Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gimp Review

One thing I love about the web are its amazing free resources. In this day, there is really no need to pay for most software because there is almost always a free alternative that is just as good, if not better.

I'm going to compile a list of my favorite free software, but for now I want to focus on one piece. It's called the Gimp.

Gimp is your free alternative to Photoshop (PS) or Paint Shop Pro (PSP), although I will admit that I did use PSP for many years. I finally made the switch to Gimp and what it can do is really amazing. It is a powerful piece and though professionals would still claim that it's not as good as PS, the average user wouldn't know the difference.

Now before I get to the glowing review of Gimp, and even the cons of using Gimp. I must say that I am a very nit-picky person. This can be a good thing though, because it makes me a great reviewer in that I point out all the things that bother me. It also may be a bad thing because a lot of what bothers me is usually quite trivial. My point is, just because I list annoyances does not mean I don't like it. I understand that there is nothing in the world that is perfect.

Okay, so we now have that out of the way. Let's talk about what I like about Gimp, then what I don't like.

The first thing I like, no love, is probably the most important. It's free. Yep, it's F-R-E-E free. Gee, do I want to spend my hard earned cash or do I want to spend it on something else? I say something else.

It does most everything PS and PSP does. Not everything, but most everything and definitely the most important things.

It is fairly reliable. I don't have that many crashes, which means that it is built with good code. Always a plus.

It is highly customizable, with one very important exception (folder preferences) discussed below.

While it may not be as easy to use as I would like, it is not as difficult as it could have been. I've had a fair amount of success learning how to do comparable operations in Gimp against my PSP. Naturally there have been some troubles, like the line I talk about below, but for the most part it is very similar. In some rare instances it even works better.

Right now, I'm tired and having trouble remembering my list. I'll add more as I remember. I just want to move along to the cons, so... now for the cons.

Do not be alarmed by how many I have listed here, nor by my severity. I can be very direct and critical, but I say what I think and feel. I also seldom share the same number of pros as I do cons. I probably should, but I don't. We're always more inclined to complain than we are to compliment. That's too bad, but in truth I wouldn't have said I like Gimp if there was nothing but bad.

The first thing is what everyone else says, the user interface (UI) is terrible, plain and simple. UI is what you see (menus, buttons, text boxes, etc.) when you are using any piece of software, and in this case Gimp. It is very difficult to navigate so finding things is sometimes a tedious process. I cannot even begin to explain how long it took me to figure out how to draw a simple line. No kidding. A LINE! A small stinking line, like 1x10 px. It was just downright frustrating.

Another thing is the ridiculous window system Gimp uses. Your "toolbox" is an entirely separate being from the main window, where you work. They say that this was designed on purpose that way so that users have more space for working. Okay, but just because they think a bigger window for working is more important, doesn't mean I want that. I want my toolbox docked and I want to be able to maximize Gimp's window.

There is no way to set a preference for a default save location. Gimp stupidly assumes that I want to save everything to the My Pictures folder, but what if I don't want that? There is no way to change it. I save everything I do in Gimp to a folder in My Pictures called Graphics. That is where it needs to go, not My Pictures.

I have a number of things I do over and over again. Favorite procedures if you will. One of those is what we called in PSP a floating selection. Gimp has floating selections as well, but it's messy and doesn't make any sense. In Gimp, when I float a selection it automatically deletes the selection from the current layer. I feel it should make a copy of the selection and leave the layer intact. However what is worse is that if I create a new layer, the floating immediately loses 1 or 2 pixels along the edge. Now there is a hole in the entire image. Probably changing the options in the Selection dialog may fix that, but why should I have to do this? Users wouldn't be using it if we didn't want the entire selection to float, and not only most of it. This is where Gimp should know that the whole thing needs to be floated and it should work properly.

Brushes are too limited. In PSP, I could pick a brush and make it as soft or as hard as I wished. Not so in Gimp. There is nothing left to say about that because you cannot soften or harden any brush whatsoever. That alone is a serious problem, enough to make some leave Gimp altogether.

There is absolutely no support for Gimp at all. There are plenty of user forums where you can post problems, but these are just other users. Developers are seldom, if ever, involved with any of the forums and their topics. If you have suggestions, comments or complaints - like I have here - you will just have to keep them to yourself because there is no way to get anyone to listen.

The user guide is only available online. There is no excuse for this. Yes, it is easier to update, but you can update any document just as well. Not everyone is online all the time and this is another stupid assumption that is made here. All it does is frustrate users to no end.

Gimp does not support vectors. Couple this with the brush problem and this is why users stick with PS and PSP. There are vector editors out there which are also free, but Gimp should support this if it wants to really compete with the other big guns.

As I think of more, I'll be sure to post them here.

All in all Gimp, even with all its problems, is still comparable to PS and PSP. The thing is, you cannot beat that price, ever. Free is always best and because it is free, that beats out PS and PSP by a long shot.

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