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Feature: Graphics & Multimedia

Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

By Nathan Willis on October 09, 2007 (9:00:00 PM)

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The GIMP image editor is preparing for the start of a new development cycle, and you can have your say in the way the next version looks by submitting a mock-up to the GIMP UI Brainstorm blog. User interface designer Peter Sikking spoke with us about the project and how it fits into the larger work of creating the GIMP's UI.

Sikking heads Man Machine Interface Works in Berlin, where he budgets time for work on open source projects. He leads a small team of interaction designers working on planning and implementing the next iteration of the GIMP's interface. The team formed in 2006, when it joined the GIMP Developer's Conference at the request of the core GIMP developers. There the team helped to identify the app's key usage scenarios, and followed up on each scenario with usability testing in the lab. The results of this work are publicly available on the GIMP GUI wiki, and are interesting reading for anyone who deals with user interaction problems, and particularly those working on graphics applications.

In addition to those tests, the GUI team has taken on specific interface tasks when so charged by the core GIMP developers. For example, it reworked the select and crop tools for GIMP 2.4.

Gearing up for 2.6

Of course, by that time 2.4 had been in development for several years. The upcoming start of an entirely new development cycle is both a bigger opportunity and a bigger challenge. Being involved from this stage of the process on allows the UI team to work together with the core developers to find solutions for all of the issues raised by the usability tests.

Sikking describes the process as analysis, followed by setting a strategic direction, which will then eventually develop into the precise solution. Though he displays high confidence in the abilities of his team, he recently took the unusual step of opening up the design process to public input.

It all started in August, when Esteban Barahona asked on the gimp-developer mailing list where he could submit a mockup of his own proposed UI changes. That struck a chord with Sikking, who responded by setting up the GIMP UI Brainstorm blog.

Anyone can submit ideas for the blog by emailing them to the moderator's address. Sikking's team only asks that submissions adhere to a few simple rules: only images are accepted (any necessary explanations must be included in the image itself), submissions that criticize other submissions will not be accepted, and all submissions must be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Not criticizing other submissions is a key factor; as the blog's instructions succinctly put it, "polemic kills brainstorming." Consequently, there are no discussion forums associated with the brainstorm, and comments are disabled.

But submissions that build on top of previous submissions are allowed. One of the reasons Sikking wanted to start a UI brainstorm was so that the pool of ideas could inspire creative thoughts and generate still other ideas. "Anything goes, as long as it adheres to the rules, in our brainstorm," Sikking says. "Anything can trigger the next idea."

The blog has posted almost a hundred user-submitted mockups since its debut on September 9. Sikking says the blog has rejected about 20 submissions for not adhering to the rules. The most common reasons for rejection are sending text instead of an image, and sending unaltered screenshots of other applications.

When submissions meet the basic rules but do not properly attribute borrowed images (such as those that play off of an earlier submission), Sikking requests a correction. But submissions that don't meet the basic criteria are simply dropped without comment.

Benefits of opening up the process

Browsing through the entries posted so far, you see a number of recurring themes. Not many of the ideas are truly off-the-wall, and in fact plenty are more cosmetic than about introducing new ways to interact with the program itself.

Still, it is an intriguing experiment, and there are gems to be found in the brainstorming process that would not arise out of controlled lab experiments and surveys. These submissions are entirely voluntary, and the suggestions they describe arise directly from real users' real-world experience. And what UI design process could be more in tune with the open source spirit than that?

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on Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

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Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.5.180.178] on October 09, 2007 11:09 PM
I would need 16bpp support before anything else.

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How about ditching GTK+ in favor of Qt?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 169.233.26.125] on October 10, 2007 12:08 AM
The process would force them to write more modular code.
I rather them focus on quality first, then features.

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Re: How about ditching GTK+ in favor of Qt?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 169.233.26.125] on October 10, 2007 12:34 AM
Agreed. If they separate out their logic well enough, people in the FOSS world can easily create a fork and implement all the changes they wish.
That way, you could pick either a GTK+ version or a Qt version (or both if you wanted) and everyone would be happy :)

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Rewrite needed

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 169.233.26.125] on October 10, 2007 12:36 AM
They need to scrap it altogether and start a new IMP project.
Preferably one that refuses to pay homage to that atrocity of a software foundation: GNU.

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Re(1): How about ditching GTK+ in favor of Qt?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.111.143.84] on October 10, 2007 03:14 AM
Gtk+ = GIMP ToolKit

Guess why :)))))))))))

And source code is already separated pretty well.

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Replacing GTK+ with gtkmm would make more sense

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.240.213.26] on October 10, 2007 10:33 AM
gtkmm has a cleaner, better object model than Qt. And since it's based on GTK+, it would be an easy migration for the Gimp developers.

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Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.25.235.56] on October 10, 2007 06:51 AM
If you are going to rewrite the UI of GIMP, I suggest ditch GTK and QT and all it just sucks, Better Build your UI with OpenGL as the Blender 3D program very innovative UI. Dont copy to Photoshop UI dont copy Anjuta, Dont copy anything build from scratch your UI using OpenGL but as I said a suggestion check Blender 3D UI it rocks.

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Re: Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 169.233.26.125] on October 10, 2007 06:54 AM
Qt has OpenGL interfaces. Please refrain from ill-informed comments.

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Re(1): Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.25.235.56] on October 10, 2007 06:59 AM
I Don't give a shit if QT have OpenGL support the last time I checket it was by a Canvas I will not use it in that way to build a GUI from Scratch it have to be directly by OpenGL, Thats why Im saying check Blender 3D, You f* arrogant.

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Going to rewrite the UI, Ditch GTK and QT all together use OpenGL

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.25.235.56] on October 10, 2007 06:54 AM
I think I posted 2 times sorry but If you are going to rewrite the UI of GIMP, I suggest ditch GTK and QT and all it just sucks, Better Build your UI with OpenGL as the Blender 3D program very innovative UI. Dont copy to Photoshop UI, dont copy Anjuta, Dont copy anything build from scratch your UI using OpenGL but as I said a suggestion check Blender 3D UI it rocks.

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Where is CMYK...?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.68.204.188] on October 10, 2007 01:31 PM
Is CMYK on the burner at all?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMYK_color_model

"CMYK (short for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black), and often referred to as process color or four color) is a subtractive color model, used in color printing, also used to describe the printing process itself. Though it varies by print house, press operator, press manufacturer and press run, ink is typically applied in the order of the acronym.[1]

The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking certain colors on the typically white background (that is, absorbing particular wavelengths of light). Such a model is called subtractive because inks “subtract” brightness from white.

In additive color models such as RGB, white is the “additive” combination of all primary colored lights, while black is the absence of light. In the CMYK model, it is just the opposite: white is the natural color of the paper or other background, while black results from a full combination of colored inks. To save money on ink, and to produce deeper black tones, unsaturated and dark colors are produced by substituting black ink for the combination of cyan, magenta and yellow".

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Re: Where is CMYK...?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.159.66.14] on October 10, 2007 09:16 PM
There is a beginning of a <a href=http://www.blackfiveservices.co.uk/separate.shtml>plug-in.</a> Check out the link, or google "gimp cmyk".

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If you are unhappy with GIMP....

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.18.193.75] on October 10, 2007 03:44 PM
For all those people who are unhappy about GIMP's user interface, or who need 16bpp color or proper handling of CMYK, I suggest you take a good look at krita (http://www.koffice.org/krita/), which has come a long way. It's current speed of development is really amazing.

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Re: If you are unhappy with GIMP....

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.249.52.137] on October 10, 2007 10:29 PM
They don't realy need CMYK or 16bpp they are just serial whiners, that will always find something to bitch about.
I have jet to see an article about gimp that doesn't have this kind of trolls. I am convinced that they will find something new to bitch about when GIMP does support CMYK and 16bpp. I wish these people would go back to windows and photoshop, since clearly they are not satisfied with anything else.

I do personaly like Krita, and cant wait till KDE4 port is done :)
(and you will be able to use its images as flakes in Koffice4 )

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Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.125.106.58] on October 11, 2007 11:29 AM
How about implementing adjustment layers?

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Every app / project should follow their lead! :)

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.32.8.58] on October 11, 2007 03:53 PM
The GIMP is one of my favorite apps, and has been for a long time; in the years since I first saw it, the interface has changed considerably (perhaps less than I'd like), but the GIMP still seems to be the whipping boy for everyone who thinks they know True Intuitiveness when they see it. So it's the perfect project to do exactly this, and given the griping I've heard for years about the GIMP's designers alleged resistance to the perfect, clever ideas contained in outside suggestions, it's also the most gratifying of the well-known FOSS applications.

However, I'd like to see a similar public channel for visual ideas for other projects, too -- big ones like OpenOffice, Gnome, but smaller ones, too. The low-feedback route taken in this case (not a lot of bickering) lends itself well to thinking-on-screen.

timothy

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How about separating the UI from the core?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.101.139.75] on October 11, 2007 08:53 PM
Allowing the UI to develop as a separate project from the GIMP core might be a good idea. You could even have more than one UI - a photoshop clone and a development of the classic GIMP UI, and maybe a highly UI for other people. You could also add an OpenOffice UI module for OpenOffice edit image in place integration and so on.

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Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.30.22.22] on October 13, 2007 11:41 AM
I think a parent window is a must. Not because Photoshop is that way, but because if you have a few windows open trying to find the tools or your image becomes annoying after a while.

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Re: Brainstorming ideas for the GIMP's next interface

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 165.166.131.191] on November 17, 2007 12:02 AM
Here here!
Giving a parent window, ANY parent window, might get gimp to lose the title of "interface hell." I can't, off the top of my head, name any other windowed app that doesn't at least give the user the option of a parent window.

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Zooming in an out

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.239.74.196] on October 17, 2007 02:36 AM
It should be intuitive and use the mouse scroller to zoom in and out in a flash.

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