2. What's New in GIMP 2.8?

GIMP 2.8 is another important release from a development point of view, even more that it was for 2.6. It features a big change to the user interface addressing one of the most often received complaints: the lack of a single window mode. Moreover the integration effort of GEGL library had taken a big step forward, reaching more than 90% of the GIMP core, a new powerful transformation tool, layer groups, new common options, new brushes, improved text tool, and more.

User Interface

New single window mode

With this new feature it will be possible to work with all the GIMP dialogs inside one big window, usually with the image(s) centered inside. No more floating panels or toolbox but the dialogs could be arranged inside this single window. This mode could be enabled or disabled all the time, even while working, and the option will be remembered through the sessions.

Figure 1.1. The new look of the single window mode

The new look of the single window mode

New file save workflow

Now Save and Save as work only with xcf formats. If you want to export an image in another format, say jpg or png, you have to explicitly Export it. This enhances the workflow and lets you simply overwrite the original file or export to various other formats.

Figure 1.2. The new image workflow

The new image workflow

New image bar

A new useful image bar comes with the single window mode, which lets you switch easily between open images through the means of a tab bar with image thumbnails.

Figure 1.3. The new image bar

The new image bar

New arrangement options

GIMP will make users working with two screens (one for dialogs, the other for images) happy: now it is possible to arrange the dialogs one over the other, in tabs and in columns too.

Figure 1.4. Multi column docks

Multi column docks

New resources tags

GIMP Brushes, Gradients, Pattern and Palettes can be filtered and searched via tags. Tags are text labels that the user can assign to resources. With Tags the user can easily find the resources by means of an input text box. Tags can be manually assigned by the user with the same input box used for searching tags, or they can be automatically tagged using the directory name of the imported items.

Figure 1.5. Resource tags

Resource tags

Simple math in size entries

Enhancements have also been made to the size entry widget, which is used for inputting most of the x, y, width, height parameters. For example, in the scale dialog it is now possible to write 50% in the Width field to scale the image to 50% of the width. Expressions such as 30in + 40px and 4 * 5.4in work, too.

Figure 1.6. Math size entries

Math size entries

Minor changes
  • The new Lock Pixels option in the layers dialog can avoid undesired painting on a layer when working with several layers.

    Figure 1.7. The new Lock Pixels option

    The new Lock Pixels option

  • Now you can move between images in single and multi window mode using the shortcuts Ctrl+PageUp/PageDown or Alt+Number.

  • Add support for F2 to rename items in lists.

  • You can now Alt+Click on layers in the Layers dialog to create a selection from it. Add, subtract and intersect modifiers Click, Shift and Ctrl+Shift keys work too. This makes it easy to compose contents of a layer based on the contents of other layers, without detours.

  • Since the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+E and Ctrl+Shift+E have been redirected to image export mechanisms, new keyboard shortcuts have been setup for Shrink Wrap and Fit in Window, namely Ctrl+J and Ctrl+Shift+J respectively.

  • Added WindowsHide docks menu item that does what Tab does and also displays its state, which is now persistent across sessions, too.

  • The layer modes have been rearranged into more logical and useful groups based on the effect they have on layers. Layer modes that make the layer lighter are in one group, layer modes that make the layer darker in another group, and so forth.

  • In multi-window mode, you can now close the Toolbox without quitting GIMP.

  • Allow binding arbitrary actions to extra mouse buttons.

  • Now it is possible to change the application language directly from the preference menu.

Tools, Filters and Plug-ins

A new tool: Cage Transform

With this new tool is now possible to create custom bending of a selection just moving control points. This is the result of one of our Google Summer of Code 2010 students.

Figure 1.8. Cage Transform

Cage Transform

Improved Text Tool

The text tool has been enhanced to support on canvas text writing and make possible changing the attributes of a single char.

Figure 1.9. Improved text tool

Improved text tool

New layer groups

It is now possible to group set of layers and treat them like an entity. It is possible to switch a group on or off and to move the group in the layers dialog. It is easy to add / remove existing layers to a group or to create / delete a layer inside the group and it is even possible to create embedded groups of groups. It is possible to apply a layer mode to a group as you do with a single layer. All this greatly improves the workflow with complex multilayer images making them easier to manage.

Figure 1.10. New layer groups

New layer groups

Rotating brushes

Brushes can now be rotated at will, acting on the brush option Angle.

Figure 1.11. Rotating brushes

Rotating brushes

Minor changes
  • The default Quick Mask color is now configurable.

  • The RTL mode (right to left writing) has been improved in the Text tool.

  • You can specify the written language in the Text Tool. This helps choosing an appropriate font, or appropriate glyphs for the selected language.

  • Added optional diagonal guides to the crop tool.

  • Added Rule of fifths crop guide overlay.

  • A Cairo based PDF exporter has been implemented. Although being somewhat simplistic, the exporter saves text, embedding fonts into the final PDF file, and attempts to convert bitmaps to vector objects.

  • Brush dynamics improved.

  • Added plug-in for loading JPEG2000 images.

  • Added plug-ins for X11 Mouse Cursor import and export support.

  • Added fundamental OpenRaster (.ora) import and export support.

  • Added RGB565 support to the csource plug-in.

  • Added a new Create command that allows loading a Web page directly into GIMP using Webkit.

Under the Hood


The porting of the GIMP core towards the new high bit-depth and non-destructive editing GEGL [GEGL] library has taken big steps and now more than 90% of the task is already finished.

In addition to porting color operations to GEGL, an experimental GEGL Operation tool has been added, found in the Tools menu. It enables applying GEGL operations to an image and it gives on-canvas previews of the results. The screenshot below shows this for a Gaussian Blur.

Figure 1.12. GEGL operation

GEGL operation

Cairo porting

Started with GIMP version 2.6, all tools rendering on canvas is now completely ported to [CAIRO]. It provides smooth antialiased graphics and improves GIMP look. Some plug-ins have been upgraded to Cairo as well. Additionally all tools now use an on-canvas progress indicator instead of the one in the statusbar.

Figure 1.13. Progress indicator

Progress indicator


License change

The GIMP license has been changed to (L)GPLv3+.

New script API
  • A lot of GIMP APIs have been rebuilt to simplify developing new scripts.

  • To further enhances scripting abilities, API changes to support layer groups have been made.

Backwards Compatibility

To allow migrating from the old tools presets system to the new one, there is a Python script, which you can download from the GIMP wiki site. However, the old tools presets are not 100% convertible to the new tool presets. For instance, brush scale from 2.6 can't be converted to brush size in 2.8.

Known Problems

Working with graphics tablets could be problematic due to the GTK+2 library in use. If in this case either use the older version 2.6 or wait for the up coming version 3.0 for the full GTK+3 support.