Project Vision

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For reference let’s repeat the vision from the front page:

  • GIMP is Free Software;
  • GIMP is a high-end photo manipulation application and supports creating original art from images;
  • GIMP is a high-end application for producing icons, graphical elements of web pages and art for user interface elements;
  • GIMP is a platform for programming cutting-edge image processing algorithms, by scientists and artists;
  • GIMP is user-configurable to automate repetitive tasks;
  • GIMP is easily user-extendable, by ‘one-click’ installation of plug-ins.

On purpose, a vison is a combination of concrete and more fuzzy definitions. This gives direction but also leaves space for further expanding on this direction.

GIMP and its core users

The description of what GIMP is, and which core user groups it is made for, is encapsulated by the statements of which activities it supports:

  1. high-end photo manipulation; note the word ‘high-end,’ this is in results that can be achieved with GIMP and workflow it supports; high-end is not mid-or low-end: touching up some holiday photos a couple times a year is not what GIMP is made for;
  2. creating original art from images; this art ranges from freaking, underground cutting-edge to slick & commercial; the creativity flows from users into the work that is being done; note the ‘from images’ part, GIMP is an Image Manipulation Program; painting is just an extremely versatile means of image manipulation, not an end goal;
  3. production—icons, graphical elements of web pages and art for user interface elements; again high-end, top quality results and workflows to get the (massive) job done; note: designing web pages through mockups is not part of the vision of GIMP;
  4. programming algorithms, by scientists and artists; bit of an odd one out compared to the other activities; note the ‘scientists and artists,’ it is not just software engineers who should be able to have access to this.

value + traits

The value that GIMP delivers to users can be derived as follows:

work with very high precision to the result needed; follows from the ‘high-end’ statements and the photo manipulation, being able to perform unlimited manipulations without leaving a trace.
the freedom to create
imagine users almost in trance while they are creating, they know what they are doing, but also react to what they see on the canvas in a very tight feedback loop; the tools in GIMP follow these users to wherever they want to go, even if this is way outside the intended use of a tool or algorithm;
speed, speed, speed
important for all activities, but especially for production; the tools get out of the way of getting things done and allow for accelerating the workflow for those who get to know them, up to a speed of two actions per second.


Saying a piece of software is ‘for professionals’ is meaningless. There are people earning a living operating graphics packages who are terrible hacks; there are very accomplished and respected artists/creators/editors who are pure amateurs, doing it for the love of it.

It is more useful to define that GIMP is for intense use:

  • intense in the number of hours users put in to really master the tools; this is exactly the same as the centuries old process of how people, through apprenticeship, master a certain craft, e.g. furniture making; it is also the same process as learning to play a musical instrument: humble beginnings, but with enough hours of practice one can enjoy becoming very accomplished and play for fun, or profit;
  • intense in the speed with which one can work;
  • intense in how creativity can flow.

copying + motivation

Let’s get this over with: GIMP is not a for-free photoshop copy.

It does not make sense to work on a project that is a blind copy of someone else’s software—even if you were paid for it. Why copy someone else’s legacy issues and design snafus? To know where the issues and snafus are one has to research, analyse, architect and design—aka. the fun part—on several levels (engineering, interaction, etc.). Once one has done that, one is making ones own software.

To get there GIMP has a product vision. The vision of photoshop is unknown—does it have one? When vision are not equal, the resulting software will never be the same.