Popular free image editing suite GIMP updated to version 2.8 with many long-awaited features: here’s what’s new

It’s been a long time coming. Users of the popular GIMP image manipulation program may know what I’m talking about: GIMP 2.8 has been released. It’s three years in the making, and it brings may oft-requested features to the table. Let’s take a look at some of the more important, and some of the smaller, features that have been added for increased usability and speed in GIMP 2.8.

Many have heard of GIMP; however, many have not. For those that have not, GIMP is a free “image manipulation” program — much like Photoshop. However, unlike Photoshop, GIMP is open source and freely available, making it very appealing to those that wish to do intermediate photo manipulation.

Let’s see what’s new.

Single-Window Mode

This is far and away the biggest new feature, especially for you. While past versions of GIMP have left mini windows flailing around outside when you move or minimize it, this new version nicely keeps them all together, much like recent versions of Photoshop.

Single window mode doesn’t simply mean the task panes are floating around, however. It also means that multiple pictures appear in one window: you can switch back and forth between them with a tab bar that appears when you insert more than one picture, as you can see in the next screenshot.

On-Canvas Text Editing

Another major feature, on-canvas text editing changes the Text feature significantly. While before in GIMP, you either had the text item selected and could change that, or had the text editing window open and could edit the text, you can now edit the text directly on the image you’re manipulating — no need for any extra windows!

In addition to modifying text while editing its properties, you’re also now allowed to edit more of its properties at once: while before, you simply had to make multiple text boxes to make a single bit of text multiple colors or fonts, now you can make any set of text and font or color just by selecting it. It’s really a lot easier to use and makes GIMP almost a pleasure to use.

Layer Groups

If you ever worked with a many-layered project in GIMP, you know how painful it can be. You’ve had to leave all the layers sitting alone, ungrouped, being an absolute mess to deal with. However, no more! GIMP 2.8 is the first version to support layer groups: as you can see to the left, you can put various layers together in a folder just by dragging them in. After adding them, you can do bulk edits like unshow them, change their layer mode or opacity, and a few other things. However, unlike Photoshop, it is impossible to do effects in layers. (Add it to the list for 3.0!)

Layer groups are simply awesome and the one thing I’ve missed since the first time I used GIMP. It’s awesome to finally have it.

Separate Save and Export

For a long time, GIMP has only had Save, not Export. This has caused a little confusion, however: when you saved a JPG, for instance, it would strip out transparency and multiple layers. This isn’t really saving — it’s getting rid of quite a lot of data. So, it’s been moved to Export. Exportation allows you to take an XCF file and turn it into a file of any format you can dream of.

Much, much more

However, these are only the big things. There were tons of minor or under the hood changes, and it’s hard to list them all. However, here’s a list of some of the bigger ones (from the GIMP 2.8 release notes):

  • You can do simple math in entries such as 50%, 30in + 40px, or 32in + 40%.
  • Tools drawn with Cairo: All tools rendering on canvas have been ported to Cairo to provide smooth antialiased graphics and make GIMP’s look and feel match modern users expectations.
  • The layer modes have been rearranged into more logical and useful groups based on the effect they have on compositing of a layer. Layer modes that make the composite lighter are in one group, layer modes that make the composite darker in another group, and so forth.
  • You can now Alt+Click on layers in the Layers dialog to create a selection from it. Add, subtract and intersect modifiers Ctrl, 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.
  • New docks are created at the pointer position.
  • Removed Toolbox from list of Recently Closed Docks, handle that directly in the Windows menu.
  • Allow closing the toolbox without closing the whole application.
  • Default to non-fixed-aspect in Canvas Size dialog.
  • Added ‘Lock content’ button to the layers, channels and paths dialogs, made the lock buttons more compact.
  • Allow renaming list items with F2.

There are also many more plugin-related changes as well that you can see at the release notes page.


Three years in the making, GIMP 2.8 is a huge milestone. It’s caught up with, and even perhaps surpassed, Adobe Photoshop is quite a few ways, and has made me incredibly happy. Its interface, including the re-written Cairo tools, makes it a thousand times nicer and easier to use, and its new features make it more functional, too. It’s great to see the GIMP development team continue full steam ahead in the name of the open source community, and it’s great to see GIMP 2.8.

Version discovered: v2.8.0

Supported OS: Windows XP SP3+

Download size: 72.6MB

Portable version: not yet, but soon

GIMP homepage | download page

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  • Eric989

    @Ashraf: No problem. At least between the spam filter and yourself, you have managed to keep up the quality of Dottech’s comments. Many other sites are lucky to get 1 semi-useful comment out of 10, and don’t even let me get started on sites like Youtube.

  • Ashraf

    @Eric989: Sorry :-( Sometimes the spam filter is overaggressive.

  • Eric989

    @Locutus: Now you can. Ashraf had to manually fish comment number 25 out of the spam filter. That comment is now out of order as it is showing as being posted 2 days ago when it actually only showed up 4 hours ago when Ashraf fixed the problem.

  • @Eric989: I can see your comments just fine o.O

  • Eric989

    @RobCr: Ok, that makes more sense. You did not get an email from me but got one of those new comment emails. That comment was intentionally deleted by me as I was seeing if anything would go through. I did not anticipate emails being sent out about it so quickly.
    It was a prior reply to Locutus that was not appearing for me and still hasn’t. That reply did not even trigger moderation. It just would not go through at all, like it never existed. But when I would submit an identical post it would tell me I already posted that. I emailed Dottech about this and asked Ashraf to forward the post to Locutus (luckily I copied the post to my clipboard prior to it disappearing). I thought that you somehow got my email to Ashraf, which had me baffled. Sorry about all the confusion.

  • RobCr


    This is what I received, that triggered my post –

    There is a new comment to Popular free image editing suite GIMP updated to version 2.8 with many long-awaited features: here’s what’s new.
    Comment Link: I HAVE DELETED THE LINK, to avoid moderation kicking in.
    Author: Eric989
    Posting seems to be disabled on this page. Why is it not working?

  • Eric989

    @RobCr: I was logged in and can post other stuff on this page(I deleted those posts) but that post or any part of it will not go through which is really strange.
    What is even stranger is that I have no idea what you are talking about. What email? I sent an email to Dottech to be forwarded to Locutus and it did not involve you at all, so I am really confused. Please explain. Something strange is going on here.

  • RobCr

    Got your email, but your are correct, it is not on the web page.
    This will see if I have better luck.

    PS In the US, office workers in the Empire State building had their windows open to keep cool.
    Someone jumped from the roof.
    As he passed the open windows, the office workers could hear him saying “So far, so good”

    Regarding my post appearing –
    ‘So far so good’
    It is appearing for the ‘allow edit’ countdown.
    I had to log in. Did you Log in ?

  • Eric989

    @Locutus: You say users will never find them. Well then is there something preventing you from just posting the link to the portable version? Maybe you could do something like this.
    Developers website http://rawtherapee.com/
    Portable version available here http://portableapps.com/apps/graphics_pictures/rawtherapee-portable
    Maybe you could call this third party portable or PortableApps.com version or something similar.
    I am usually put off when something is not portable. My computer is too old and slow to add a bunch more junk to the registry(I am usually less concerned with being able to use it on a usb drive). So for users like me, we always want to know if there is a portable version as we might not even check it out otherwise unless it sounds extremely useful.
    Also note that sometimes there is an official portable version from the developer that is not listed on their website or is otherwise hidden. When this is the case, they are almost always listed on Softpedia. I would greatly appreciate the addition of PortableApps.com links and Softpedia links if they are available. Probably more so with Softpedia because I pretty much know everything that PortableApps.com has.
    One last note:PortableApps.com has changed recently and is now adding one or two new programs a week(they are listed near the top). Maybe you can get an occasional idea from these as pretty much everything they feature is at least pretty good or at least has some niche use.
    One last thing. Here are a few suggestions for WSOD. Tweaking.com registry backup: it is a lot like ERunt but better and has saved me many times. ShareMouse: like Mouse without Borders or Synergy.
    Foobar: an awesome little audio player and converter.
    Anyway, thanks and continue the great work on the windows and android articles.

  • @Eric989: Thanks, updated!

    The problem with portableapps.com versions is that if they’re not readily available on the developer’s website, chances are users will never find them. Bleh.

    I’ve been considering adding a third level to the Portable/Requires installation categorization: No installation required. Apps like these might generate registry entries, or are otherwise not installed but not guaranteed to leave files and entries across your hard drive.

  • Eric989

    @Locutus: It was RawTherapee. I consider PortableApps.com’s offerings to be “official”. They don’t release an app unless it is fully functional and don’t make apps against the developers will. Some people don’t even consider an app to be officially portable unless it is in PortableApps format. When I am given a choice of official vs. PAF, I will generally choose PAF as the definition of portable can differ greatly between developers and PAFs upgrade easily and won’t overwrite your settings.
    I like your new pros and cons sections. I just wonder what you are going to do when you get around to posting a crappy program. Pros:Uninstalls easily LOL
    @Rob (Down Under): One more note about portable browsers, they have the cache disabled by default as that is best for low wear and tear on usb drives. However, if you are like me and use these on your hard drive, then you might want to turn that back on.

  • Eric989

    @Rob (Down Under): What’s the deal with the 450 tabs; I would get lost. Yes it is independent. I have Firefox installed as well but you can’t have them open at the same time unless you use a program called Twinfox. I think you can get that from Softpedia but I have never actually tried it.
    If you want to run 2 at the same time you can use PaleMoon Portable, Comodo IceDragon, Cometbird, and Firefox all at the same time. I do this all the time to keep my browsing separate. For example I might use Firefox for general browsing, IceDragon for banking, and PaleMoon for shopping. They never interfere with each other.
    Other places I find portable apps are Lupo Pen Suite, Liberkey, and Softpedia. Those are all great except that Liberkey requires itself to be “installed” but it is small and harmless and has some pretty unique programs that you can’t find portable anywhere else.

  • @Rob (Down Under): Go to Window > Single window mode. This should get rid of the floating window issue.

    @Eric989: This was probably an oversight. When checking for portable versions, I generally stick to official versions linked to from the developer’s site. If you do ever remember, just comment here and I can run back and change it. :)

    @Rob (Down Under): The profiles will be independent, but will not let itself run at the same time. To run it at the same time, create a new shortcut to your portable Firefox. I’m not sure if this approach works with Firefox Portable, but you can try the second half of this article (starting from “Using Multiple Profiles At Once”) with the path to your Firefox Portable copy rather than regular one in Program Files.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Thanks, I will now get brave and check out their other apps.
    Will their Firefox be totally independent of my installed FF, with it’s 450 Tabs.
    It would be great if I could safely run the two versions (not necessarily both up at same time).

  • Eric989

    @Rob (Down Under): Yeah, I use PortableApps.com stuff all the time. In fact I am using them right now with Firefox and Thunderbird portable. I generally prefer their stuff to even natively portable apps because some of them still use the registry. I probably have 30 or 40 of their programs in total.
    I have their platform installed as well but rarely use it. It is nice if you have many installed and can’t recall the name of something. One of the best things about their programs is that they upgrade very well and don’t over write your settings like some others do. You might consider installing everything to the default location of C:PortableApps. It just makes it so much easier to double click the “installer” to either install or upgrade your programs.
    PS You have also used just the name “Rob” at least one time when commenting on TinEye, but who am I to speak. I was simply known as “Eric” until a few days ago when I officially registered. I changed the name because another preceded me, namely the “Eric” who commented above.
    @Locutus: I noticed at least one time that you listed a program as not portable when PortableApps.com had a version of it. Was this just an oversight, or was their a reason for it? I can’t remember the name of the program.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Thanks for the Link, and the extra advice.
    It ‘Installed’ as you said it would.
    It is running now (Well starting up, as it is still loading plugins or whatever)

    Thanks for your input,

    PS It has now loaded itself.
    I still find the windows floating (or appearing to float) in ‘thin air’ disconcerting.
    But I won’t look a gift horse in the ‘thin air’

  • @Rob (Down Under): You don’t have to install the suite to use Portable Apps, that’s just something they push on their front page. Download the gimp-something-.paf.exe file and run it. It’ll ask you where to extract to; just select your thumb drive or a subfolder thereof.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    I have been avoiding ‘Portable Apps’, as my understanding is you have to ‘Install’ their suite first.
    My definition of portable is –
    – I create a folder, (in my C drive) say –
    – I place the Gimp’s zip into there and extract it into there.
    And it just runs from there.

    Can I do that with Gimp ?

  • @Rob (Down Under): It’s one of the Portable Apps portable apps: http://portableapps.com/apps/graphics_pictures/gimp_portable

    No building required, just run the extractor/installer :)

  • Rob (Down Under)

    @Joshua Noyce:
    Do you have a link ?
    Does it require any ‘building’ (mutter, mutter) for using in XP ?

  • Joshua Noyce

    The portable version is now avaiable.

  • RobCr

    @Sue Wilkings:
    Just to let you know that you are not alone.
    You may have noticed me nagging and hinting in the past.

    I am also known as ‘Rob Down Under’.
    Not sure what drove me to have two names.
    But the site drops my login sometimes, and when re-logging in, I (or FF) sometimes get confused.

  • Enfeus

    You’re welcome!
    Oh,and don’t forget the plugins:

  • Mags

    @Enfeus: Thanks for the links, I’ve already bookmarked them.

    In my searches for info and help I never came across those pages before. Maybe wasn’t using the right search criteria, which is unusual for me. I always did find tutorials and info, but none that were really of any help in trying to quickly learn. I’m currently using PSP but it is lacking in many respects for what I need. But always went back to it because it was taking me to long to figure out GIMP and knew I could do what I wanted in PSP in less time because I know how to use PSP .

    PSP = Paint Shop Pro (the poor man’s Photoshop)

    Again thanks for your help.

  • Enfeus

    Mags,take a look here:

    There are many tutorials on the net.
    GIMP is not that difficult,and with v 2.8 is much easier to use.

  • Mags

    I’ve known about Gimp for years, but I’ve never had the time to properly learn how to use it.

    I have installed it a few times and tried it but always give up because I just don’t have the time to try to figure it out. AND also found it difficult trying to find decent help or info on how to use it.

    Sooooooooooo my question is where can one find decent help and info on using GIMP.

  • mukhi

    i am learning GIMP now, and so happy to see they came up with the cool updates. will look for the update of the portable version, too!
    nothing can beat GIMP when you talk about freeware.

  • Still doesn’t support 16-bit files, though, and apparently won’t do so until version 3.0. While the FAQ claims this isn’t necessary for images to be published on the web, this isn’t strictly true — pushing an 8-bit file hard in processing very easily results in banding (that kind of posterised effect particularly noticeable in evenly-graded areas like skies). 16-bit files allow much greater latitude during processing. Most of the time this doesn’t matter, but when it does, it’s crucial, and occasionally switching to photoshop is unlikely to be satisfactory (to put it mildly).

    The GIMP’s wonderful, but for me it’s not there yet. I look forward to version 3.

  • Sue Wilkings

    I must wait on the PORTABLE version…. :-(

    I’m now addicted to portable apps….anyone else addicted to “portable only” too?

  • Ashraf

    Single window mode… wow. Too bad I just recently bought Photoshop. Too bad it is damn hard to use.

  • Madhamish

    This is a GREAT piece of software.

  • Eric

    I’m loving the single window interface. No more fighting with gimp in stumpwm.

  • hatman

    Gimp is Excellent. Love the Changes!