GIMP 2.8 is coming with some great new features, hopefully in the not too distant future. In mid January, 2011, the GIMP website was still not announcing a launch date for GIMP 2.8, but they have been heralding some of the great new features which should make using GIMP an even more fulfilling experience.
There's been much discussion on the web about what to expect from GIMP 2.8 and it seems that there are a number of exciting new features that we can expect, with some confidence, to arrive when the new version of GIMP is released.
As well as GIMP's January announcement, a blog post from Peter Sikking in the second half of 2010 also described some the new features that we will enjoy in the next version of GIMP. Peter Sikking has been collaborating on the GIMP project since 2006, so we can probably take his comments on the new user interface to be generally accurate.
The new features in GIMP 2.8 that we can look forward to include the following, but don't be surprised if there are more improvements when it launches.
Single Window Mode
You probably either love or hate the current user interface with its system of floating palettes. I personally hate it for its idiosyncrasies on Windows 7 and Vista and its persistent failings in focusing on an open document after switching applications. It can often take half a dozen clicks to get the active window focused, and this seriously impacts on work flow. The news that there will be an option to have a single window interface is the most exciting aspect of GIMP 2.8 for me. If, however, you think I'm crazy, you'll be pleased to know that you can still use GIMP with the familiar floating windows system.
This is another big improvement for me as documents with lots of layers can very quickly become difficult to manage. I feel this is particularly important as GIMP 2.8 still won't offer adjustment layers, though non-destructive adjustments are anticipated for GIMP 3. Layer groups will make it easier to try different approaches to editing an image using multiple layers and then quickly compare them within a single document. This is certainly a step forward for users who like to work quite heavily on adjusting their photos, as well as illustrators who enjoy using GIMP to build up complex composite images.
Not mentioned on the official GIMP site, but this will hopefully be part of the new GIMP 2.8 user interface. This will be like a visual version of Open Recent, with currently open files and closed files from a user defined time period being displayed in a chronologically ordered time line of thumbnails. It may be a little similar to the bar of thumbnails that appears over the work space in Paint.NET, though more customizable and, as mentioned, not just for currently active images.
Improved Brush Dynamics
This is a feature that should excite those who will use GIMP 2.8 more as an illustration tool. This should give users greater control over the appearance of brush strokes and give the power to produce more realistic and naturalistic looking results.
The GIMP site also refers to a 'new unique transformation tool' and I'll be very interested to see what this means in reality. At this stage it does seem that there's plenty of great new features to be excited about in GIMP 2.8.