Is this radical redesign of GIMP possible now?

Disclaimer: this post is an extended transcript of the video below.

If you’ve been around long enough, you probably remember a project called Glimpse. Originally it was an attempt to create a fork of GIMP for the name change. Then that project got an offspring, Glimpse NX, where a new image editor with a cleaner, more approachable user interface was supposed to be developed.

Neither project was successful, but this is one of the mockups they came up with:

I vividly remember that when I first saw this, I thought: “Looks interesting, but there is just no way this is going to work!”. And the main reason for that is…

GIMP’s complexity

There is a huge amount of commands and options built into GIMP’s menus and nested menus.

The program amassed all that over the years, and then the team tried to solve that with a search dialog:

Which kinda works when you generally know what you need or how a feature you want could be called. But really not when this is your first rodeo.

Anyway, it is very difficult to represent all this complexity in an application that looks like the thing on the mockup above.

With GTK3 tech, one possible solution to do that is a dropdown menu in the headerbar, like in Siril:

But this is not very convenient because when you go to a nested menu in one part of the screen, it opens in an entirely different part of the screen, and it’s very annoying.

And then again, how many menus like that can you fit into one headerbar before users run for pitchforks with a determined look on their faces? So it’s not really great, I think we could do better.

Enter Dune 3D

One possible solution is coming from a new application called Dune 3D. It’s a 3D CAD program built on top of Open CASCADE kernel and SolveSpace constraint solver — all the usual suspects.

The developer is the same guy who came up with Horizon EDA, a GTK3-based electronic design automation package. Dune 3D is very, very new. The initial code import to GitHub was made just two weeks ago, so not a lot of people even know about this project yet, but that is beside the point.

The interesting part here is when you first look at this, you can’t help yourself wondering: “Okay, I get it, he barely started coding. Still, where is all the functionality?”. Well, since the status bar says “Press Space”, let’s do just that:

And that gets me really excited. Because you get the search bar for when you know what you’re looking for, when you know the terminology, when you understand what you need. And you also get a kind of menu that is helpful for when you need to navigate into the unknown and see all your options. So this is a very interesting solution that, while not perfect for a lot of complexity, could still be iterated upon, in my opinion.

Update: as the developer pointed out, this search/menu dialog has been available in Horizon EDA for the past 7 years, he simply reused his own code in the new program.

Interaction hints

Another interesting thing here is that when you do something like drawing a line, for example, you get these nice visual hints here about using the mouse, just above the status bar:

The idea is coming from Blender (obvious, if you are familiar with Blender), and it would make a lot of sense to use this in applications like GIMP and Inkscape. Here is a good reason why.

When you are coming from an application like Photoshop, you are used to do set of modifiers for working with selections. So when you create the selection and you need to add to it, what you do is press Shift in GIMP. But it’s Ctrl in Photoshop. A lot of people that I’ve met who come from Photoshop don’t really know that. And the only way they can find that out is by reading a tutorial or a user manual or maybe watching a YouTube video — the status bar hint isn’t specific enough, and not everyone finds the toggles in tool settings.

And the same applies, for example, to moving selections, because in GIMP, you need to press Ctrl+Alt and then drag to move the contents of the selection, which is not how people expect this to work coming from many other applications. Again, the only way they can find this out is by watching a tutorial or reading the user manual.

So that’s another thing that I think would make sense to sort of backport from Dune 3D to GIMP in the GTK3-based based version (or GTK4, since Dune 3D is GTK4-based). So I’m really hoping that at least this will be considered by the developers.


I don’t think that the redesign that the Glimpse NX team came up with should be implemented as is. There are so many more aspects to discuss apart from access to functionality in menus, and the team explored some of those aspects too: how the headerbar should work, how exporting would be implemented, what tool settings would look like etc. (they removed the git repository with mockups and studies, but I have a local copy).

Their redesign definitely makes the program more approachable. And now this solution in Dune 3D probably makes a major deficiency of that design go away. Even more, the interaction hints seem like a great if overlooked idea that could also be a relatively low-effort job.

Trying to revamp GIMP’s UX/UI at any level, especially this much, is obviously a huge effort — or would be a huge effort if the developers would ever decide to do that. But I’m really interested in your opinion. Do you think this old redesign of the program could be revived thanks to Dune 3D?

Libre Arts is a reader-supported publication. If you appreciate the work I do, donations are once again possible. You can subscribe on Patreon or make a one-time donation with BuyMeACoffee (see here for more info).

Support Libre Arts at Patreon

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Unfortunately, you are 100% right… :frowning:

In the long past, I still recall reading many suggestions about improving GIMP interface.
Peter Sikking, a professional in this field of computing (interface), was the guy proposing these changes.
They were well received by the GIMP team but could not be coded because of the lack of manpower.
Usually bug fixing has the priority :slight_smile:

i’m going to claim context sensitive mouse button help comes from the amazing xfig, but glad to be proven wrong :slight_smile:

1 Like

There seems to be little more than maintenance being done on GIMP at the moment. Is there actually a team of dedicated people working towards GIMP 3.0 or has that lost momentum? GIMP seems to be an adequate program already an I am unsure what improvements would be needed.

1 Like

GIMP 2.99/3.0 is at the stage of development where you stop writing fancy new features and focus on fixing bugs and generally getting your s**t together :slight_smile:

We could still be in for a few surprises in 3.0, but mostly it’s wrapping up.

Off the top of my head: non-destructive editing (filters, transformations etc.), better text tool, better selection tools, shape-drawing tools, better support for color spaces other than RGB-based ones, UX/UI improvements, advanced support for EXR, OCIO-based color management, more GPU-side computation. There is so much to do.


I respect that this all depends upon volunteers and I look forward to GIMP 3.0 when it does appear. Is it worth me downloading GIMP 2.99/3.0?

I have been using this version for the past year, and it’s been working good so far. There are a few crashes here and there, but I have not lost any work when they happened. I am using Linux, so I have been using the “GIMP development Flatpak”, installed as explained in the official documentation.

1 Like

@Pierre I have installed this 2.99 version but at an initial glance I don’t notice any new features or improvements over 2.10.34. Am I missing something?

I think it’s because most of the changes are “under the hood”. I do see a lot of differences, for instance, because I have an HiDPI screen, and 2.10 is based on GTK2, which has no support for such thing, so the GIMP team had to tinker to make it work… but GIMP 2.99 uses GTK3 which comes with HiDPI support, so it works much better for me.

That said, I think the team has done a lot of work to bring over features from GIMP 2.99 to GIMP 2.10 over the years, seeing that GIMP 3 would not be released any soon… so that may explain why you don’t see a lot of new stuff :slight_smile:

You are surely correct in your observations. I confess I don’t use GIMP much any more as 99.9% of my editing is from RAW files and I use darktable. Still GIMP is important to me for photo restoration and when I need to use layer and masks.

Hello @Terry

You can find the changelog, with all the features added so far, as regards the upcoming GIMP 3.0 version, here:

Most of them are related to the porting of the code from GTK2 to the GTK3 toolkit (GUIs stuff, in short…). There were also scores of plugins which needed to be updated.

Unfortunately, the current stable version for GTK is 4 (not 3…) therefore there is still plenty of work to do from the GIMP side :slight_smile:

Just as a note, as regards Inkscape, its team has hired, for a short period, as a full time developer, Daniel Bols, to contribute to the BIG porting of this software from GTK3 to 4, which is indeed a huge undertaking…

1 Like

I’ve been using the Gimp for over 10 years now, and I’ve been reading “Yikes, the Gimp interface…” for over 10 years now.

I only use the multi-window interface with my image (the only thing I’m interested in) in full screen, and the commands I’m interested in on an old secondary screen, bought 3 cents second-hand.

So when I hear talk of a status bar, a bar for this or that…

Admittedly, a good image processing program is inevitably a little complex, but one might prefer “a magic program that gives you a wonderful image in 3 clicks”…

@alex666 “commands on secondary screen” do you mean you have a command line (aka shell) running there, or do you mean some GUI? If a GUI, what - menu, the gimp “toolkit” window (AARGH!) or what?

I, too, say “Yikes” very time I have to use gimp, if only to myself :wink: And I feel it’s getting worse.


everything that is not my image: layers list, toolbox, tool options…
in short, everything that “pollutes” the standard single-window interface

This is a really interesting article, thanks for these thoughts.

And (for what it’s worth) i fully agree !

  1. GIMP UI is from an old age and quite cumbersome to use (of course, when being used to any software, it’s probably not an issue anymore - same here for long term GIMP power-users)
  2. It’s probably too late to rework all this in GIMP and probably a lot of work …

Not necessarily. But it takes careful planning and certain patience.