Making GIMP 2.8 useful

Good news! You can add a plugin to GIMP 2.8 that enables it to save files normally!

The issue

Months ago, the developers of the Graphic Image Manipulation Program (a.k.a. “The GIMP”) released version 2.8. Many regular users were dismayed to discover that we could no longer do the following:

  1. open a .jpg file;
  2. edit it;
  3. save it using CTRL+S;
  4. and close it. [Without a warning, since I have just saved my work]

Once I started searching the discussion boards, I discovered that several thousand users have already complained about the change from version 2.6 to version 2.8. The response of the GIMP developers has been defensive and condescending, which is unfortunate. They do have very good reasons for pushing users to adopt the .XCF file format, which is the native GIMP format. XCF saves layers and layer states; it retains editable text and paths; and it is not lossy. For each of these reasons, I do keep “working files” in XCF format. I have about 200 images that I occasionally re-work.

But I have about 22,000 images that I need to sort and organize from my field research on cities. I can organize those photos in their original JPEG format using any file manager on Linux, Mac OS, Windows, or Android, using their thumbnail-previews. So far as I know, no file-manager can view thumbnails of XCF files by default. I think there may be plug-ins for some of the file-managers that I use; but I would have to custom-modify each file-manager to keep my XCF files organized. So I have no plans to convert my collection of photos to XCF. And unless I need to keep a multi-layered, lossless working copy, I don’t have time nor need for XCF.

The GIMP developers have dismissed us protesters as low-end users who should switch to another program. That is insulting to everyone who has written a script that works in GIMP. This “low-end user” does not know of another open-source program in which I can set up a batch process to adjust the gamma of one color-layer, and then crop and resize to 1024×768 so I can show slides to my students. Furthermore, the GIMP developers point to their vision statement and–lo and behold!–it says that they want GIMP to be user-configurable! But they have steadfastly refused to put in configuration options so that end-users can re-set the Save/Save As functions to behave as they did in GIMP 2.6.

Note that the behavior of GIMP version 2.6 followed the standard procedure in GUI computing: when I open a file and change it, I will overwrite the original if I type CTRL+S and then CTRL+W. Since 1988 I have always needed to be careful about overwriting versions of files that I might want to save. So I do recommend using Save As and a filename protocol to track changes. I need to do that with text files, spreadsheets, GIS shapefiles, JPEGs, and–yes–even XCF files if I want to keep more than one draft. What I don’t need is to have one group of developers cripple their software to force me to manage my file-changes in THEIR method.


Akkana Peck knows Python! And I do not. She has written two Python scripts which resolve the “Save/Save As” problem in GIMP 2.8! This is the link to her November 2013 version. To install:

  1. When you open the GitHub page linked above, click on the “Raw” button and you will get the raw text of the python script.
  2. Select all, copy, and paste the text into a text editor. Use an editor that does not add hidden formatting. I use Gedit in Ubuntu, or Notepad in Windows.
  3. Save the file with this name:
  4. In Ubuntu, make sure the file is set to executable. Open a terminal, change to the directory where you have placed the file, and enter:
    $ sudo chmod +x
  5. Then copy it to your GIMP plugins directory:
    $ sudo cp ~/.gimp-2.8/plug-ins/
  6. Then (re)start GIMP.

If python is installed and running, and the plugin is installed correctly, it will add two items to your File drop-down menu, below Save and Save As: “Saver as…” and “Saver.” You can invoke these new functions manually, but you can also map the shortcut keys to them:

  1. Go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts… this opens the ‘Configure Keyboard Shortcuts’ dialog.
  2. Open the Plugins dropdown and scroll way down for Saver and Saver As. On my system, it is the last two Python scripts before the list shifts to Script-Fu scripts.
  3. Click “Saver” and the Shortcut field will activate. Press the CTRL+S keys, and they are assigned.
  4. Click “Saver As,” and the Shortcut field for this script will activate. Press CTRL+SHIFT+S, and these keys will be assigned.

GIMP will now behave like all the other applications on your system!

In closing…

I sincerely hope that the GIMP developers re-embrace the spirit of the open-source community: sharing work, building on each other’s efforts, listening to users and responding to us, and promoting maximum configurability within the software by default. If not, I expect that a fork of the GIMP led by compassionate people will eclipse the current developer-team.

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