Windows PCs with ARM chipsets have been around for years, with examples like the 5G Surface Pro 9 and Lenovo ThinkPad X13s, but support from developers has been underwhelming to say the least. Native ARM applications are still rare, but another popular application just announced an ARM Windows port: the GNU Image Manipulation Program, better known as “GIMP.”
GIMP can already run on ARM Windows PCs, but performance is limited, because Windows has to translate x86 instructions to ARM code in real time. The GIMP project just announced a native ARM Windows port to solve this problem, though for now it’s labelled as “experimental.”
The recent blog post explains, “We are aware of some issues already and hope that releasing this experimental build will help us get more feedback. Only Jernej [Simončič] has a machine with Windows on ARM so far. In particular none of the developers have such hardware, as far as we know. So we don’t expect to be able to fix issues for Windows/ARM as fast as for other supported platforms. Last, but not least, this additional build is not set up yet in our continuous integration platform, which means we cannot discover appearing issues as thoroughly and quickly as for other architectures, nor can we automatize builds as transparently as we wish.”
There still isn’t much ARM-native software for Windows, mostly because the percentage of ARM PCs compared to x86 PCs (computers with Intel and AMD processors) is still small. Microsoft has been trying (to some extent) to increase developer interest, with the release of the ARM-based Windows Dev Kit, but interest is still minimal compared to the adoption of ARM-based Apple Silicon hardware. For example, almost all of Adobe’s software runs natively on Apple Silicon Mac computers, but only Photoshop and Lightroom can run on ARM Windows without emulation.
The GIMP project is hoping that automated builds and other improvements can be implemented soon. If not, the upcoming GIMP 3.0 update may not ship with ARM Windows support, effectively ending the experiment. The blog post said, “we don’t want to backtrack and get back to manual builds done by a single contributor on their personal machine for the 3.0 series.”
You can download GIMP from the project’s official site. The universal installer for GIMP 2.10.34 on Windows detects if your PC is x86 or ARM and will install the appropriate version.