If you’re really going to dive into working with GIMP, it’s important to get comfortable with the user interface. For a very long time, I found GIMP’s interface to be unnecessarily complex because it used different windows for the toolbox, the tool options, and every other panel you need to use.
This made efficient workflows deeply frustrating – or nearly impossible – for a number of reasons that I won’t bore you with. As if that wasn’t enough, with everything as a separate window, it was all too easy to accidentally close a panel that you were trying to use instead of selecting something within it.
Finally, the GIMP development team hired a user experience consultant, and the problem was largely solved thanks to the introduction of Single-Window Mode – which is what will save the day if you get your toolbox configuration all mixed up.
The Simple Guide to Docking the Toolbox in GIMP
If you’re not interested in why all this is necessary, here’s how you can get your toolbox docked at the left-hand side of the GIMP interface the way it usually is:
Step 1: Open the Windows menu in GIMP, and click the Single-Window Mode option to disable it. If it is already disabled, skip straight to Step 2.
Step 2: Open the Windows menu again, and click the Single-Window Mode option again to turn it back on. GIMP will reassemble all of your individual windows into a single window, and the toolbox should be neatly docked on the left side, as usual.
For most situations, that’s all it takes!
But if you’ve found yourself in a more complex situation like accidentally closing the toolbox instead of docking it, here’s how to set things right.
If That Doesn’t Work…
You probably accidentally closed the toolbox. If all this just happened a minute ago, you should be able to restore the toolbox by opening the Windows menu, select Recently Closed Docks, and then click the entry containing Toolbox. (If there isn’t one, read on!)
If you closed GIMP and re-opened it hoping that you might get your toolbox back, you won’t be able to use the Recently Closed Docks option. Fortunately, the option you need is in the same place, just a tiny bit farther down the Windows menu – New Toolbox.
(Remember, that’s the Windows menu within GIMP, not the Windows operating system menu!)
When All Else Fails
If none of these tricks work for you, then there’s always the option of completely resetting the user interface layouts.
Open the Edit menu and click Preferences. If you’re using GIMP on a Mac, you’ll find the link to the Preferences window in the GIMP application menu, next to the Apple menu.
The Preferences window will open, giving you access to all the inner workings of GIMP. This is another set of windows that it’s a good idea to be familiar with, although it’s usually best not to change any settings that you don’t understand completely.
For now, though, scroll down in the left pane until you see the entry titled Window Management. Click it to open the relevant settings in the right pane. The only option we’re concerned with at the moment is the giant button labeled Reset Saved Window Positions to Default Values.
Click on it, and GIMP will pop up a small notification box letting you know that everything will be solved the next time GIMP loads.
Click OK there, and click OK again in the main Preferences window. Close GIMP and reload it, and everything should be back to normal!
If that still doesn’t work, you can try the ultimate reset using the Reset button in the main Preferences window, although that will reset any customizations you might have made to GIMP, so it should only be used as the very last resort.
If you’ve tried all these options and you’re still having trouble with the GIMP toolbox, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to update this guide to reflect the additional situations that can crop up.About Thomas Boldt