Photo and image editing has been dominated for a very long time by the Adobe product Photoshop, and quite rightly so. No other program has come close to delivering the level of sophistication and feature set that Photoshop does, and that’s why it’s been the choice of professionals for so long. There have been attempts by other commercial companies to compete, most notably PaintShop Pro, now owned by Corel, but by and large they’ve not made any impression on the market leader.
One major product from the Open Source arena of free software has been GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which has long filled the demand for an image editor on Linux, where Photoshop refuses to play. We haven’t recommended it for Windows users, however, because it has always sported a rather unconventional interface, which we found confusing and counter intuitive. Well things are changing.
The new version of the freeware, GIMP 2.6, is a whole heap better than any previous incarnation, and so now deserves to take its place on the world stage alongside traditional alternatives for mainstream users. We can’t say that it’s a replacement for Photoshop yet, it still lacks the outright power and compelling functionality of things like Context Aware Fill and Scaling, but it’s getting closer all the time.
The program now features a user interface that will be familiar to most people who have done image manipulation in the past, and the feature set, thanks to a robust set of plugins, is now first class. All of the essentials are available, powerful layer and mask manipulation, and most importantly a solid set of output formats, including PSD for compatibility with the Adobe standard. It’s easy to see that the developers are really putting in the effort and it’s paying off. Recommended.