Version 0.54 was released in February 1996, and had a major impact
as the first truly professional free image manipulation program.
This was the first free program that could compete with the big
commercial image manipulation programs.
Version 0.54 was a beta release, but it was so stable that you
could use it for daily work. However, one of the major drawbacks
of 0.54 was that the toolkit (the slidebars, menus, dialog boxes,
etc.) was built on Motif, a commercial
toolkit. This was a big drawback for systems like
Linux, because you had to buy
Motif if you wanted to use the faster,
dynamically linked GIMP. Many
developers were also students running Linux,
who could not afford to buy Motif.
When 0.60 was released in July 1996, it had been under S and P
(Spencer and Peter) development for four months. Main programming
advantages were the new toolkits, GTK
(GIMP Toolkit) and gdk
(GIMP Drawing Kit), which eliminated the
reliance on Motif. For the
graphic artist, 0.60 was full of new features like: basic layers;
improved painting tools (sub-pixel sampling, brush spacing); a
better airbrush; paint modes; etc.
Version 0.60 was only a developer's release, and was not intended
for widespread use. It served as a workbench for 0.99 and the
final 1.0 version, so functions and enhancement could be tested
and dropped or changed. You can look at 0.60 as the alpha version
In February 1997, 0.99 came on the scene. Together with other
developers, S and P had made several changes to
GIMP and added
even more features. The main difference was the new API
(Application Programming Interface) and the
“PDB”, which made it possible to write scripts;
macros) could now automate things that you would normally do by
hand. GTK/gdk had also changed and was now
called GTK+. In
addition, 0.99 used a new form of tile-based memory handling that
made it possible to load huge images into GIMP
(loading a 100 MB image into GIMP is no
problem). Version 0.99 also introduced a new
native GIMP file format called XCF.
The new API made it really easy to write extensions and plug-ins
for GIMP. Several new plug-ins and extensions
emerged to make GIMP
even more useful (such as SANE, which enables
scanning directly into GIMP).
In the summer of 1997, GIMP had reached
version 0.99.10, and S and
P had to drop most of their support since they had graduated and
begun jobs. However, the other developers of
GIMP continued under
the orchestration of Federico Mena to make
GIMP ready for prime time.
GTK+ was separated from
GIMP in September 1997.
GTK+ had been
recognized as an excellent toolkit, and other developers began
using it to build their own applications.
GIMP went into feature freeze in October
1997. This meant that no
new features would be added to the GIMP
core libraries and program. GUM (GIMP Users
Manual) version 0.5 was also released early in October 1997.
The developing work continued to make GIMP
stable and ready for version 1.0.