GIMP 2.7.3 adds Single Window Mode

GIMP 2.7.3 has added one of the most requested features in the program’s history: a single window mode. Version 2.7 is part of the development branch, so unfortunately, the feature won't hit most distro repositories for a while.

As I said, because 2.7 is a development branch, most distributions won’t add it to their repositories, and this means that you’ll have to build it yourself. It’s a shame, in a way, because the new window mode might be viewed as a ease of use feature that less advanced users would appreciate. According to this page, it looks like version 2.8 should arrive in about November.

If you want to have a sneak peek at the new development features, you’ll probably have to compile from scratch. As it’s a development version, it depends on some up to date libraries which you may have to add by hand. Fortunately, if you’re an Ubuntu user, you can use this excellent guide to find all the bits that you’ll need.

The one window mode is activated by selecting the option in the Windows menu. So, people who prefer the old way of working still can. It handles multiple open documents with an iconified tab bar that runs along the top of the screen.

The single window interface. The two questions are: What will long term users make of it? Will new users find it more appealing?

Personally, I’m sure that this is how I’ll be using GIMP from now on. I’ve used the program a lot of over the years, despite an interface that I always considered to be rather awkward. As for gauging how a new user would take to the program, it’s difficult to be sure. For a start, it should look more inviting than the old interface and reminiscent of other programs with a similar purpose.

Let me know if you spot any promising looking custom repos, PPAs or packages for 2.7 series, and I add them to the post.

[User bartman2589 has spotted a PPA that he has successfully installed. See comments.]

The guide to compiling the development branch on Ubuntu. It’s not that difficult and the guide should work as an aid for people working with other distibutions.

A summary of all of the changes to 2.7 series so far.

The download page with direct links to the 2.7.3 tarball.


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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Launchpad PPA Available!

bartman2589's picture

I found a PPA for unstable releases of GIMP (2.7 series at this time). The project page is located at and has information on how you can add this PPA to your sources list on that page.

Ubuntu/Kubuntu 10.10 on up users can add the PPA to their sources list by using the command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:matthaeus123/mrw-gimp-svn

make sure you refresh/reload your repository/sources list in whatever package manager you use and you should find GIMP 2.7.x available now.

Now if only there wasn't a conflict with the gimp-plugin-registry pack and if I could find a way to make GIMP 2.7.x always start in single window mode I'd be happy!

Thanks for posting. I've

Michael Reed's picture

Thanks for posting. I've added a note to the article.

Does this conflict with the plugins registry prevent the use of plugins with 2.7.x builds?

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

RE: Use of Plugins with 2.7.x

bartman2589's picture

I'm still able to use all of the other plugins from the Ubuntu repository, I just can't install the gimp-plugin-registry package which contains numerous plugins all bundled together into one package, if I install plugins individually (either from repository or manually) I don't receive any errors. It's just a conflict with the debian package trying to overwrite a file that was installed by another debian package. If you install GIMP 2.7.x and then try to install the gimp-plugin-registry package it tries to overwrite the file "/usr/lib/gimp/2.0/plug-ins/file-xmc". Here's the exact error message I get in Synaptic:

E: /var/cache/apt/archives/gimp-plugin-registry_3.5.2-1~lffl~maverick~ppa_i386.deb: trying to overwrite '/usr/lib/gimp/2.0/plug-ins/file-xmc', which is also in package gimp 2.7.3-2011021801~mm

I tried manually removing the existing '/usr/lib/gimp/2.0/plug-ins/file-xmc' file but that didn't help unfortunately. I'm going to try contacting the maintainer of the 2.7.x PPA to see if he can address this issue.

Mind you I haven't done extensive testing of the plugins I've installed (I'm a definite graphics newb, mainly I use GIMP to do textures for things I build in Second Life, and to do some minor retouching of snapshots I take in Second Life), but so far everything seems to be working ok aside from the minor nuisance of not being able to install the gimp-plug-repository package.

To reiterate, GIMP 2.7.x doesn't have a problem (that I can tell at least) using plugins themselves, it's just the installer package from the PPA that conflicts with the gimp-plugin-repository installer package. Users should make sure that they remove their existing installation of the gimp-plugin-repository package prior to installing GIMP 2.7.x until this issue has been addressed. Unfortunately this means that if you were a user of any of the plugins contained in the gimp-plugin-repository package you will no longer be able to install that package until the incompatibility is resolved, you'll need to resort to either installing single package versions of the particular plugin using your package manager or manually install the plugin.

Thanks for the follow-up.

Michael Reed's picture

Thanks for the follow-up. Hopefully, people experimenting with the 2.7 PPA will find this info.

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


bartman2589's picture

I mistakenly specified the name of the conflicting package as 'gimp-plugin-repository' it shoud be 'gimp-plugin-registry', I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Open Source Names Tend To Be Stupid

Lane Lester's picture

Following freshmeat, it seems that open source developers delight in coming up with silly names for the products of their efforts. The OpenOffice fork to LibreOffice is a great change, except for the dumb new name.

I'm working toward getting a second monitor going, so I'll continue to use the old separate LIMP... I mean, GIMP layout.

Disclaimer: the pirate lingo is being added by the forum software.

I am overjoyed, the weird

godanov's picture

I am overjoyed, the weird bits of screen, I spend most of my time moving them out of the way.

I never understood the appeal

Anonymous's picture

I never understood the appeal for stacking windows, all they do is hide something from the window behind it! That's why I use everything fullscreen! (Ok, I suck at using tiled windows managers, someday I'll really learn how to use them, unrelated note: I really like the easy Blender3d uses his tiled space) Sometimes running everything fullscreen makes it weird, but I zoom in or whatever, making bad use of all my screen space, but hey, on my computer, whatever floats my boat, right? Having the option for using GIMP as a single-window/everything-tiled is great, at least for being an extra OPTION. And I can't see why more options for users would be bad.

welcome addition

vinayan's picture

This is the single most addition that i ever wanted in GIMP..i am sure this will lure a lot of experienced photoshop users who would find a similar interface here..also since this is an optional change, old users could also continue to work without any problems..

If you need the image to fill

pleasenotbetaken's picture

If you need the image to fill the entire screen, you must be editing on a netbook, get a desktop for God sake.


mika's picture

for zoidberg! Gimp is finally ready for mainstream use! Hurray! I know I will start using this in like..20 seconds.

Not Concerned About a Single Window Mode

C. Whitman's picture

When you use multiple desktops or monitors, the default multi-window mode can come in handy. It never bothered me to have it that way. Why I haven't used Gimp much is because it lacks 16 bit per channel color (unless that too has changed recently). Greater color depth always seems to be an 'upcoming' feature. I've used Cinepaint and Krita more because of this lack with Gimp.

Options are ALWAYS good, folks

admoore's picture

Multi-window mode is great on my desktop with dual monitors.

It's not so great on my laptop. In fact, it's downright annoying.

I've spent a lot of time trying to configure a tiling window manager to basically accomplish the equivalent of "single window mode" with multiple windows.

Now I won't have to. Yay GIMP!

New Gimp/Old Gimp

Earl's picture

I was originally attracted to the old style because of the floating bars. I don't use other image editors because of the inconvenience of the one piece display. I can understand it might be a problem for Windows and Mac users. So?

It probably won't attract other users. Maybe charging for the Mac and Windows versions would make it more attractive to them (say $100).

Some people can be offended by anything.


I am not a Windows or Mac

pleasenotbetaken's picture

I am not a Windows or Mac user, and I have never used Photoshop, but I find Gimp a miserable piece of software to use. It is about time they have done this.

To Install on Debian based systems (K/Ubuntu, etc.)

Abe's picture

Instruction on

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:matthaeus123/mrw-gimp-svn
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gimp


zingyyellow's picture

Now perhaps a name change, love the gimp hate the name,

what about:
GIG - Gig Is Gimp
GWAN - Gimp With Another Name
GING - Ging Is New Gimp

Please use a GTK theme next

Anonymous's picture

Please use a GTK theme next time to demo something. This looks so extremely ugly it makes my eyes bleed!

It's interesting to note that

Michael Reed's picture

It's interesting to note that the reception of the new feature is a bit more mixed here than elsewhere. However, as others have noted, it's optional, and for the moment at least, not the default way of using the program.

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

Anonymous's picture
I heard about GIMP 2.7.3 (released 2011-08-22) and its long-awaited single window mode from LWN recently. It read “[v]ersion 2.7 [..] wont hit most distro repositories for a while” quoting Linux Journal. That got me interested. Most distros? Not Gentoo: I updated the ebuild to 2.7.3 today. Once you unmask it, you can emerge it. Please report problems with it on as usual. Thanks! If the next weeks go well, it could get unmasked soon.

Ultima Revisão do KDu em desenvolvimento....Rv5

SuporteTecnicoID's picture

Had already implemented the single window of the Gimp on KDu Linux by using the GimpBox, but gave many instabilities that abandoned the idea of ​​leaving for testing, however this is already in the KDU working well, although not fully translated for my language Pt-BR but well ..... functional,,,, it is only window .... and stuff ..... then say is that the KDU Linux want to look like the other,,,, (nothing against freedom), but there ta further evidence that look like what they already know is a big step closer to users, then they change it or not, because in Linux you do to your face .....!

All I have to say is that I'm

metalx2000's picture

All I have to say is that I'm glad that the single window feature is optional. I my opinion single window mode is a step backwards, especially if you are using more then one monitor. But, having single window mode be an option is fine. Just one more feature to add to the list. Even if I'll never use it.
Everything you ever need to know about Free Software.

It's not new in 2.7.3

NixSince85's picture

I've been using single window mode for months in GIMP 2.7.2, which is an unstable development release. So this feature is not new in 2.7.3.

In 2.7.2 there are definitely some bugs/quirks. For example, an image displayed at what it says is 100% is in fact not 100% but much smaller. I have to increase the viewing size to 200% or 400% to see the image at what is actually its full size. Also, I have to select single window mode and then unselect it and select it again in order to get it to actually switch to single window mode. In other words, even though single window mode is checked, it's NOT in single window mode, so unchecking and reselecting it is necessary to get it to work. Maybe I should upgrade to 2.7.3!

read the article

j passick's picture

The one window mode is activated by selecting the option in the Windows menu. So, people who prefer the old way of working still can.


Sorpigal's picture

They finally caved to the pressure from ex-Photoshop users who are mad because GIMP isn't photoshop. Real GIMP users (you know, the ones who run Linux and use good Window Mangers) like the multiple windows and floating palette's.

The only difference between multi-window and the new single-window is that I have less control over the size of the image and less control over the convenient arrangement of my tool boxes. Thanks a lot?

"Good Window Managers"? Ha!

Anonymous's picture

99% of Linux users will use the window manager that is installed by default by their distribution, which is whatever Gnome or KDE default to. I don´t know if they are Good Window Managers, but the Gimp GUI sure sucks on those environments.

Maybe geeks with PhDs on computer science and engineering, after spending three months configuring TWM, will approach Gimp perfection, although I don´t think much actual art will be pouring from that direction.

Thanks a lot? Sure, yes. 99% of Gimp users will be far happier, many will become new Gimp users, and the remaining few can just keep on honing their TWM scripts to suit their fancy, just as before.

No, it does not suck. It's

Anonymous's picture

No, it does not suck. It's just a meme people keep repeating without never thinking about it really much, just because they're used to PS (if they really are at least, instead of just echoing what they hear) and what is familiar is seen as superior. It doesn't suck, it's just two or three windows that need to be resized by clicking and dragging to the desired size -- not troublesome at all in Gnome nor in KDE. On openbox (probably on these two as well) you can set key/mousebindings to do it even faster, no need to manually adjust the size, and no need to have PhDs or being a geek. Then one could check an option to save such arrangement for the next session. Then voila, almost effectively the same as a single window with panes or sub-windows, without redundant window-management, and without overriding the OS' own window manager options and features, such as having a second view of the same window, kept above, somewhat like the preview pane, but actually editable. This functionality will probably be lost, alongside with any other window-management function that is not going to be reproduced on GIMP's own redundant window management. Like having windows from different programs organized in tabs on the same window, more or less like the tiny tabs on the tool window or the new tabs for different images opened at the same time, only with different programs rather than just GIMP. Or perhaps having the windows to activate and to move up with hovering only, without clicking. All these sort of things only add to workflow and functionality possibilities, but they future is uncertain, at least if the multiple window mode is completely removed from the program.

The single window is optional

Nolan Tyrrell's picture

The single window is optional as the developers did not wish to displease you. In return it might be polite of you to not dis them for their efforts.

As to whether multi window interface is a meme spread by ps:- Of course it is and by many other programs as well. Gimp traditional interface is not that common and the programs I see which use something similar look messy and difficult to me, (but like you I am only one person).

I teach the Gimp to students who know neither interface and I support developers in their attempts to declutter and reduce the visual complexity of the program. Can't wait for the transform tools to merge from eight down to three. The fuzzy select and the colour select tools are one except for the contiguous/noncontiguous toggle already implemented in the other (shudder) program. I respect your way of working but I have a single monitor on the desktop and my laptop is small. can we not coexist without you throwing accusations of caving in. Keep up the pressure to keep both interfaces, if it works then it will be of advantage to us all.

Old UI is better

annonymous's picture

Multi-windows make it so easy to work with with multi-desktops and I'm so used to use short-cuts since i use a tablet right side and my left side the keyboard. It al tends to make it more compatible with that other OS that lacks the flexibility of the Linux desktop, so whats next Ribbons?

Windows Binary

Dave-D's picture

You can download the Windows installer version of 2.7.3 here:

Runs quite nice for a development version. I am loving the new single window mode. The developers did a fantastic job implementing that.

Welcome to the 90's!

Anon's picture

This is great news, no more chasing down which window got overlapped by what.

let it be as it is now

tws's picture

better work with less things around...

Who Cares

Vonskippy's picture

They still have the most offensive juvenile non-descriptive name EVER.

Grow up, get a real name, and maybe they'll see market penetration greater then single digit rounding errors.


Kai Ponte's picture

Geez! This only took - what - ten years??

Make it better

fest3er8's picture

When I need a huge image window, I overlap the tool windows, leaving enough visible so I know which is which.

If they were to make the main window overlap the sub-windows (tools, brushes, etc.) leaving perhaps 75 pixels visible, temporarily raise the sub window on a non-dragging mouseover of at least 1 second, and lower the sub window 250ms after mouseout, they would have the best of both worlds. If they did this with the multi-window mode as well, they might just have the best UI going, whether one prefers multiple windows or a single unified window.

For that matter, they could have a 'Beginner Mode' that shows whole tool panes, an 'Advanced Mode' that shows partial tool panes, and an 'Advanced Multi Mode' that uses separate windows. I might even find myself using such an 'Advanced Mode' by default, since it's how I use GIMP now (except when working with 5-10 pics at once: the current multi-window scheme can be a real bother then).

GIMP 2.7.3 adds Single Window Mode

Michéal's picture

Agree with comment by risca.
The main thing is to have the image as big as possible!

Interest, but...

risca's picture

I really still prefer the multi-windows layout. In fact while I'm using GIMP I want to have the photo on which I'm working the biggest as possible.