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2.3. Dialogs and Docking

2.3.1. Docking Areas

GIMP offers a lot of flexibility about the arrangement of dialog windows on your screen. Instead of placing each dialog in its own window, you can group them together using docks. A "dock" is a container window that can hold a collection of persistent dialogs, such as the Tool Options dialog, Brushes dialog, Palette dialog, etc. Docks cannot, however, hold image windows: each image always has its own separate window. They also can't hold non-persistent dialogs, such as the Preferences dialog or the New Image dialog.

GIMP is now supplied with two docks:

  • The Layers, Channels and Paths dock

  • The Brushes, Patterns and Gradients dock

In these docks, every window is in its own tab.

The Toolbox is now also a utility window. The Tool Options window is normally attached under the Toolbox and displays the options of the selected tool.

A list of dockable windows is available in WindowsDockable Windows. Click on the name of one of them to open it as an independent window.

Every dockable window has two types of docking areas: the docking bars and the docking-tab area. In an isolated window, the docking-tab area is the same as the drag handle area (see below). In a dock, the docking-tab area covers all the window.

Figure 3.5. The two docking types

The two docking types

The dockable window has been docked onto a dock bar.

The two docking types

The dockable window has been docked onto the docking-tab area. A new tab has been created.

2.3.2. Docking Bars

Each dockable window has two docking bars. These bars are thin gray bars, very unobtrusive and easy not to notice: most people don't realize that they exist until they are specifically pointed out.

Figure 3.6. Docking bars

Docking bars

A window with docking bars highlighted.

2.3.3. Docking Drag Handles

Each dockable window has a drag handle area, as highlighted in the figure below. You can recognize this by the fact that the cursor changes to a hand shape when the pointer is over the drag handle area. To dock a dialog, you simply click on its drag handle area, and drag it onto

  • either one of the docking bars in a window: the dialog will be attached under this window,

  • or the docking-tab area: the dialog will be added as a tab.

Figure 3.7. A dockable window, with the drag handle area highlighted

A dockable window, with the drag handle area highlighted

This screenshot shows the area that can be used to drag a dialog window onto a dock. It can also be used to take a dialog off the dock.

You can drag more than one dialog onto the same docking bar. If you do, they will turn into tabs, represented by iconic symbols at the top. Clicking on the tab handle will bring a tab to the front, so that you can interact with it.

[Note] Note

You can also add a new tab in a window, detach it, delete it by using the Tab menu. Please see below.

2.3.4. Image Menu

Some docks contain an Image Menu: a menu listing all of the images open in GIMP, and displaying the name of the image whose information is shown in the dock. You can use the Image Menu to select a different image (don't confuse this menu for the Image Menu that is the Menu of the active image on your screen). If the Auto button is depressed, then the menu always shows the name of GIMP's currently active image, that is, the image you are currently working on.

Figure 3.8. A dock with an Image Menu highlighted

A dock with an Image Menu highlighted

By default, a “Layers, Channels, and Paths” dock shows an Image Menu at the top, and other types of docks do not. You can always add or remove an Image Menu, however, using the "Show Image Menu" toggle in the Tab menu, as described below. (Exception: you cannot add an Image Menu to the dock that contains the Toolbox.)

2.3.5. Tab Menu

Figure 3.9. A dialog in a dock, with the Tab menu button highlighted

A dialog in a dock, with the Tab menu button highlighted

In each dialog, you can access a special menu of tab-related operations by pressing the Tab Menu button, as highlighted in the figure on the right. Exactly which commands are shown in the menu varies a bit from dialog to dialog, but they always include operations for creating new tabs, or closing or detaching tabs.

Figure 3.10. Tab menu from the Layers dialog

Tab menu from the Layers dialog

The Tab menu gives you access to the following commands:

Context Menu

At the top of each Tab menu is an entry that opens into the dialog's context menu, which contains operations specific to that particular type of dialog. For example, the context menu for the Patterns dialog contains a set of operations for manipulating patterns.

Add Tab

This entry opens into a submenu allowing you to add a large variety of dockable dialogs as new tabs.

Figure 3.11. “Add tab” sub-menu

Add tab sub-menu

Close Tab

This entry closes the dialog. Closing the last dialog in a dock causes the dock itself to close. Choosing this menu entry has the same effect as pressing the "Close Tab" button.

Detach Tab

This entry detaches the dialog from the dock, creating a new dock with the detached dialog as its only member. It has the same effect as dragging the tab out of the dock and releasing it at a location where it cannot be docked.

Preview Size

Figure 3.12. Preview Size submenu of a Tab menu

Preview Size submenu of a Tab menu

Many, but not all, dialogs have Tab menus containing a Preview Size option, which opens into a submenu giving a list of sizes for the items in the dialog (cf. Figure 3.12, “Preview Size submenu of a Tab menu” ). For example, the Brushes dialog shows pictures of all available brushes: the Preview Size determines how large the pictures are. The default is Medium.

Tab Style

Figure 3.13. Tab Style submenu of a Tab menu

Tab Style submenu of a Tab menu

This entry is available when multiple dialogs are in the same dock: it opens into a submenu allowing you to choose how the tabs at the top will appear (cf. Figure 3.13, “Tab Style submenu of a Tab menu”). There are five choices, not all of which will be available for all types of dialogs:


This choice gives you an icon representing the dialog type.

Current Status

This choice is only available for dialogs that allows you to select something, such as a brush, a pattern, a gradient, etc. It gives you a tab showing a representation of the item currently selected.


This choice gives you a tab showing the dialog type in text.

Icon and Text

This choice gives you wider tabs, containing both an icon and the type of dialog in text.

Status and Text

This choice, where available, shows the item currently selected, as well as the type of dialog.

View as List; View as Grid

These entries are shown in dialogs that allows you to select an item from a set: brushes, patterns, fonts, etc. You can choose whether to view the items as a vertical list, with the name of each beside it, or as a grid, with representations of the items but no names. Each has its advantages: viewing as a list gives you more information, but viewing as a grid allows you to see many more possibilities at once. The default for this varies across dialogs: for brushes and patterns, the default is a grid; for most other things, the default is a list.

Show Image Menu

This is a toggle. If it is checked, then an Image Menu is shown at the top of the dock. It is not available for dialogs docked below the Toolbox. Don't confuse this menu with the Image Menu, that is the menu of the active image on your screen.

Auto Follow Active Image

If this option is checked, the related dialog will be that of the current image and will change if you select another image. For example, if you have two images and the Histogram dialog on your screen (and this option checked in this dialog), then the histogram of the activated image will be displayed.

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire