Accidentally Closed Tool Options? How to Show Toolbox

GIMP has an incredible number of keyboard shortcuts, and sometimes when you’re still learning a new program you can accidentally hit the wrong key combination and suddenly find yourself completely lost. We’ve all been there at one point or another! 

If you’ve lost your GIMP toolbox, there are a couple of different reasons that it might be acting suddenly bashful: either you’ve accidentally closed the toolbox, or you’ve accidentally hidden all the docks in the user interface. 

GIMP looks remarkably serene and uncluttered with all of its editing panels hidden

If all your GIMP panels have disappeared, you might have just temporarily hidden them by accidentally hitting the Tab key. It’s a useful tool for maximizing your open workspace when working at extremely high zoom levels, or just for ensuring that you stay focused on your work. 

Try pressing the Tab key again to display all the panels again, or open the Windows menu in the GIMP menubar and uncheck the Hide Docks option.

If that doesn’t work, you might have actually closed the toolbox. This used to be a common problem in GIMP before they adopted the single-window interface layout as the default. While it’s harder to do now, it still happens sometimes when you’re learning your shortcuts! 

Fortunately, it’s easy to bring the Toolbox back by pressing the shortcut Ctrl + B. You can also go to the Windows menu in the GIMP menubar again and choose Toolbox.

Single-Window Mode

I mentioned earlier that GIMP’s interface used to follow a multi-window approach, which often led to the essential tool and info panels getting accidentally closed a few times too often, or just disappearing in the middle of a complex edit and breaking your flow. 

At last, GIMP switched, but some users still prefer the multiple window model. If your toolbox and all your other panels have disappeared and pressing the Tab key didn’t bring them back, you might have accidentally turned off Single-Window Mode.

GIMP’s Toolbox and Tool Options panels don’t have to stay docked in the GIMP window

This makes it possible to lose your Toolbox behind your main GIMP window, without it actually being closed. To disable Single-Window Mode, return to the Windows menu bar in GIMP once again and check the box beside Single-Window Mode to bring everything back. 

The Last Resort

If none of these solutions are able to show the Toolbox, you can try resetting all your GIMP user preferences back to defaults. This will reset all your tool and panel customizations, but as you’d expect, it will also reset anything else that you might have customized along the way. 

That’s what makes it a last resort  – it’s only worth doing if none of the other solutions have worked for you. Open the Edit menu and choose Preferences if you’re running GIMP on Windows or Linux, or find Preferences in the GIMP application menu if you’re on a Mac.

At the bottom of the Preferences window, you’ll find the Reset button. Click it, and then choose Reset in the Reset All Preferences confirmation window that pops up. 

Hopefully, this last resort won’t be needed, and you’ve now learned how to hide and show the Toolbox in GIMP any time you want!

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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  • Aesdiopod

    Thank you bro! Much appreciation <3

  • Rubai

    Than you. it helps

  • Christie

    Thank you!!! I was going crazy and all I had to do was hit the tab key to get my menus back 🙂

  • Jerome

    None of the above worked. I accidentally closed the fonts tools because it poped up over the saving of a project and as it is an annoying habit, I just quickly closed it without looking at what it was. Now only the fonts list came back, no justify, size, etc. options, everything else is gone. As you said it so well, it kills the flow. More often than not Gimp is a flow murderer with easily avoidable issues that get overcomplicated like this simple detail. I hate when I have to go nuclear on such a simple thing. Last resort solution didn’t work, so I have to re-install and hope.

    • Thomas Boldt

      Wow, that’s really frustrating! No dialog box should be overriding a save command in progress. I’ve often struggled with GIMP’s flow-killing abilities myself, but I guess I’m just lucky that I’ve never had to reinstall it to fix an issue. I hope it works!

  • Evelyn

    when i open gimp, sometimes my tools will be on the left where I put them and sometimes it will be across the top tab. But I cant see it up there. I have done all of the steps to restore, but unfortunately the only one that works is the system resource reset. obviously a glitch but thought you should know.

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Evelyn, that’s pretty strange! I’ve never run into a similar issue. Does this happen regularly when you open GIMP or just every so often?

      If it’s regular, you might want to file a bug report with the GIMP development team so they can fix it in an upcoming release.

  • don

    half an hour to figure out where my tool options went. Now I have them back, I will need another half hour trying to figure out how to dock them again.


    Worked perfectly by hitting the Tab key. Thanks for the good work

    • Thomas Boldt

      Happy to help!

  • Ni

    Didnt work to reset; nothing happened.

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Ni, if the steps above didn’t fix your problem, try going to the Window Management section of the Preferences dialog box and click the button labeled ‘Reset Saved Window Positions to Default Values’ and then restart GIMP.

      • Matt Benton

        Thanks Thomas, that finally fixed it for me. I’ve no idea how I closed the tool window in the first place, and the CTRL+B didn’t do anything. At least there is one way to get it back.

      • Sh4ve

        Thank you! This worked for me as well.

    • Pete Porchos

      Exactly the same as Matt Benton. I do know how it disappeared though, I think. Using Mac Ventura. I was adjusting the angle of a brush (which doesn’t seem to work very well either) and the whole tool options pane just vanished. Tried all the above with no success, but this one did it, at last. Thanks