Using Gimp on a netbook


That’s right, I am officially crazy enough to try to use Gimp on a netbook.  While they may be small and underpowered, the ability to use an advanced image editor can come in handy at the most unexpected times (and often does!)  There are a few tricks needed to make Gimp’s tools fit on the screen of a netbook, though, particularly a 7″ netbook like my Sylvania G, and I shall reveal them now.

The biggest problem is the sheer quantity of space the two default toolkits take up.  Fortunately, these are highly customizable, and we can take advantage of a simple drag-and-drop to fix the issue.  Under the toolbox on the left pane, you’ll see a series of tabs.  Simply take all the tabs on the right pane and drag them down to this tab bar, and right-click and “close” any tabs you’ll never use (the brushes tab, for example, is not necessary unless you work with lots and lots of custom brushes!)  Pulling all the right-hand tools into the left-hand tools lets you remove the right pane entirely, freeing up oodles of space.  This is the most important goal: to dump a pane and reclaim what little viewing space we have in the first place.

Another big key to shrinking the toolbox is changing the theme from the Default to Small.  To do this, simply open the Gimp Preferences (look under the File menu) and click Theme in the left side of the window, then change it in the right side to the Small theme, and click OK.  Your toolbox tool icons should shrink significantly and more of your toolbox will become visible.  If you haven’t shrunk it vertically yet, now is a good time to do so.  You’ll need to toy with the vertical and horizontal size of the toolbox until it all (or most of it, anyway) fits on the screen well.

But wait!  In Gimp 2.6, they added some pesky eyes to everything!  That’s “Wilber,” the Gimp mascot, and while it might be cute and acceptable on a 17″ widescreen, I have 800×480 dots to work with and Wilber’s eyes will actually force the bottom of the left pane off-screen, even if I shrink it to its lowest vertical height.  What to do?

It’s quite simple, actually.  To remove the “eyes” of Wilber from the top of the Gimp toolbox, you need to find the “gimprc” file and add a line to it  The hard part is finding the file, but we can make that process easy.  If you’re using Linux, it’s under ~/.gimp or ~/.gimp-2.6 or something similar; on Windows, it’s under your Application Data folder in your user profile (or under AppData\Roaming on Windows Vista and above.)  Windows users can also simplify the process by using the Windows search function to locate “gimprc” instead of fishing around.

When you try to open gimprc on Windows, you will be asked what to open it with.  Normally I’d tell you to use Notepad, but Gimp may use Unix-style newlines which will render the file unreadable to a normal person in Notepad.  WordPad will open the file properly and should save it okay as well, so use Wordpad.  (If you’re a power user, why aren’t you using Notepad++ yet?!)  Go to the end of the file and add the following line to it:

(toolbox-wilber no)

Save the file and run Gimp to check that the eyes are gone.  If they aren’t, make sure you spelled it right, otherwise feel free to enjoy Gimp on your netbook!

6 thoughts on “Using Gimp on a netbook

  1. Thanks for your tips. I’m amazed and impressed you managed got get much of anything done on 7″ screen.
    The Preferences dialog is still way too tall but I can almost navigate around it despite not being able to see the bottom chunk.
    Wilber, I don’t get why they are obsessed with adding branding everywhere either.
    Akkana Peck wrote a whole book on the program and she calls it “a waste of space”
    All the UX work they did between 2.6 and 2.8 and they still didn’t get rid of it.

  2. The key thing for me was learning how to quickly show and hid things – like Ctrl+b to show the tools and Ctrl+l for the layer tab, then hiding them quickly with tab.

  3. Thanks for the tips. Although honestly I found your site layout much more useful, eg the stacked “Stalk Me” navigator + recent posts + tags” panel, and then the mini panel on the left upper side which ostensibly has your most often used social media identities. Very useful. I’m surprised everybody doesn’t adopt such a layout. I’m guessing you lifted the idea from somewhere, its not exactly rocket science. Still- nice execution.

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