GNU Image Manipulation Program has been the free alternative to Adobe PhotoShop for the past decade. Though it doesn’t have the features that the popular photo editor has, it has one capability that PhotoShop lacks. It is available natively on almost any desktop operating system and on multiple architectures.

Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is shown here on Linux Mint 20, but it works on just about any Linux distro, as well as Windows and Mac. It can be installed on Linux distros that run on Intel/AMD chips and ARM processors, so it can be used on any laptop or desktop on the market.

The application is primarily designed to edit and make changes to digital images, it also has tools to create raster drawings.

The menus across the top will appear by default, but users can hide them through the View menu. These same menu items also will appear when an image is right clicked on.

Here are the menu items. Click the desired one to learn more about it and the items that are contained in it. Like other parts of Gimp, the menus can be changed.

  • File
  • Edit
  • Select
  • View
  • Image
  • Layer
  • Color
  • Tools
  • Filters
  • Windows
  • Help

Left-side toolbar

The collection of tools, located to the left of the image, will always remain visible, if Gimp is in Single-Window Mode. If this item, in the Windows menu, is deselected, the left-side toolbar, image, and layer controls will be in separate windows. Each individual window can be closed.

Toolbox is divided into several sections. The top section contains several different icons for the different tools. Click the desired one, and the below sections will change with items that support the chosen tool.

Section two has four tabs for each tool:

  • Tool Options
  • Device Status
  • Undo History
  • Images

Each one of these tabs has several buttons at the bottom of the window. These are the default tabs, but more can be added.

The Toolbox window is the easiest way to access the most used tools for editing images. All of the tools in the toolbox are in the Tools menu as well.

The Tools menu has more tools than the toolbox, but it takes several clicks to implement then, rather than an easy one-click for each tool in the Toolbox.

Layers and brushes window

This window is divided into two sections. The top section has four tabs focused on drawing and creating artwork. There is also a tab for document history. These are the default tabs, but more can be added.

  • Brushes
  • Patterns
  • Fonts
  • Document History

Each of the tabs has buttons at the bottom of the section.

Section two focuses on layers.

Layers are used to create art with multiple images an drawings. There are two more tabs by default, but more can be added. Here are the default tabs:

  • Layers
  • Channels
  • Paths

Layers and Channels can be made visible and invisible. Layers also can be locked.

Each of the tabs has buttons at the bottom of the section.

Operating systems

GIMP runs on most operating systems.

It can be installed on Windows, and there is also a portable version that can be placed on an external drive, such as a USB drive. Users can take GIMP from computer to computer.

Mac users with 10.9 or later can install the latest version of the photo editor.

Several Linux distros come with GIMP preinstalled, such as Ubuntu Studio and Zorin Ultimate. It also is available in most distros’ software managers. It also can be installed as a Flatpak from the Gimp Website.