 20's. [Image 5 and 6] This latest version of GIMP does have a useful Navigation tool that allows you to work more easily on specific sections of your images.

    GIMP is a potent image editing software and once you become familiar with its user interface, it just might have all that you need to manage your photos. To ascertain the pros and cons of the mainstream photo editing software and their costs, check out reviews of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro, to name but a few.

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