I love open source software.  Yep, I wear my geek badge proudly!  Since I work in the nonprofit field, I know many of those organizations want to play with the big guns, but can’t unless they get a grant or major donation. I recently heard of one monster program (which I’m not going to name, sorry) that cost over $100,000. Way over.  That’s more than the annual budget for many nonprofits.  Open source can be a cost effective and viable alternative to the fancy-schmancy commercial products and is definitely something that should be on any nonprofits radar for serious consideration.  With active communities to support, extend, and improve the programs, the products are almost always just as stable – sometimes more stable (ahem, internet explorer, ahem!) – than the traditional route.

This week’s Awesome Open Source Application: GIMP

In a world where technobabble bombards audiences left and right, nonprofits need to stand out.  Branding is critical to making your organization known and recognizable.  Flyers in Microsoft Word or Publisher aren’t going to cut it anymore.  You need something more powerful to create things like logos, posters, and brochures that stand out in a good way, not because they’re printed on hot pink paper.

Enter GIMP – an alternative to Photoshop. And it costs…nothing.

Compare that to $699 for the current version of Adobe Photoshop CS4 and it might just be worth a try, hmm?

According to the GIMP website:

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

GIMP is written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms. But basically the same code also runs on MS Windows and Mac OS X.

I realize this is gibberish to many of you, so let me break it down real simple:

  • You can do almost anything with it that Photoshop can do. Almost.
  • Since it’s open source, there’s an active community of people who are creating plugins and extensions to give it even more capabilities. So what it can’t do yet, it probably will soon.
  • It doesn’t matter what platform you have installed on your computer – unless you’re using technology from an advanced alien civilization, it’s compatible.

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like in action:

The only major drawback I’ve found so far is that it doesn’t save in CMYK, but that won’t matter to most people. And since I’m accustomed to Photoshop, the interface takes some getting used to (though GimpShop has a cure for that).

So, try GIMP and let me know what you think in the comments!

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