2021 annual report

While we are ending 2021, let’s sum up the year. For my first year as co-maintainer, I thought it would be a good idea to write this report in my name so that I can give personal impressions of how it is to work on GIMP and what it means to me.

Hello 2022 - Wilber and co. comics strip by Aryeom
“Hello 2022” by Aryeom, Creative Commons by-sa 4.0 - GIMP 2021 annual report


In 2021, we had:

  • 4 stable releases (GIMP 2.10.24, 2.10.26, 2.10.28 and 2.10.30)
  • 2 development releases (GIMP 2.99.6 and 2.99.8).
  • 1179 commits on the unstable development branch (2.99.x, future 3.0) and 407 commits on the stable development branch (2.10.x) of the main repository.
  • 91 contributors on the main repository, including (some people belong to several categories):
    • 41 developers
    • 42 translators
    • 24 contributors to resources (icons, themes, in-code documentation) or build improvements.
  • 22 people contributed more than 10 commits in the main repository, among which 2 contributors did more than 100 commits (Jacob Boerema and myself), among which only one (myself) did more than 500.
  • 247 commits to GIMP’s website (gimp.org, i.e. right here) by 14 contributors.
  • 31 commits to babl by 6 contributors.
  • 229 commits to GEGL by 33 contributors.
  • 1179 commits to ctx by 3 contributors (mostly Øyvind Kolås).
  • 255 commits in gimp-help (our manual), whose main contributor is Jacob Boerema who is doing an awesome work reviving it.
  • 53 commits in gimp-macos-build (our repository for the macOS build) by 4 contributors (mostly by Lukas Oberhuber who took over maintainance of the macOS package).
  • 185 reports fixed in our 2021 releases and hundreds more handled, triaged, answered to, worked on…
  • Many patches contributed by GIMP contributors in various other projects we use (GLib, GTK, Cairo, GExiv2 and others… We don’t keep track) and an uncountable number of issues reported by our contributors to other projects.
  • Helping (or getting helped by) other Free Software when we can, e.g. the very nice Siril project for astronomical image processing and other software, because unlike what some think, we are not in a market or a competition! We all work together to make a better graphics work environment.
  • And more!

In the end, that’s quite a lot of work proudly brought to you by GIMP. As you may notice, we have quite some contributions, yet the core work is still actually done by a handful of people as most contributions are one-off (out of the 91 contributors, 69 contributed less than 10 commits, and among these 51 contributed a single commit).

I want to commend Jacob Boerema in particular who is the biggest contributor this year on the stable branch, while I must admit I mostly focus on the development branch and sometimes tend to neglect a bit the stable branch 😒! Thanks Jacob! 🤗

And we should never forget babl, GEGL and the new project ctx by Øyvind Kolås as these constitute the core of GIMP imaging engine and are considered as much a part of GIMP project as the interface itself.

Building a lovely team

You might have noticed a regular section for the last few news titled “Team news” where we list changes in the team, in particular new contributors who are given more access to the tracker or the source repository. I have been trying to be more and more proactive into integrating people into the core team.

Indeed as you saw in the statistics, Jacob Boerema is the only other contributor who did more than 100 commits in 2021, while I did a bit over 500. So I want to improve this ratio and increase the bus factor.

GIMP team has always been very welcoming, at least ever since I started contributing, back in 2012 and this is even why I stayed back then. I want to perpetuate this tradition. My goal is to identify faster the people to give more responsibility to (note that technical skills are important but social skills — in other words being a good person and nice to others — is my priority checkbox). Well it’s definitely an evil trick 🦹 to lessen my own burden, but I also expect this to make it way more fun 🎡 contributing to the project (based on personal experience)!

Therefore let me give special props to Jacob Boerema for his tireless work on file format support and more, Niels de Graef for his invaluable help and good expertise with GTK, Luca Bacci for his very nice work on input device support, helping on Windows and his GTK expertise, Daniel Novomesky for making HEIF/AVIF and JPEG-XL first-class formats…

Let’s not forget recurring contributors such as Massimo Valentini, Lloyd Konneker… (what would we do without these people never giving up on GIMP, years after years?!) and promising newcomers like Stanislav Grinkov.

Now let’s applaud our packagers: Jernej Simončič has been around in GIMP for as long as I could remember, flawlessly making Windows installers like a solid rock to rely on; macOS history is bumpier yet Lukas Oberhuber has been doing an outstanding work lately so I sure hope he’ll stay around; on Flatpak side, Hubert Figuière helps quite a lot too (and I secretly 🤫 hope he will end up taking over me maintaining our stable, beta and nightly flatpak-s!).

At the end of the day, GIMP is much bigger than just developers, it’s a community. What would we do without people helping for the website, bug triaging, infrastructure and more? And let’s not forget the translators, so many of them! I just love all of you! Sorry that I cannot just name everyone (in case I forgot you, don’t take it the wrong way, there are just so many awesome people around!).

What I like to tell everyone is that GIMP is both a community software and Free Software, or simply a Community, Free Software. This double concept is extremely important to me and this is why I love GIMP and why both Aryeom and I (from ZeMarmot projet, from which our heavy-lifting contributions really started) stuck with it. This is about humans meeting each others and trying to do something nice together (even though each’s personal end goal might be different). Everything works wonderfully as long as we remember to be good to each other. 🤗

Therefore to all contributors (of any specialties) who helped GIMP so far, I want to say a huge thank you! GIMP is what it is thanks to you! 🙏

GIMP 3.0 approaching

With 4 development versions released already, you know that we are working very hard on the future: GIMP 3.0.

Some features took a lot of time, mostly when we changed core logics. I am thinking in particular about the code for multi-selection of layers. It’s not that selecting multiple items in a list is hard to implement, it’s that any feature in the whole application has been forever expecting just one layer or one channel selected. So what happens when there are 2, 3 or any number of items selected? Every feature, every tool, every plug-in and filter has to be rethought for this new use case. This is a huge work and it has been 2 years I have been on and off on this one in between porting or developing other code and reviewing contributors’ code. Fortunately this change is nearing the end lately (not completely finished though). So that’s a great progress.

By the way, a part of this work has been to get rid of the “link” (chain ⛓ icon in the Layers dockable) concept in favor of multi-selection (and layer search and storage as a replacement concept for the ability to save layer links). This part is also done now. I’ll talk more about this in the GIMP 2.99.10 release news.

Linked layer concept replaced by layer search
Link concept replaced by multi-layer search, lock icons moved - GIMP dev branch

Among other blockers which I listed a year ago, we are steadily progressing on our GTK3 port and Wayland support as well as stabilizing the plug-in API. I do hope these will be considered in a good enough state soon enough so that we can consider having a release candidate.

On the other hand, the space invasion has been a bit on the slow pace in 2021 so this is definitely one topic we need to get back full-on very soon. Same for the extension platform.

GEGL, babl and ctx

The core 🫀⚙️ of modern GIMP is GEGL, a library project nearly as old as GIMP itself, by the same core of people, even though the first tentative integrations only happened in GIMP 2.6, and since then slowly making its way to be the main engine behind most pixel manipulation in the software.

GEGL development has been slowing down a bit since 2019, but mostly because it is becoming stabler by the day, which is really when things are getting good, solid and interesting. Now it would still be unfair to forget talking about the recent support of the CMYK color model in GEGL, which means we are a step closer to get some support in GIMP itself.

Another exciting thing is the new project Øyvind Kolås has been working on these days: ctx, a vector graphics library.

Now I know it may not sound as useful when you develop a raster graphics application, but there are still a lot of intersecting topics. One of these topics is the graphics interface itself which is usually rendered out of vector primitives. In GTK case, the rendering is going through Cairo. Øyvind has been working a lot to both render nicer and faster than Cairo, or similarly, on many cases. ctx also has color-management thought into the framework from the ground up as a first-class citizen.

Of course ctx is still heavily under work as can be seen by the intense commit rate so we’ll have to see where it goes, but this is for sure exciting since Øyvind is a well-proven excellent R&D developer.

There are other areas where ctx is useful, such as the few GEGL operations with vector components which have already been ported to this new library (e.g. gegl:fill-path) and text itself is usually rendered through vector shapes (so who knows what might happen when we improve text support?). GIMP is not going to refocus on vector graphics anytime soon, but we may definitely get more vector-related features as we go (anyone who follow a bit ZeMarmot‘s work knows that we are really looking into improved ways for SVG integration for instance, such as in my early, not merged yet, link layer experiment). When we do more vector work, ctx will definitely be a top contender.

I can already hear Øyvind telling me that ctx is actually much more than these few areas I summed up here. So let me be sorry in advance, Øyvind! This is why this report is in my name, taking into account my own limitations in understanding your bigger plans, and looking forward to be pleasantly surprised and amazed in the future! 🤯

Infrastructure, Documentation

In all software projects, there is a constant which is mostly invisible, yet extremely important: infrastructure.

You might have noticed we did speak a bit more than usual about this in 2021 because it has really been something which used to bother me in my early years contributing to GIMP. I always thought we needed more robust, automated and transparent builds (which is getting there for Windows, macOS and Linux with Flatpak), better download mirrors handling, better continuous integration in general, better end-user documentation (Jacob is on it! And we have plans to get a more automated release and online testing policy of GIMP manual, which should happen in 2022)…

We also had some work done in 2021 around developer documentation: Akkana Peck (well known for having written books on GIMP) and Lloyd Konneker helped set up some initial documentation to port plug-ins and script from 2.10 to 3.0. Akkana also jump-started generating API references for the Python and Javascript bindings (with g-ir-doc-tool). Then very recently Niels De Graef migrated our generic API documentation generation from gtk-doc to gi-docgen, producing much more modern web documentation for plug-in developers. None of these are online yet, only built within the source repository for the time being. Getting an online update procedure for these is also on the TODO list.

New API documentation - GIMP dev branch
New API documentation for plug-in developers - GIMP dev branch

All these topics take a lot of time and are also necessary to get a much nicer experience using GIMP. So I am already quite proud of what we did in 2021 and really excited about our 2022 plans.

Plans for 2022

You might wonder now: when will GIMP 3.0 be released?

Nope sorry, as always, we don’t answer such question. 😛 What we can say is that we are hard at work for this to happen and for sure I’d like it to be earlier rather than later.

As said above, apart from the code itself, I also want us to get our new online manual infrastructure improved before the release, but also our extension framework ready as well as a brand new developer website with documentation and more. So the plans are actually quite extensive and it’s not only within GIMP code itself (though code definitely needs more work too). We’ll see how things go from here!

Don’t forget you can donate to the project and personally fund several GIMP developers, as a way to give back and accelerate the development of GIMP. As you know, myself as maintainer of GIMP (through ZeMarmot project) and Øyvind as maintainer of GEGL are crowdfunding to be able to work full-time on free software. Any funding is appreciated to help us succeed in such endeavour.

I wish you all a nice new year eve and a wonderful year 2022. 🥳