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Full user review
"X11 No Longer Required!! Geekware with growing pains."
At last, GIMP goes Mac native! It's a terrific free open source image editor / pixel graphic design app that's cross-platform. It has lots of power and trickery. Just keep telling yourself 'This Is FREE!' Patience pays off.
The 2.8 series is having growing pains that include BOMBING bugs. The GUI is geeky/clunky Windows/Linux in nature. There's NO built-in help, despite the menu items. The learning curve can be a bit steep. The annoyance level may be beyond the tolerance of those only used to working with the user-friendly joy that is Mac.
First off: Be certain that you've downloaded and installed the CORRECT VERSION of GIMP for your version of OS X. There is a version ONLY for 10.8 Mountain Lion. It's not going to work elsewhere.
It's well worth getting to know GIMP as it is the single best graphics app you're going to find for FREE. It has a learning curve and does not look like a typical Mac app due to its heritage. You'll be performing some contortions to get it to work for you, but it's worth the effort.
What's super kewl about the latest versions, the 2.8 series, is that GIMP now no longer requires X11/XQuartz to be running when you boot it. It runs all on its own as a Mac native application.
Unfortunately, the series has so far had a BOMBING bug that is guaranteed to take it out the first time you boot it. Report the bug and restart it again and you're likely to find it now works. This of course sucks, but I consider it a growing pains compromise of the moment as the developers get a better handle on how to optimize the code for Macs.
Also weird for Mac users is the REQUIREMENT that you keep one window open in GIMP at all times. Otherwise, it automatically QUITS itself. This is a Windows/Linux thing to do, is counter-intuitive and sucks. After you boot GIMP you'll see a central window entitled "GNU Image Manipulation Program". Abbreviate that name and you get GIMP. It's your work window. If you close it, you QUIT GIMP. Just live with it uselessly sitting there and get to work.
The GUI still looks craptastic for a Mac app, as if you're living in an old color Disney cartoon. But you get used to it. There is clunky 'hot help', but you'll figure out how to get it to work for you. (Hint: You have to click on the tool windows to get it to work properly, annoying I know). You have to do some bashing around to figure out how to get all the tools to work as you'd like.
For now, there is NO built-in manual, no Help, no Context Help, despite the menu items. That sucks. Manuals and Help tend to be the very last things written for open source apps. Beats me why. The result is a consistent GEEKINESS feel that fundamentally disregards user needs and hand-holding. The developers act as if they expect you to be a geek who is used to this level of incompleteness and who knows they'll have to go searching into obscure corners of the universe to learn how to use the app. That's just part of the geek territory and is unlikely to change.
You'll also find it annoying that every new window gets jammed into the upper left corner, BEHIND the Toolbox. This is what I've come to expect from cross-platform apps that have not been totally Mac optimized.
Further clunkiness/annoyances abound. But remember that GIMP is free and powerful! Get that tough skin against geekiness and bash on through, putting GIMP to work for you.