The Quick Start Guide to the GIMP, Part 2

This second article in the series introduces us to the basic features of the GIMP, a Linux power tool for the graphics artist.
PhotoCD and Digital Cameras

Support for the PhotoCD format, available from Kodak Digital Cameras, was available in the 0.54 release of the GIMP last year. A quick check of the Plug-In Registry shows that the plug-in has not yet been ported (or at least not registered) for the 1.0 release. If you need this format, you should check with the plug-in author or check the Registry periodically to see if the plug-in has been registered. Note that plug-ins written for the 0.54 or 0.60 releases of the GIMP are not compatible with the 1.0 release. They must be rewritten using the GIMP 1.0 Plug-In API.

Vector Formats

The alternative to raster graphics is vector graphics. There are a wide variety of image file formats that the GIMP supports for raster images, but it does not support any image files that use vector formats. This is only important if you wish to use one of the many ClipArt collections available for Windows systems; these files are often suffixed with .wmf. There are still many CD's available with image collections in TIFF or JPEG format that can readily be used by the GIMP. If you must have access to the vector ClipArt collections, use Applixware's Applix Graphics package or perhaps a Windows program to read them in and save them in a raster format such as TIFF, JPEG or GIF.


An emerging format that has recently gained wide acceptance is called PNG, the Portable Network Graphics format. Earlier releases of the GIMP support this format but, at the time of this writing, the plug-in providing PNG support has not yet been ported to the new 1.0 Plug-In API. I expect this to happen by the time this article is published. Again, check the Plug-In Registry to be certain.

Moving On

We've covered a lot of ground but have only managed to open a file—we haven't done anything useful with it. Don't despair—we're getting there. Next month we'll cover the Image Window in more detail. A detailed discussion on layers will also be presented, which is very important to understanding how to get the most out of the GIMP. We'll briefly cover how filters work and discuss a few of the more interesting image-processing options available with filters. After that, in the final installment of this series, we'll cover the Toolbox in complete detail. At that point you'll have enough background to begin to do something really useful with the tools in the Toolbox.

I realize some readers will wonder why I don't cover the Toolbox before I cover filters. Well, it has to do with the length of each of these installments. The best way to fit everything into reasonably sized articles is to do the layers and filters section together. Since the Toolbox has so many tools, it will take a very long installment just to give a short introduction to each of them. Stay tuned: in the end, having the information from all four parts will be of benefit as you make the most of what the GIMP has to offer.


A Computer Science graduate of Texas Tech University, Michael J. Hammel, is a software developer specializing in X/Motif living in Denver, Colorado. He writes the monthly Graphics Muse column in Linux Gazette, maintains the Linux Graphics mini-HOWTO, helps administer the Internet Ray Tracing Competition ( and coauthored The Unix Web Server Book, published by Ventana Press. His outside interests include running, basketball, Thai food, gardening and dogs.