Web Site Of The Month
The GIMP Homepage

Free image-editing software is as rare as a Gnu's tooth, but you can find out all about this sophisticated UNIX-based program at: www.gimp.org/the_gimp.html.
Photos © 1999, The GIMP Homepage, All Rights Reserved

How would you like to get a really good image manipulation program for free? I'm not talking about the ubiquitous Mac OS freeware program, NIH Image 1.61, that can be downloaded from www.shareware.com and other shareware sites. NIH sports an interface that only a techie could love, and while its capabilities won't keep the engineers at Adobe Systems up all night worrying, the price is right. Of course it wasn't really free, our tax dollars supporting the National Institute of Health paid for NIH Image. No, the free image manipulation program I'm talking about carries the politically incorrect title of The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). This turns out to be an acronym within an acronym. GNU stand for "GNU's Not Unix"--I'm not making this up. The General Public License under which The GIMP was released was developed by the Free Software Foundation and more information about it can be found in the section "It's Gnus to Me" or on their homepage located at: www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html.

Written by Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball, The GIMP is designed for photo retouching, image composition and image creation. Instead of the Mac OS or Windows environments most of us are familiar with, The GIMP runs under the UNIX or Linux (Linus UNIX, named after its originator Linus Torvalds) operating systems. In case you didn't already know, even Adobe's Photoshop is available in a UNIX version. The GIMP Homepage contains information about downloading, installing, using, and enhancing the program as well as serving as a distribution point for the latest releases, patches, plug-ins, and scripts. In addition, the site provides information about The GIMP community and related subjects.

What does the GIMP's interface look like? Here's one example, but keep in mind that Linux and the GIMP are completely customizable. So much so that The GIMP running on my computer might look completely different from another user's. The Photoshop like tool palette is a constant, but anything goes for the rest.

A recent version of this program is included with Caldera System's OpenLinux 2.2, which also bundles Linux versions of Netscape Navigator, Corel WordPerfect and other programs along with a copy of Linux itself. Using OpenLinux, a copy of the Linux OS can be installed on your computer and peacefully co-exist with Windows so that when you start your system, you can choose which one you want to launch--Windows or Linux. If you are a tinkerer and want to experience some of the pioneering spirit that seems lacking in contemporary computing, pick up a copy of OpenLinux 2.2 (it only costs $49.99) and start running two different operating systems on your Windows computer. For more information, visit www.calderasystems.com. There's also a Mac OS version, called LinuxPPC, that will let you run The GIMP on your Power Macintosh (www.linuxppc.org).

Penguins And Foxes And Gnus. You can download the latest version of The GIMP (1.04 as I write this) as well as a developer's version (currently 1.16) from the Homepage at: www.gimp.org/the_gimp.html FTP (File Transfer Protocol) download sites are shown all over the world, but there's more to this Web Site of the Month, than just a place to download a really cool graphics program.

The first thing you'll notice is a thermometer-like graphic that displays all the sections of the site and allows you to move back and forth between pages instead of using your browser's controls. The first part of The Gimp Homepage contains an introduction to the program, system requirements, sample screenshots, and basic information about the site's organization. Moving down the "thermometer" you'll find complete documentation including a User Manual in Adobe's PDF (Portable Document Format). If you don't already have Acrobat Reader 3.01 which lets you read PDF files, you can download a free copy from www.adobe.com/supportservice/custsupport/download.html.

The GIMP supports plug-ins and the site includes all of the information a developer needs to create what must certainly be a non-Photoshop compatible plug-in. With the increase in popularity of the Linux operating system, I hope companies such as Alien Skin Software and Extensis port some of their plug-ins to The GIMP. There is supposed to be a section showing "before and after" plug images, but that part of the site was not fully active when I last visited.

When you visit this Web site of the Month, you can visit the Gallery to view artwork and images produced using the GIMP, including the world famous Linux penguin created by Larry Ewing.

A Resources page contains the kinds of ancillary files a good image manipulation program needs, including collections of patterns, brushes, gradients, and fonts that can be loaded into The GIMP's tool palettes. In lieu of Actions ala Photoshop, this program uses "scripts" and there are plenty of different ones available for downloading to extend its capabilities. Something you won't find in Photoshop, and most other image editing programs, are tool and control palettes than can be truly customized. This part of the site has links to an ftp site where you can download a large collection of interface goodies. The Resource section also offers a collection of fonts, including free versions of 35 standard Post-Script typefaces.

The GIMP Homepage has a section featuring a gallery of artwork created with the program, a Script of the Month section, a semi-monthly contest for the GIMP-produced artwork, and a collection of "Made by GIMP" logos. The Gallery includes Larry Ewing's Linux famous penguin along with a link to Larry's Penguin Page for details on how it was created. This penguin is widely associated with the Linux movement and has become its mascot.

Finally, there's the Important Links section offering many different hyperlinks to GIMP related sites, including: a mammoth Plug-in Registry, which is the place to check for the latest GIMP Plug ins; Everybody Loves the GIMP (what more can you say?); and a Frequently Asked Question site (www.rru.com/~meo/gimp). Also included are links to galleries, web sites that discuss image file formats, and even links to homepages about other image manipulation programs. The Webmaster has even written a brief summary for every link so you don't have to waste time surfing over to something that might not be exactly what you are looking for.

There are always some warnings with any open source program. For example, if you take the time to read the Compilation and Installation section of the web site, you may be surprised to learn that you need a C compiler and related tools to compile and install the source package. The program also makes use of the GIMP Toolkit or GTK that can also be downloaded from the site. If all this downloading and compiling doesn't appeal to you, visit one of the "Important Links" at the WilberWorks homepage (www.wilberworks.com). This company offers a commercial (non-download) version of the GIMP bundled with an assortment of useful fonts, patterns, and brushes along with online documentation for just $15 plus $3 shipping. Wilber, by the way, is the name of the fox-like critter that's The GIMP's own mascot.
Linux, like all operating systems, desperately needs a "killer app" that will drive people to the OS. Given a little time and development, the GIMP just might just be it.

To find potential Web Sites of the Month, I use Macintosh and Win-dows computers with 56K internal modems. My Internet Service Provider is CompuServe Information Systems and I use the latest version of Netscape Navigator to seek out new web sites and go where no surfer has gone before. If you'd like to nominate your own homepage or a favorite web site, e-mail me at: editorial@shutterbug.net.

It's Gnus To Me
The GNU General Public License applies to most of the Free Software Foundation's applications and any other program whose authors commit to using it. The Foundation's General Public License is designed to make sure software developers can distribute free copies (or charge a fee if they wish), they receive a source code, and allow users to change the software or use pieces of it in new, free programs. To protect the original creators, the Foundation's restrictions forbid anyone from denying these rights. If you distribute copies or modify the software, these restrictions incur certain responsibilities. If you distribute copies of a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must give the recipients all of the rights you have and declare these terms so the recipients know their rights, too. The Free Software Foundation protects rights in two ways: They copyright the software and offer a license giving people the legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify that software. For each author's protection, they make certain that everyone understands there is no warranty for this free software. If the program is modified by someone else and passed on, they want its future recipients to know that what they have is not the original, so problems introduced by others will not reflect on the original author's reputation.


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