An open source image editor is a computer program that is offered to the public for free under a special license and allows the user to change the format and features of digital image files. Image editors are indispensable to the personal and professional use of computers. Open source versions of this type of program allows people to have image editing capabilities without paying for a commercial program. Commercial image editors are typically expensive because the media, photographers, and other business people use this type of program professionally as a principal tool to package their work product.
Image editing is the process of taking a digital picture file and changing it. The file can be a photograph or line art. Editors enable people to change basic features, such as the size and rotation of the file, and also change artistic characteristics, such as coloring and exposure. Advanced features typically include enabling users to cut and paste pieces of various files together to construct a composite image and applying special effects that can distort, overlay, or manipulate the image's pixels, among dozens of other special effects.
Open source software is a methodology for developing and licensing software that is promoted by the Open Source Initiative. It seeks to encourage software developers to make their creations available to the public under an open, non-restrictive license. A software developer ordinarily grants purchasers a restricted license to use the program but not to re-sell it, modify it, copy it, or use it as part of any other project. Programs that are developed according to open source principals make their source code available for public use, modification, duplication, and re-distribution under a special public license. This means that a person can take the source code of an open source program and change it, making it better or just different, without worrying about copyright or patent infringement.
An open source image editor has two simple features. First, it is based on open source code and available through a public license. This typically means that the program is free to the public. Second, it edits images. The primary distinction between a commercial and an open source image editor is usually the scope of features.
Commercial programs have to justify their sales price and often include a features list that will enable a professional to make use of the program for advanced projects. Many of those features are wasted on ordinary users. An open source image editor typically has a feature set geared to the average user. It will often do everything the commercial product can do, up to a certain user level.