Reviews say GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an excellent free alternative to Adobe Photoshop CS6 (*Est. $700), with editing tools that include layers. Its cost (free!) and capabilities are great, but it has two main drawbacks. It can be sluggish and, perhaps more important, difficult to learn to use. However, more recent reviews of GIMP say it's much easier to use than previous iterations. While professional photographers and dedicated photo enthusiasts who need and want a powerful image editor will find GIMP to be a good alternative to Photoshop, experts say that beginners and intermediate users will find Adobe Photoshop Elements (*Est. $100) much easier to learn to use.
Most reviewers evaluate GIMP 2.6, although the software has been updated slightly for the current version, GIMP 2.8. The best review is at ArsTechnica.com; the pages-long review delves deeply into the program's pros and cons. The reviews at Download.com, PC World and About.com are also worth a look, though all are very short. A report at BrightHub.com isn't as polished but adds some useful insights.
This is the best review of GIMP that we've found. It is pages long, very well illustrated and packed with useful information on how the program works. Things are summarized with a clear conclusion and a list of the program's high, low and just plain ugly points.
Review: Suite Freedom: A Review of GIMP 2.6.4, Jan. 14, 2009, Dave Girard
CNET's editors give GIMP a perfect 5-star rating, saying its developers have succeeded in making it easier to use, and it "provides professional tools that can stand against the big boys." Users also weigh in with ratings and reviews, granting the program 4 stars overall.
Review: Gimp Review, CNET Editors', Oct. 6, 2008
3. PC World
GIMP is briefly reviewed in this roundup that covers PC World's take on the best absolutely free photography software, including photo editors. GIMP is described as having "many Photoshop-like features, but without the Photoshop price." However, Preston Gralla notes that there's a bit of a learning curve required to master some of GIMP's high-end features and that the layout is "eccentric."
Review: 10 Great Digital Photography Downloads, Preston Gralla, Feb. 2, 2010
4. Bright Hub.com
Although this review of GIMP 2.6 is unpolished and lacks the automatic credibility of a site like PC World, it is well illustrated and objective. An interesting observation is that the GIMP interface isn't inferior to that of Photoshop -- just different. "If you have never used Photoshop, then you will learn and adapt quickly," BrightHub.com says.
Review: A Review of GIMP 2.6.2, Lamar Stonecypher, Feb. 21, 2011
Sue Chastain, About.com's guide to graphics software, recommends 10 free photo-editing programs, ranking GIMP second but without a full review or documenting any testing -- or even clarifying which version she's talking about. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Top 10 Free Photo Editors for Windows, Sue Chastain, Dec. 2011