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The GIMP is a bitmap graphics editor, a program for creating and processing raster graphics. It also has some support for vector graphics. The project was started in 1995 by Spencer Kimball[?] and Peter Mattis[?] and is now maintained by a group of volunteers; it is licensed under the GNU General Public License.

GIMP originally stood for General Image Manipulation Program; in 1997, the name was changed to GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is an official part of the GNU project.

The GIMP is quite popular for the processing of digital graphics and photographs to be displayed on the Internet. Typical uses include: creating of graphics and logos, resizing and cropping of photos, changing of colors, combining images using a layer paradigm, removing unwanted image features, and converting between different image formats.

Intended as a free replacement for Photoshop, the GIMP has not challenged that program's industry dominance in the print world, perhaps for any of the following reasons:

  • The GIMP lacks native support for the ubiquitous CMYK color space (there is a plugin for this; version 2 is slated to offer native CMYK editing and plugin support).
  • The number of plugins (add-on pieces of code that allow to perform certain complicated functions easily) is larger for Photoshop.
  • Some say the support of digital tablets used for free-hand drawing is superior in Photoshop.
  • Many people are doubtful of software made by volunteers being given away for free, as GIMP is.

The GIMP can be controlled by writing a program, not just interactively. A Scheme interpreter is built in, but Perl, Python, Tcl and (experimentally) Ruby can also be used. This allows to write scripts and plugins for the GIMP which can then be used interactively; it is also possible to produce images in completely non-interactive ways (for example generating images for a webpage on the fly using CGI scripts) and for batch color correction and conversion of images. It is generally believed however that for most non-interactive tasks, packages such as ImageMagick are superior.

GIMP uses Gtk+ as its widget toolkit (the part of the program that builds the user interface); in fact, Gtk was initially part of the GIMP. GIMP and Gtk+ were originally designed for the X Window System running on Unix or GNU/Linux but have since been ported to Microsoft Windows, OS/2 and MacOS X.

The GIMP was also notable as perhaps the first major open source end-user application. Previous work, such as GCC, the Linux kernel, and so on, were tools by programmers, mainly for programmers. The GIMP was a proof by example that the open source process could create things that non-geeks could use productively, and as such psychologically paved the way for such efforts as KDE, GNOME, Mozilla and various applications that followed.

The current version (May 2003) of GIMP is 1.2.4. Upcoming version 1.4 will separate the user interface and the back-end further than currently is the case (an unstable development version is at 1.3.16). The next major version, GIMP version 2, will be based on a more generic graphical library called GEGL, and is said to address some fundamental design limitations that have prevented many enhancements such as native CMYK support.

Film Gimp

A fork of version 1.0.4. of the GIMP was Film Gimp, a tool specially tailored to paint on and retouch frames (cells) of movies, using a frame manager and onion skinning. It has been renamed to Cinepaint.

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