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This analysis its the result all of our work on GIMP up to now, and shows the way forward for each aspect of GIMP UI, in the form of solution models.


windows, toolbox, inspectors

heads-up displays

zooming and scrolling

the toolbox

the brush tools

  • make the four main brush modes (airbrush, nib, pencil, paintbrush) sub-modes of every type of brush tool, not just of color painting;
  • create the opportunity to move the four main brush modes to be more algorithm based for further refinement. Bitmaps for brush shapes will play a more secondary role (for special jobs) in the future;
  • complete the palette of type of adjustments that can be made with a brush:
    • saturation
    • distortion
  • merge cloning and healing;
  • take a less generic approach for what options are available for a certain brush type;
  • discuss the historic significance of the modes parameter, and its future;
  • introduce a way of painting with the effects of plugins. Probebly via the blobs-of-paint concept;
  • review of the shortcut actions to change brush parameters.

other points

  • it should be possible to apply unsharp mask with 4 basic brushes (sharpen tool)

the geometry tools

  • we have to do our utmost to get rid of the layer/path/selection modes;
  • there is a big opportunity for speeding up interaction by merging most of the geometry tools (move, rotate, scale, shear, perspective, flip) into one geometry tool; the icon for this tool can be a mouse pointer;
  • we evaluated that there is casual rotation, just by the eye, but also critical rotation, adjusting horizons for photographers; the same for perspective; this points toward that the casual rotation and perspective goes in the general geometry tool, and there still need to be two specialised critical rotation and perspective tools optimised for photographers; to be discussed: is there also critical shearing?
  • in the general tool, the different actions either work by providing dedicated handles, or by invoking a mode via a clickable on/off icon (HUD):
    • move + scale: handles like the new selection tools;
    • rotate: either a mode or a single circular handle that rotates around the centre point;
    • shear: either a mode or four handles mid-point of the sides of the bounding rectangle;
    • perspective: mode;
    • flip: two HUD buttons, just do it;
  • all these geometry actions can be merged also into the oval/rect selection + crop tools, for set-up.

path tool


the floating selection

project palettes and blobs of paint

during the evaluation we identified the need for a digital equivalent of the physical ‘painting with a palette in your hand’:

  • an image related palette, e.g. for wild brush work, we call it blobs of paint, and envision it at the images edge:
    • this is very much a ‘working palette,’ easy come and easy go;
    • drag or eyedropper colors in, or drag GEGL operations or plugin effects into a blob of paint;
    • ‘dip a brush’ in a blob and paint with color, or with an effect, like noise;
    • mixing, like in the physical world?
    • saved with the file;
  • a project palette, e.g. for web and icon work, we envision it in an inspector:
    • still ease come, but more explicit action needed to get colors out;
    • again, just drag or eyedropper colors in;
    • to be discussed: also drag GEGL operations or plugin effects in?
    • auto-persisted by GIMP, with import/export for sharing;
    • user sized, two can be displayed for easy drag-n-drop copying of colors;
  • these palettes should not be confused with the current GIMP palettes, which are very static and proved in the evaluation to be only useful as representation of global standards, like web-safe colors; some of the palettes GIMP ships with hurt its reputation as a high-end tool.


  • the overriding design principle here is that the whole concept of layers can be explained with one sentence: ‘layers are just transparent sheets, stacked to form the image’;
  • adjustment layers are a hijack of the layers concept that was needed in the 1990s to get things done and to be re-adjustable later on; with GEGl there is no need for it anymore, and GIMP can miss like a toothache: the complication, the unnatural way of working and the fact that the guiding principle above goes to hell;
  • layer modes: we understand the power, but there is also something horribly wrong with it; the best a user can do is scroll through the list of modes and see what happens, and that is not being in control of your tool; any workflow that includes a layer mode for rather straightforward goals indicates an interaction problem we have to solve;
  • grouping of consecutive layers: we support it; we see for groups of groups an interface display problem, the indenting for a level should not eat too much horizontal space;

hot-linking vector images

  • it should be possible to hot link to vector image
  • vector image should open as a new layer
  • when changing vector img in Inscape, it should update on it’s own in GIMP. If that's impossible, then at least one-click manual refreshing.
  • changes wouldn’t affect the quality also for resolution changes.
  • the steps/parameters that are now in dialog for vectors should be available in a vector way whenever- even if the original SVG is not around after years, you could still change it in a vector way with those parameters.

vector images, and text layers

persistence of settings and resources

cutting mask

export for web

open and save dialogs

scanners and cameras

filters roundup

layer mask and the alpha channel

split icon view

open PDF

Open PDF needs Ghostscript, this should come as an installer option.

  • other points:
    • something is wrong with sizing the pages preview
    • width and height should be chained, what happens if aspect ratio gets altered by the user: squash or cut?

Open New File

Open New File Dialog should make it more easy to set right size and resolution.

  • Image Size: width and height should be chained
  • It should be possible to chose resolution for print and for screen without entering advanced options.

Open Location and drag&drop

  • Open Location requires now that user adopt to machine. Small project to find the solution for a mini (ftp like) browser for Open location dialog could solve Open Location problems .
  • drag-and-drop - opening images by drag-and-drop should work also for Firefox (now it works just for IE)
  • for opening the files from browser window both dragging and typing should be supported

Save as

  • Changing the name should be more easy. For example if you worked on image.jpg, then ‘image’ could be already highlighted, and you could just type the name without a file format.
  • It’s important to be able to save work mask together with TIFF

Saving files with layers into JPG

  • Export, ignore: the terms are no good, what happens is not predictable.
  • There should be a better dialog, safer, explaining more. (Now we will take this layer and merge it/flatten.)
  • Better choice of the default formats (if a JPG file has layers, save it as xcf.)
  • To be furthered discussed if it shall remember the last decision as a default or not. Because it may cause mistakes when it saves sth as JPG when user have few layers.