At the Ubuntu Developer Summit, which took place last week, it was announced that the next release of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, version 10.04, will no longer carry the GIMP in its default installation. This actually touches upon somethin I’ve been wanting to talk about, a problem that plagues both Linux and Mac OS X: Paint.NET is Windows-only.
The reasoning behind removing the GIMP from the default Ubuntu install is solid. The application is geared towards a different audience than Ubuntu itself; it’s for technical and skilled high-end graphic editors. This makes it unsuitable for quick image editing, because thanks to all its plug-ins, the GIMP’s loading time is long. To make matters worse, because the GIMP is a complicated and advanced application, its interface reflects that.
As a result, it seems to make little sense to include the GIMP in the default installation of Ubuntu. An additional benefit here is that this decision frees up quite a lot of space on the single-CD Ubuntu always aims to ship on.
The reaction from within the GIMP community is one of approval. “That is pretty much in-line with our product vision,” writes GIMP developer Sven Neumann, “GIMP is a high-end application for professionals. It is not the tool that you would advise every user to use for their casual photo editing.”
So, what other tool will provide the ability to perform the type of casual photo editing Neumann speaks of? This role will be fulfilled by F-Spot, the photo management tool. This one already has several quite basic photo editing tools built-in, such as red-eye reduction and cropping.
One of the hurdles with using F-Spot was that its editing features were only available in the application’s “full” mode, or management mode, instead of its light “view” mode. The former takes quite a while to load up, so wasn’t an ideal solution. Luckily, F-Spot developer Stephane Delcroix added the editing tools to the view mode within mere hours of hearing of Ubuntu’s plans to remove the GIMP.
While this is all well and fine, this still leaves the default Ubuntu installation without any method of creating images. Mac OS X suffers from the same lack of a good but accessible image manipulation program that sits somewhere between MS Paint and Photoshop in terms of features and complexity.
I have an applications superstar tag-team, consisting of Chrome for Windows, Miranda IM, and, here we go, Paint.NET. Paint.NET perfectly balances itself between the overly simplistic nature of MS Paint and the complexity extravaganza of things like Photoshop and the GIMP. It provides most of the tools you need not only to edit photos, but also to actually create graphics.
This is an area where both Linux and Mac OS X lag behind Windows. There simply is no Paint.NET equivalent in the Linux and Mac OS X world – you are either restricted to simple and basic MS Paint-like things, or the overwhelming nature of things like Photoshop or the GIMP.
I see this as a genuine niche that needs to be filled on these two platforms, and every time I try to stick to them full-time, I eventually hit a wall whenever I need to do some quick image creating. Ubuntu removing the GIMP and relying on F-Spot instead is a symptom of this problem – not a solution.