Budget Web Design Tools - GIMP
One of the most expensive items in any web professional’s arsenal, apart from a computer and Dreamweaver – which we’re assuming you’ve got, else why would you be here? – is an image editor. Photoshop by Adobe comes at over $700, because it can do everything and more – but for many of us, that’s overkill, as Photoshop was really meant for print designers. PaintShop Pro by Jasc comes in at around $80 and is good enough for the simple tasks.
But there’s an option that’s claimed to be as powerful as Photoshop, designed specifically for web use, that costs nothing at all. It is The GIMP. DMXzone's Bruce Lawson puts on his deerstalker hat and rubber mask to investigate..
On my system, the file open dialogue was highly confusing. It doesn't seem to 'hook in' to windows to give you that familiar, friendly dialog where you navigate through the folders, seeing icons or thumbnails as you'd see using Photoshop on a windows machine. Also, I found the cascading menus hard to point into; as usual with this UI widget, if you accidentally click outside of a cascading menu, the whole cascade disappears. Whether that difficulty was due to too much punch at the DMXzone Christmas party, I wouldn't like to comment!
The manual I found was for GIMP 1.0.1 rather than the version I downloaded, and so seemed out of date in many places - but there's a huge, active and generous community of users and developers to ask questions of, if the manual is too far behind. There's also quite a few books published, but I can't honestly see why you'd need them.
GIMP plug-ins http://registry.GIMP.org/index.jsp
There's a user manual at http://manual.GIMP.org/ in various formats, html or pdf.
Free photos: http://GIMP-savvy.com/PHOTO-ARCHIVE/index.html "The photo archive at GIMP-Savvy.com has more than 27,000 free photos and images, consisting of over 2.5 Gbytes of data."
There's a reasonably steep learning-curve in using the GIMP. I expected to spend a day installing it (because I believed the hype about the complexity of installing open-source software) and couple of hours playing with it before I wrote this review; I ended up spending 20 minutes downloading then installing it and the rest of the day playing around with it.
The manual over-states the brilliance of the GIMP, exhorting all Photoshop users to switch immediately. If you already own Photoshop or PaintShop Pro and know how to use them, there's probably no reason to switch; although the program is free, your time learning how to use it costs money, especially if you're a freelancer and charging by the hour. Or, put more accurately, the time you'd spend unlearning Photoshop and learning the GIMP is expensive.
If, on the other hand, you're about to splash out and buy a commercial program and spend time learning that, save your cash and download the GIMP instead. It is simpler to use than Photoshop's billion-and-one unnecessary options.