GIMP 2.8.10 review
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a freely distributed image editing application. Some criticisms in the past included the need for X11 developer tools to actually get GIMP onto your Mac, but now all you need do is drag the GIMP.app from a downloaded DMG file into your Applications folder.
The latest update at time of writing (2.8.10) safely runs on OS X Mavericks, fixing some keyboard shortcuts and adjusting the Save/Export code in the process.
The latter is concerned with the way the Save or Save As command will only allow images to be saved in the GIMP .xcf image file format, but you can still export an image in another format, such as .jpg or .psd. This is because whenever images are loaded or imported into GIMP, they are converted into the .xcf format as a new project. It's a bit confusing, but seems in keeping with a non-destructive workflow approach – your original JPG remains unchanged unless you deliberately overwrite it on Export.
A big improvement for version 2.8 was the adoption a single window interface, rather than the host of floating panels you previously had to deal with. There are also Layer Groups, which add a bit of organisation to the Layers palette and allow you to apply a layer mode to a group, just as you would with a single layer.
See also: Mac software reviews
One of the newer tools is Cage Transform, which allows 'bending' of pixels within a selection just by moving control points. It's a bit unresponsive, but with patience it gets the job done. Such a tool would be ideal for fixing perspective distortions in images as well as the odd special effect.
A new angle setting for brushes allows them to be rotated and there are welcome improvements to the Text tool, which used to involving having to type into a dialog box. Now you can type and edit directly on the canvas, in common with most other graphics applications.
The dialog box now offers font family, style and size selectors, as well as numeric control over baseline offset and kerning, and text colour selection. There's still some fine-tuning to be done in this area however.
When using GIMP, you soon realise just what the little paid-for productivity touches are worth in other applications. There are interface niggles, such as often having to click to create a preview in the Open dialog or the dialog boxes appearing under the floating toolbox. GIMP is also quite slow in some aspects, such as the Cage Transform or when applying fills. However GIMP is free, so giving it a trial should be a no-brainer. You've got nothing to lose but time.