Why is GIMP still so crappy?

Yes, it’s the question on everybody’s mind: Why does Gimp suck so bad?

In the old days I used Windows almost exclusively. I had a nice Windows machine set up; it worked for me. I used cmd.exe and Powershell and WSH for scripting. I used Outlook and Word and Powerpoint for office documents.

I used freeware and open source stuff for some things: I used emacs for editing files. DotNetZip for manipulating ZIP files. ReloadIt for reloading web pages automatically as I saved files. Cropper for capturing screenshots and posting them to cloud photo share services. Lots of other tools. One notable tool: Paint.NET for manipulating images.

It worked. It all worked!

I have since moved to a Mac, not because I didn’t like Windows, but because everyone around me in my new job uses Mac. Being different just means being left out and being unable to share stuff with people. So I converted to Mac.

I am thankful to still have emacs. Obviously I can no longer use WSH and Javascript for scripting basic stuff, but I do have Node.js, which is just fine. (I don’t miss Powershell. Truth be told I never did fully realize the benefits of the object pipeline. It sounded good in theory but it was too darned hard to figure everything out. I use bash for shell scripting now, and it feels simpler to me.)

And Now, when I want to manipulate image files, I often slip up, and try to use gimp. I try. Yoda might say, after trying Gimp, With Gimp there is no do. There is only try, and do not. Generally I give up before accomplishing my goal, which is usually really really simple, something like “remove part of this image and replace it with white fill.” Gimp sucks. I have never opened Gimp and tried to use it without swearing. That I keep opening it is a testament to my ongoing descent into lunacy.

The UI is so infuriating; at the very start it opens windows on the Mac which obscure other applications. When I activate the other applications the GIMP windows stay on top. Why? Because that’s the most infuriating thing it could possibly do, that’s why.

When I highlight part of an image and click ctrl-C top copy that portion, I get – and I’m not making this up – everything EXCEPT the part I highlighted. You would think that would be a simple thing to correct, right? There’s even a “Select” menu with an “Invert” menu item in GIMP. You’d think if a COPY action was copying everything EXCEPT the thing I wanted, then inverting the selection and retrying the COPY action would do what I wanted. But no. Why? Because it’s the most infuriating thing possible.

GIMP always does the most infuriating, frustrating, and ridiculous thing possible.

Handily, when you open an image file that is kinda small, GIMP opens the window beneath one of it’s own “floats above all other windows” windows. So you can’t see the thing, and you need to move Windows around to try to find it. Why? You know why.

There are people who say, “I’ve been using Gimp for 2 years. Sure, at first it’s a bit hard to learn, but after that it’s awesome.” That’s stupid. Absolutely idiotic. Software shouldn’t be this hard, sorry. Just because you invested your valuable time in compensating for a software designer’s madness, does not mean the software is good. It means you don’t value your own time as much as you should.

For an example of an image manipulation app that works, is easy for novices to pick up but also supports advanced features, look at Paint.NET. Only available on Windows! For an example of how to create endless user frustration, try Gimp.

Rant ,


  1. thomson

    Hm yes the windows are annoying but that’s why they implemented a one-window-mode as alternative (look in the Window menu). Seriously to the most part I think you just suck at Gimp, maybe because you learnt another program like Photoshop first. Yes Gimp is different but it works great.

    • Ed

      I’ve been using GIMP on and off for years and it’s never made sense. No matter how many times I have to reference their poorly written online docs as I am trying to do something simple. Something as simple as making a selection never works as one would expect. I don’t think it’s just that the author learned Photoshop first; something as intuitive as making a selection and manipulating it easily should be just that…intuitive and easy, and Photoshop gets that simple UX mechanism while Gimp seems to fail.

    • Philip

      HAHA no it doesnt. This article is spot on. Software shouldn’t be hard to learn. First thing you learn at UIX Development, that you suck, when the user doesn’t know how to use something, not that the user is too stupid. Get around it developers, users are not a dumb neanderthal and you are not the unrecognized genius – just try to listen.
      Gimp sucks and could be fixed so easy. The hard part of listening to the users was already done by photoshop. Just copy the usage and you are good to go.

  2. Paul Rafferty

    My wife is an illustrator. She uses Photoshop. I’m a Linux evangelist, and a few years ago I asked her if she’d give GIMP a go. She lasted about a minute before starting to say things like, “What the f**k is this? Seriously? If I copy a selection and then try to move it, the whole image moves? What have I selected? Who would ever use any of those horrible patterns, apart from a 10 year old? Who the F is this aimed at?”

    I just opened Gimp and tried to do some very simple image editing – the type you could easily do in Microsoft Paint. I simply gave up after cursing spittle at my screen. The interface makes no sense. The way that the tools work makes no sense. I completely agree with the author of this post – just because some people have damaged their brains in order to understand this dreadful UI, doesn’t mean this is a decent program. I have no doubt that a brain damaged GIMP user can create wonderful images though.

  3. anon

    Gimp is a great program it can be upgraded to read scripts and iv never had any issues with it.. i think its just as much of a pro program as Photoshop. As with all software there are limitations and boundaries. Gimp is capable of processes like HDR and other popular effects like tone mapping. The only thing in need of improvement is the Text Tool which for gimp users usually means exporting your image and then working on the top in a program like Inkscape and once again Inkscape is very much a powerful vector tool that provides pro results to people who don’t buy into Adobe’s consumerist cycle of you have to upgrade and we take your money then upgrade 12 months later and we take your money again.

    • Dude it is garbage stop trying to defend garbage. I’ve used Illustrator, Photoshop, Fireworks and GIMP… GIMP IS THE WORST POS ON THE PLANET for all the reasons this author pointed out. No matter what, you never have selected what you intend to select. And WTF is up with the locking of layers and objects? Does that even work? From what i can tell it is spastic at best. Gimp sucks even for what should be the most simple fucking tasks, it just sucks stop, please stop trying to defend it.

      Until you use Adobe’s software you can’t say it is a consumerist cycle. Their software JUST WORKS, people in the real business world need shit that JUST WORKS, they don’t have time to learn the gotchas, the quirks, the FUCKING BS, they need software that JUST WORKS.

      The whole layer system and selecting is purely fucked in GIMP. It sucks I use Linux to write my software and I have to keep a copy of Windows installed on a separate partition so I can boot into it to do my graphics and image work for my website, but that is what I have to do to use quality software that JUST WORKS.

      I have my Linux for all my programming and my Windows for Games and software i need that JUST WORKS. In the working world, people need software that works, time is money, fucking around with a half assed POS program is a waste of time, which is why I really do not like Linux much at all.
      Printers, video cards etc. all are questionable as to if they will work and for how long. Right now My HP Printer is on the spazz it was working perfect, and update came, now no matter what I do the printer only prints on half a page with a tiny font in landscape. Not a single setting anywhere fixes it, same printer on Windows works flawlessly.

      GIMP SUCKS. I am going to go get some beer now (because this shit is boring ), reformat a partition on this HD and reinstall windows 7 then upgrade to Windows 10 and install all my Consumerist Adobe Software so I can work on my images.

  4. Gimpsucks

    I just spent 30 minutes trying to figure out how to edit 10 pixels in an icon I have.

    First I couldn’t find the Brushes palette. Had to google how to manage that. Then, the smallest brush I could find was 3×3 pixels. Googled that. Lots of groaning online about this, mentioning something called “sliders” in the “brush editor”. Found the brush editor, there were no sliders. Finally gave up.

  5. Sev

    Some people, whatever they use, always manage to provide a positive answer. I admire that, to some extent when it comes to GIMP… as it is hard to believe the (few) hagiographic posts here and there. So I searched a place to post my rant and this place seems appropriate.

    While being an experienced Photoshop user, I always use Linux for personal projects. I’ve been using Linux for many years, and, along with it, the GIMP.

    And yes, Gimp 2.8 represents a tremendous progress compared to earlier versions! (the file saving/export management in older Gimps…)

    But… GIMP is still counter intuitive. Even simple operations require a Google search. It doesn’t always work as intended – as intended by the user at least (move text layer while having the mouse in the center of the layer, and between letters?). Macros? The script-fu language, seriously? (and I love the way Emacs implemented E-lisp, but everything is harder in GIMP).

    So you tell me: learn it!

    The problem is that GIMP is not consistent. Learning a few tips is not the key to some general rules based on logic that would help using the software. In other words, common sense is of no help. Learning GIMP, while doable, requires a lot of personal involvement, along with a ton of irritation.

    As an example to make my point: Apple. iOS (especially) is incredibly light in terms of customization because Apple did the right choices. They present a (complex) software that needs little customization. Most people do not need to read a manual – iOS shows an intuitive interface which functioning is based on common sense.

    I spent the whole afternoon with GIMP 2.8.2 today to perform something a bit more complex than usual. I could do it! But it was a lot of trial and no-exactly-what-I-want, where-is-that-feature, not-possible, this-is-buggy, what-the-hell-were-the-devs-thinking etc… Irritation I told you.

    Giving up was not an option! Fortunately, I had time to waste (Photoshop would have saved me 80% of the time, but I keep my promise to Linux!). Now is time to eliminate that stress, and this post does it.

    All in all, GIMP is the best thing that could happen to Photoshop.

    Many users attempt to escape that ridiculously overpriced software.
    Thanks to GIMP, sooner or later, they’re happily back to Photoshop.

    And unfortunately, some of them feel resentful about Open Source Software, and leave GIMP whispering “OSS, never again”.

    • ws

      Every time I find myself hating on some annoying Photoshop bug, or hating on my Windows photo editing box (I’m an Ubuntu guy for *everything* else), I try GIMP.

      I then am immediately glad that I invested a trivial amount in Photoshop, because it was worth it. I don’t have or need the latest Photohop, I only upgrade every 5 years or so – but that repeated few hundred every few years is what allows me to focus on *taking pictures* not editing them. My workflow with Photoshop is like 15 minutes from inserting the SD card to selling pro level photos.

      • LMFAO I am going through this right now. I use Linux on my main computer for programming and web development because it is easier since my server runs Linux I can have matching settings etc on my development PC. BUT GOD DOES LINUX SUCK FOR LACK OF GREAT WORKING SOFTWARE.

        I rarely have to work with images, icons etc. but now is one of those times and GIMP is a pile of utter time wasting nonsensical shit. So I am going to get some beer, then I have to reinstall windows 7 on a partition, then upgrade to 10, then install my WONDERFUL WORKING ADOBE SOFTWARE, then I can work on my graphics for a day or so then switch back to Linux for programming.

  6. anonon

    GIMP is garbage.

    • Ornot Bitwise

      Inelegantly yet aptly put. GIMP is, indeed, pretty much cyber-garbage. Don’t waste your time unless you can’t afford anything better.

  7. Meh

    Adobe never had an original idea for a decade, they enveloped Macromedia and copy pasted functionality over to Photoshop. Owning Photoshop is like owning an obese child, you have to constantly babysit what your kid does. Autodesk is also not far from that stretch, Autodesk more like owning a handicap granny parked in a doubles lane looking for its false teeth.

  8. __DB

    I used to love GIMP, when I used a Linux Laptop.

    Still, for some things, I used Photoshop on my desktop.

    Like: the text editor…

    If you check “use the editor”, the editor that GIMP opens doesn’t have a selector for the font type – that and the actual choice of the font size remains in the tool properties tab, even though there the editor has a spinner that seem to change the font sizeb

    But GIMP lose the change as soon as you touch the text area, and it resets it to whatever is in the aforementioned property tab.

    Then just to mud things a bit, the color picker in the same editor instead does work, really.

    In PS, Corel Photopaint, Illustrator etc. , when you grab a layer/object, you can move, scale and rotate it – the interface figures what you want to do from the position of the cursor, relative to the object, or from the marker on its boundaries that you picked, when you click the cursor.

    Gimp asks you to know what to do beforehand, and chose one of n transformation (each one needs an icon on the tool bar, too).

    A pity that, when you are trying to fix a composition of hand drawn sketches imported through a scanner, the most natural is alternating between scaling and rotating the various pieces.

    Brush increment is linear… in most cases, artists look for something exponential (every tick, the brush scales up-down, say, 10%… 0,1 on a brush size of 1, 50 on a brush size of 500).

    Nothing too hard to do, one can learn scheme and implement a function that does it, but… still, one has to learn scheme and write it, and sometimes, the stupid thing crashes the script engine (I had it hooked to a mouse wheel, sometimes the input overwhelmed the poor thingy )… a-hem…

    To be honest, after a while , by adding a script here and there, I managed to get it to do all I wanted.

    But I have a degree in IT, as well as a god-send drawing hand, and damn, so I am not exactly the average drawing joe… and the artist part of my brain wanted to sodo…ize the people that designed GIMP’s GUI, anyway.

  9. I agree with the post. I’ve seen glowing reports of gimp but every time I use it I give up . Nothing is what you’d expect it to be.

  10. Lif

    I agree with you.
    I suggest you to just buy Pixelmator, it is cheap (I paid 13€, now is 30€ but still cheap), and it just work.
    I think the worst thing about Gimp is the text editor… when you resize the text box the test does not change at all (you cannot make a small text box to make a new line).
    Also there is no way to move the textbox after you finish the editing of the text….

    • Dealt with that last night, it was one of a few issues I faced (I can’t even remember what they were, lol). Evidently, although GIMP has a “justify” text option, it’s not in the text editing menu. It’s in the other, also-can’t-remember-what-it’s-called menu to the right where Photoshop & GIMP have the layer selection. It’s one of those tabs… okay, so it has more text options there. (couldn’t I just right click the other menu, or couldn’t there be another button for the full panel there?)

      Great! The justify option! *click* Oh, what happened? It ALMOST justified the text. As in, it got close, but only the longest lines fully justified. It turns out you can adjust what I’m going to call “kerning” (since I can’t remember the names of anything today), but what I’m talking about is the horizontal text spacing. I had to do that manually, line-by-line, to get a block of text to look justified.

      It took me an hour in all to paste an image, extend the canvas, make a layer mask & gradient, type 2 text boxes, and add another picture, size-adjusted as a logo. I’m slow, and that should have taken me 10 minutes, but I had to google search for things like “why can’t I select another layer?” (it was the not-highlighted tiny text that indicates your pasted layer either needs to be anchored or to create a new layer. who knew.)

      • dushko_b

        FoaRyan: Always use the right tool for the right job. What you describe sounds like a job for Inkscape (similar focus as Illustrator). I could understand people not buying Illustrator, but Inkscape is free.
        It’s just Adobe teaching people not to do things properly.
        1. touch up your source images in GIMP/Photoshop
        2. do that damn flyer in Inkscape/Illustrator
        3. if it’s multipage, consider a DTP

        Why would anyone draw in PS/GIMP is also beyond me. Yes, flames and stuff, also sketches, but people who create logos in Photoshop should question themselves foremost, not the software.

        Adding text to an image is NOT image manipulation, that’s graphic design, which is not the purpose of GIMP/PS (even though Adobe gave up and tries to make PS to be a bit of everything for anyone “Lr-to-Illustrator, we’ve got you covered!”.

        Even though I agree GIMP is terribly illogical in everything but to me PS is even worse.

  11. mbava

    My favorite gimp task was always “draw a rectangle”: Select an area, fill it, shrink the selection, delete it. Right.

  12. Jim Bob Way

    I am glad I found this, because I thought I was just dumb. I mastered all the other areas of Linux, but The Gimp, escapes me. I found this rant by searching for: “Gimp – Where is the _ucking move tool.” These are the days of fast food, so why can’t I just “grab and go” with something I just copied and pasted? I started out with Micrographic Designer, and did a lot of nice work without consulting the manual. Also used Photoshop and many of the community supplied additions. I very rarely use computer games, but when I do the rule is: “If I need a book to play this, It is no fun.” So maybe I am lazy, but maybe I have better things to do than to figure out how someone(s) else thinks. I will never stop thanking the Devs. for their countless hours of labor, but I would remind them that the payback is in the number of people that use the software, and the accolades heaped on them for a job well done (and maybe more monetary sponsorship).

  13. Yes, I got hear Googling about the terrible user experience for GIMP, hoping for an explanation. It seems to go out of it’s way to be terribly designed. Basic editing like a cut and fill is very difficult. Even just saving an image is an ordeal. Why not just use the exact same process every other piece of software uses? Why make life so difficult.

  14. Robert Alexander

    Over the years, The Gimp is the only piece of software I’ve come to loathe every time I give it another shot. I’ve used Adobe Photoshop and Corel Photo-Paint pretty much interchangeably because they’re professionally designed. But while The Gimp can do perhaps 90% of what PS and PP can do, it’s so unintuitive as to make one wonder if it was designed to be as difficult as possible. It’s like an inside joke, where The Gimp’s authors say, sure you can have PS functionality for free, but it’s going to cost you in time and frustration. That’s what you get for being cheap.

    Most open-source software isn’t like this. Inkscape is a fine alternative to Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw, and LibreOffice can replace MS Office for most users. It’s only The Gimp that I warn others against. I guess this is what can be expected from a program with such a name.

  15. dushko_b

    The thing with Adobe software (not only PS) is this:

    with GIMP you learn photo manipulation,

    with Photoshop you learn………… Photoshop.

    I hate Lightroom users talking about “clarity” instead of microcontrast and all the stupid BS names Adobe gives to their UI. Learn the proper terms, like a proper photographer. Learn typography. Learn design. Learn the proper terms and don’t be a company shill.

    Yes GIMP is clunky, but there’s maybe a reason (which I myself tend to miss – then I start typing curse-words into google). It could really just handle stuff like grabbing and moving layers and images like an object…but still works for its main aim.

    There is other soft: Cinepaint (essentially a more “pro” GIMP fork), Karbon, Krita, even Libreoffice Draw, Corel, Xara – to each their own.

  16. hbridge

    Trying to do some simple thing in GIMP and totally frustrated.
    I had to google to find a site where I could add my opinion that GIMP is indeed a POS.
    I have seen other software developers with equally deluded ideas about their work. I can not emphasize how far these developers must have their h_____ up their b____.

    GIMP is trying to compete against one of the world’s most beautiful, fluid, and intuitive interface of Photoshop with The Worst Choices possible. The interface is truly abominable. Grow up software developers and make something that people actually want to use. You are building drek.

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