It is up to you to find the files you need to download in a sea of obsolete versions and variants all unlabelied and all given equal billing. Phht! Look for the words automatic installer and stable. Then look for the recommended version number. Look for a platform specific automated installer. Your download should be about 8 megabytes. You probably don’t want the giant version that contains all the source at this stage. The *.md5 files are just tiny digests to let you detect tampering. You can ignore them. The *.tar.gz files are Unix tar archives that were compressed with gzip. WinZip can unpack them. The *.tar.bz2 files are Unix tar archives that were super-compressed with Bzip2. WinRAR can unpack them. The *.bz2 files are 1/3 smaller and hence download faster.
Many versions come without an installer. You simply unzip the directory structure into your Program Files directory.
The automated installer gives you no choice but to associate *.gif and *.jpg files with the Gimp as a viewer. The Gimp is a hopeless file viewer since it takes about 30 seconds to load. You will want to break those associations manually.
It is an unusually difficult program to use partly because the authors wrote the documentation for fellow team members, not novices. Secondly, the manual and the program are badly out of sync and thirdly it is not complete. To have any chance at all with the program, take time out to read the documentation from start to finish at least once. Unlike most programs, reading the introductory section is mandatory.
Much of the Gimp is just showing off mathematical dexterity. I think many of its tools would have little practical application. If the Gimp were a commercial venture, I would tell them to reign in that creativity for a while and concentrate on documenting how to get bread and butter tasks accomplished. Its biggest problem is an extraordinarily long startup time, even just to view an image.
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