While a number of smartphones now offer photo editing basics (and a plethora of apps to expand things even more), the portability of a solid photo editing program has been hard to come by. Photoshop is a monster in regards to space requirements and its ability to work on any system where it is not expressively installed. Picasa can be fairly 'lightweight' but lacks many of the more advanced photo editing tools. So what about GIMP?
Enter GIMP Portable. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a photo editing program that trails behind Photoshop proper, but is open-source and free to download.
The normal version of GIMP can be installed on a hard drive and the portable version is designed to work off of any portable device (that can be mapped as a drive letter in Windows). This means you can take it with you on a thumb drive or even place it on flash memory cards used for photography.
Some notes on GIMP Portable: It can only be downloaded and used by Windows. This will be a bummer to many, but realize the idea is you are taking this version with you to use when you are not near your regular computer. Most of the common use computers you will find while traveling will likely run Windows as the hardware is cheaper to purchase than Macintosh.
Also, the drive needs to remain installed the entire time the program is running. Removing the drive will make bad things happen while trying to make changes to photos. The program also needs only 53MB of space to run (and it is a 21MB download).
There are two ways to acquire GIMP Portable. The first is to download the app itself from the PortableApps website. You can find a link here. After download, ensure your portable drive is connected to your PC and start the installer.
When prompted, choose the drive letter for the portable drive as the installation location (the whole process has few screens and is quick). This will create a folder and an .exe file which will need to be searched out and activated manually each time you start the program.
The other option is to download the entire PortableApps Suite from their site. This will come complete with many other open-source applications that you may find useful. It also has a loader that starts up whenever the drive is attached to a new machine, making starting GIMP easier while using a new PC. Which ever method you choose, you may be wondering what can you do with GIMP?
What You Can Do With GIMP
GIMP is a fairly robust program. While it does not contain all the capabilities of Photoshop, it does boast the ability to work with a wide variety of file types (include most RAW formats using its own converter much like Camera RAW), output to the majority of image file types and contains a vast array of tools for editing.
On the right side of the screen, floating as its own window, is the main toolbox. This contains such useful items as cropping tools, brushes, erasers, perspective tools (to change the angle of lines within an image), lettering tools, blur, dodge, burn and many more. Under the Colors menu up top are all the edits you could want for adjusting your final image's look; Hue, Saturation, Balance, Levels, Curves (just like in Photoshop), Brightness and Contrast. On top of those are a number of Auto functions for those who don't wish to dig too deep into the program.
On the right side of the screen is another floating palate with History, Layers (yes, layers!!), Paths and Channels. Down below that are brush options, patterns and gradients to be used as you see fit.
GIMP is worth a look if you are looking for a program that is lightweight and easy to use for the novice but also packed full of powerful tools without the bloat in costly programs. While it can't stand up to Photoshop in a toe-to-toe comparison, GIMP can travel with you in the space of just two RAW sized images and on any portable drive you desire. It also loads no files onto the host computer making it a perfect travel companion.
One last note: If you are looking to extend GIMP, look to the Plugin Registry for even more tools to bring about beautiful images.