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The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a popular open source image editing application GIMP: A Quick Walkthrough Of Everyone's Favorite Open Source Image Editor GIMP: A Quick Walkthrough Of Everyone's Favorite Open Source Image Editor Read More . It’s often described as a free Photoshop competitor. While it can do a lot of what Photoshop can do Perform These 7 Awesome Photoshop Tricks in GIMP Perform These 7 Awesome Photoshop Tricks in GIMP Read More , there are some areas it falls short.

This article isn’t a hit piece for GIMP. It’s just an honest look at where Photoshop’s massive budget and team of developers have given it the edge. There’s more than one reason that the vast majority of professionals use Photoshop.

CMYK Color Mode

There are two dominant color modes that professional photographers and designers use: RGB and CMYK. RGB comes from the red, green, and blue pixels that are used both to capture images with cameras and to portray them on a digital screen. CMYK comes from the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks used by commercial printers.

1CMYK

Any color can be described using these two systems though which one you use depends on the task you’re doing. If you’re working on something that needs to be displayed accurately on screen then RGB is the best, however, if you’re going to be printing your work, then you need to work in CMYK for the best results.

GIMP doesn’t offer a CMYK mode while Photoshop does. This is more relevant to designers than to photographers, but it can be a deal breaker if you’re planning on printing your work.

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Easier Non-Destructive Editing

One of the most powerful innovations in Photoshop over the last decade has easier non-destructive editing. Rather than changing the original file, you use Photoshop’s tools to modify things in a reversible way. If you want to see them in action, I use a load of non-destructive techniques in my article on creating a spooky Facebook profile picture Make a Creepy Facebook Profile Picture with this Free Photoshop Template Make a Creepy Facebook Profile Picture with this Free Photoshop Template Halloween is coming up so it's time to change your Facebook profile picture to something spooky. We show you how with a selfie, a skull, and Photoshop. Read More .

2NonDestructive

While GIMP has improved a lot in recent years, non-destructive editing is one area where it still doesn’t compete with Photoshop. If you’re making simple adjustments to your images that’s no problem but if you’re trying to do crazy Photoshop composites Create a Crazy Killer Doll Image with This Photoshop Tutorial Create a Crazy Killer Doll Image with This Photoshop Tutorial Want to create awesome composite images? We should you how with this easy-to-follow free Photoshop tutorial. Read More it makes your work a lot harder.

Better Support and Constant Development

Photoshop is made by a $40 billion dollar company. GIMP is made by a team of dedicated volunteers. While this hasn’t stopped the GIMP team making a respectable program, it does have a lot of knock on effects. It’s fun to be the one to implement a cool new feature, but volunteering to answer tech support phone calls? Not a hope.

3Support
Adobe has entire teams dedicated to helping you with every problem. It’s simple to phone up and speak to support staff in whatever language you want. They’ll walk you through fixing your problem. With GIMP you’re stuck trawling through open source forums by yourself.

By the same token, Adobe is able to keep development going constantly. GIMP is reliant on volunteers’ free time. Things like bugfixes are continuously rolling out from Adobe while it can take longer for a GIMP developer to get round to fixing things, let alone implementing new features.

More Powerful Tools

All the extra development resources means that Photoshop has more powerful tools. The basics like levels, curves, and masks are available in both programs but when it comes to real pixel manipulation Photoshop leaves GIMP far behind.

4healing
For example, Photoshop has four separate healing tools each with an array of controls that lets you determine how they operate. GIMP has a single healing tool. For removing the odd spot it’s fine, but for serious editing work it isn’t enough control.

The same situation repeats itself with many of the other features the two applications share. GIMPs tools are just at the point that Photoshop was at a few versions ago.

Play Nice With Other Apps

Photoshop is part of an ecosystem. There’s Lightroom, Bridge, and every other Creative Cloud app that you can open your Photoshop work in. For example, I use Lightroom to perform basic edits and keep all my photo organized. Then I do the heavy editing in Photoshop. Finally, if I want to design something or print a booklet with my work I’ll kick the file over to Illustrator or InDesign. There’s something for every job.

5ecosystem

GIMP is on its own. It’s just a single image editing app. There’s no Lightroom or Bridge to organize things. No Illustrator to make business cards. For people who just want to use an image editing app for basic things occasionally this is fine, but if you’re shooting 1000 photos a week then having Photoshop play nice with Lightroom is essential.

Handle RAW and PSD Files

Modern cameras can shoot either RAW or JPG files. RAW files contain a lot more information; if you want to improve your photographs you should be using them 13 Tips to Quickly Improve Your Photos 13 Tips to Quickly Improve Your Photos Good photos and bad photos aren't determined by cameras but by photographers. Here are 13 tips that will quickly improve your photos. Read More . Out of the box, Photoshop, thanks to CameraRAW, can handle RAW files from every major camera manufacturer. Periodic updates add support for all the new cameras files. GIMP on the other hand, can’t. You need to use an additional RAW processor to convert the file to a JPG before editing it in GIMP.

6rawprocessing

Thanks to Adobe’s dominance, their proprietary PSD file type, has become widely used. It’s often used for commercial purposes much like other proprietary formats like PDFs and DOCs are. GIMP can open PSD files but will occasionally fail to render things correctly. This creates a real problem if you’re working with someone else; the file you look at with GIMP won’t be the same as the one they created in Photoshop.

Easier to Learn

Whether Photoshop’s interface is more intuitive is debatable — GIMP has improved a lot in the last few years going from unbearably ugly to bearably ugly — but what’s indisputable is that Photoshop is much easier to learn thanks to the countless awesome tutorials available online 7 Awesome Sites for Learning How to Use Photoshop 7 Awesome Sites for Learning How to Use Photoshop If you want to get to the point where you really understand how to leverage the power of Photoshop, you have to learn from the best. Here's seven awesome sites that will get you there. Read More .

While there are some tutorials available for GIMP, most people are using Photoshop. Even the tutorials I write for this site, like how to make a Christmas card How to Make Your Own Christmas Card in Photoshop How to Make Your Own Christmas Card in Photoshop It's never been easier to make your own Christmas card on Photoshop. In this article, we walk you through making one. Read More , use Photoshop. If you want to use GIMP you can follow along as best you can but you may encounter problems. It also leaves you very much on your own when you’re starting out.

Wrapping Up

GIMP is a great application for many people. It’s perfect for making simple changes to your images. When it comes to real work, however, Photoshop more than justifies its price tag. CMYK mode, non-destructive editing, the Creative Cloud ecosystem, and everything else that Photoshop brings to the table are essential features for most professionals.

Again, this article isn’t meant to be a take down of GIMP. It’s just mean to help you make an educated decision between the two programs. If you don’t need any of Photoshop’s more powerful features, GIMP may be the app for you. If you do, then it has to be Photoshop.

What do you think? Does GIMP do all you need or does Photoshop blow it out of the water.

  1. Sandy
    September 23, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Here's a thing. There seems to be an emphasis in this article that there is a significant difference between RGB and CMYK. Seriously, there is not. Yeah sure, printers work with CMYK. It's kind of a default position, it has to do with history and ink, but for many years it has been largely meaningless as real ink became essentially digital decades ago through technology and different ways of defining colour.

    I began my career in a printing factory having studied fine art. I went on to study computer science. So I realised, and indeed knew, that what I saw on my screen was not what others saw on their screens; screen manufacturers being limited to their own technology, as indeed are varying file save algorithms.

    I have always presented my work in RGB. Very occasionally I have been asked to present work in CMYK. I have always refused and suggested that the client convert the file themselves. This is simply because what you see on screen is not what you see on paper.

    To get CMYK to work effectively on paper requires a light meter based on old technology and indeed old definitions of reflective light. In my experience it still comes down to a middle manager saying 'yeah, that looks right'. So, not to emphasis the point further, not a fan of CMYK as a definitive measurement.

  2. Sandy
    September 22, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    26 years of using Photoshop, since version 1. I lost a hard drive recently (and a backup drive in a fire - we do have off site backups but the Photoshop kernel was on site - meh). So...this has now been the third time that Adobe has not honored my license after either moving country or lost ID's.

    So enough! Ive had about 26 hours on GIMP. Seriously impressed. Its as intuitive as Photoshop, just in a different way. It still maintains functions that Photoshop has dropped or marginalised - yay! All the core uses I typically require day to day are just there. It has core functions that simplify Photoshop annoyances, such as immensely simplified rasterising. I dont have to check and cleanup the edge - sigh, smile. I haven't yet come across a technique that Ive used in Photoshop that I cannot replicate in GIMP. I'm at the point where I really cant see one on the horizon, and Ive seriously put GIMP through the mill.

    Anyway. Goodbye Photoshop, hello GIMP.

  3. Cari
    August 16, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    If you got experience and know design concepts you can do with Gimp what you do with Photoshop, with less clicks. I smile cynically when I read "Professional".

  4. Alexander
    August 7, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    I didn't say 3d models would render I said psd files would open. If you use virtually any psd template it should work. If not you just need to find a plugin to do said effect. Sometimes you may have used an effect there is no gimp version of, in this case gimp won't know what to do. That said, I have never had it happen, so whatever you are doing is most likely user error honestly. I have never found a psd gimp can't open and I format documents daily in gimp that use PSD.

    As far as abode porting to linux, will never happen because they are in bed with the big guys. Your best bet is to virtualize a windows or mac system in your linux box and buy an old version of adobe and run it natively. That way you have no issues. Virtual box can do it really easily. Honestly if you need the features just buy an old copy off ebay and be done with it. The new pay to use system sucks.

    I tried it and won't bother again. I love using gimp. Honestly print ready files like books and posters I am working on are the only area gimp could use some work because the color system. CMKY etc, but really not much of an issue really .

  5. Brainbender
    May 1, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Another thing I can say about GIMP is you can really easily replicate virtually any photoshop effect in GIMP if you know what your doing. GIMP really has taken some major steps in development in the last few years. Now it is, at least for me, a photoshop replacement.

    As an Enterprise level web development shop, and graphic design firm that does product development, and even publishing, including books, GIMP really is the only thing we use now. The CMYK thing use to be a bigger issue, but most printers now have a handle on it. It is a lot easier to make the switch than you would believe.

    Honestly I will say the only reason I didn't switch sooner was just understanding the layout. That is really the only thing. Since GIMP is open source they can't outright copy adobe or they would likely get sued, so they name tools differently and you just need to get use to that.

    Other then the name differences GIMP is astounding now. I can vouch for its quality because in the last few months we have released over 6 board games designed 100% in GIMP for custom print / publishing, and a novel. All the print products have looked great not using CMYK.

    I think honestly although photoshop is nice, it feels more like a toy then GIMP because GIMP actually has some more powerful tools in the box able to be used faster, including an amazing variety of file types you can create without any hassle and without clicking multiple tabs.

    The biggest problem for me in photoshop is how many clicks it takes to get things done compared to GIMP. Just creating PDF's, icons and other stuff, can at times require multiple clicks for something that is standardized in GIMP. In gimp I can hit export, then choose what file type, including a list that is absurd honestly. It even exports to a few file types you might not think a photo program should be able to do. It is pretty amazing now.

    I was a photoshop user for around 20 years honestly and I did some really complex photoshop effects including photo collages that were pretty surreal. Now I use GIMP and can do the same exact thing. Really I think the problem is not lack or tools, it is lack of peoples patience for a new learning curve. Photoshop is a standard look and people get use to it, I find some people just don't have the patience to use GIMP for a week doing all their workflows to get use to it so most people tend to give up and go back to photoshop before they realize how much time they can save. I know the time savings for me, is absolutely remarkable.

    My opinion is that more photoshop users should give GIMP a serious tryout and audition its power user features, the fact is "the plugins library is "UNREAL !!, and HUGE !!" the biggest benefit, 100% free !!!. This means every expensive filter you paid for in photoshop, yep you get it free if you use the GIMP version. Aside from that, you can actually create your own plugins for GIMP. That is amazing. I do it all the time to make new presets that require no work.

    In my opinion GIMP is not only a photoshop replacement, but it is a far better professional tool, the reduced clicks alone is worth switching. I know my work weeks literally started saving 50% - 90% of the time I use to take to do things. Photoshop takes hours to do things I can do in GIMP in minutes now with plugins, presets and more. The deal is you need to learn the interface, that is the one thing you need to give yourself time to learn GIMPs interface, if you do I guarantee you might consider switching to GIMP as well. I know my company uses it exclusively now.

    Anyway that is my two cents.

    • Lee Yong Soon
      May 12, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      Could you give me a piece of advice? I have never used Photoshop or GIMP before. My company is willing to send me for 2-day workshop which is a available only for Photoshop & Illustrator. However, the issue is with purchasing the Photoshop software. My IT department suggests me to use GIMP instead. If I learn the Photoshop techniques, would it be difficult to apply those techniques in GIMP? Really thanks for your time.

      • Alexander
        May 12, 2016 at 3:05 pm

        If you understand how to do something in photoshop, translating that to GIMP is very easy. I am able to replicate photoshop tutorials on the spot using GIMP. The only thing to remember is that they changed the name of some items so you will have to look around GIMP and get familiar with what the tools menu names are. The other alternative is a MOD for GIMP that arranges everything virtually the same as photoshop. It is not an official GIMP supported MOD, but if you want an easier transition you can basicly theme GIMP to look and work like photoshop, the names are still the same, but they arrange most of the tools in the same layout which helps. Personally I think it is not that useful because honestly GIMP has a more functional layout then photoshop. Photoshop requires a lot more clicking around then GIMP does. So my preference is just using GIMP as is. So yes learning how to use photoshop can help you with GIMP, but only to a certain point. You will still need to learn the GIMP layout and workflow, but once you learn GIMP you will love it and most likely hate using photoshop compared to it. I find photoshop takes me 3 times as long to do almost anything I can do in GIMP.

  6. Brainbender
    May 1, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Maybe you didn't know this but you can open any psd file in GIMP without any issues. I am a graphic design professional and I use GIMP exclusively now. It took a couple of years to decide to make the switch from adobe for me, but I would say most of my workflows have been reduced in time by 50% - 90% using GIMP over photoshop.

    • Thiago Santos
      August 7, 2016 at 6:32 am

      This is not true. I have a psd right here that doesn't render properly on GIMP. I wish what you said is true, but it isn't.

  7. fcd76218
    April 16, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    GIMP has a cuter mascot. :P

  8. Isaac
    April 11, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I definitely have to agree that Photoshop offers a lot more than GIMP. However...
    Adobe jacks the price up SO MUCH, that it's not affordable for the common user. They do this with almost ALL their products.
    They also refuse to provide a Linux version for most of their software... And those of us who use Linux have to Dual-boot, use GIMP or switch over to the dark side (windows).

    • Alexander
      May 12, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Yes photoshop does not offer LInux support, that said the Linux community has already solved that issue years ago. You can use a variety of tools to use photoshop in Linux. Your first option in running it natively by running a virtualbox with a windows or OSX installation. This lets photoshop be installed in a windows or OSX environment and you run it natively in that OS on your linux. If you find that distasteful as most linux users do, you can run the windows version or photoshop with WINE if you get a photoshop install CD, the older versions still have the install CD. This means you can't get the newest version pay to use model, but I don't think anyone really cares for that business model anyway. You can use playonlinux and WINE to run the photoshop on linux. Here is the install command for the WINE setup

      sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa
      sudo apt-get update
      sudo apt-get install wine1.7

      Here is the play on linux info. This is done by distro so you can choose your distro.

      https://www.playonlinux.com/en/download.html

      Hopefully this give you a couple options. Honestly there is a few other options as well, but this is a good couple of options for more basic linux users. I didn't want to get into super hard to explain technical ways of doing it, but there are a few of those as well.

      As far as finding CS6 photoshop versions that will work with this, I suggest ebay, amazon etc. You can find a copy with the serial that is still new most likely on either of those sites.

      Enjoy.

  9. Brennan
    March 2, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the article Harry, and sorry for some off-camber comments above.

    I wouldn't mind paying Adobe their monthly fees to use their excellent product, but since I am a solo-Linux user (only living and doing all my work in the Linux-plex) then Adobe is less desirable. To really use it I have to go to a Virtual Machine or perform some other tricks.

    So, my point is that I might consider Adobe and their product line, even paying money, if they would simply port their product to the Linux OS, instead of Mac and Windows primarily. If Adobe is listening, then please target Ubuntu and Debian distros first.

  10. chau
    February 22, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Harry Guinness = iDiot (applefan with meaningless)

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      I love when commenters add value to the discussion.

      • Chau
        February 25, 2016 at 4:44 pm

        Likewise!!!! :D

        Above all when the editor criticizes GIMP and he has only used it during... 5 minuts?

  11. Loreto Díaz
    February 21, 2016 at 10:31 am

    You should try gimp before writing a preconceived opinion of it.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      I have used GIMP.

      • infamousgeek
        March 6, 2016 at 4:01 pm

        have you done any actual work with it? Can you post some video?

  12. gustavo
    February 20, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Who is Harry Guinness? .... Among other things "apple fan"
    It needless another explanation?

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Ehm, he's the author of this article.

  13. rafasarabia
    February 20, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Eres un puto zoquete, que lo sepas, chacho.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Google translate.

  14. Nacho Juncal
    February 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Price (Or: "You don't need to crack it")
    Architecture support
    Extensions
    Installation size
    Computer Requirements
    Possibility of improve/modify the code...

    You just "forget" to say a few things...

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Did you read the title of the article? This isn't looking at why people might choose GIMP, it's looking at why they might choose Photoshop.

      • Nacho Juncal
        March 3, 2016 at 10:17 pm

        Well, if your article has that purpose, there's a problem.

        One of the options is you are making a partial comparison to benefit Adobe, but comparison at the end. So, the bad points obviously will appear, as you see in the comments.

        In the other side, you are making a spot. And is worse than first option.
        A good commercial doesn't sell a product talking shit about others.

        So, at the end, this article, and sorry for saying this, is a complete fail in both senses.

        This means Photoshop is worse than Gimp? No. But compare a professional suite non-free, with a photo editor opensource (And free) is, and sorry again, stupid.

        Greetings.

      • infamousgeek
        March 6, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        How much Adobe pays for that kind of articles? If they will give me away one year subscription I can produce even better articles. Can you help me with that?

  15. Paulina
    February 18, 2016 at 8:16 am

    I use both Gimp and PS, because it is easier for me to do some changes in gimp and other in PS. I decided that basic PS plan is something I can pay without feeling that it is too much, and it helps me a lot at work, so I think that money is well spent. It was easier for me to learn how to use PS, but I would never give up Gimp. even if I only use one or two functions that I like better than in PS.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Perfect comment. There's reasons to use both.

  16. Ed
    February 16, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Used PS for years at work (publishing) and Gimp at home. Yes there are more bells and whistles with PS some are very beneficial. For most brochures and photo work Gimp is quite the capable alternative for the price. Only the pro would really find PS a necessity.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      I'm not sure about that now. A lot of amateurs will find the benefits well worth 10 dollars a month.

  17. sanjay
    February 16, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Guys what ever the reason is but upto now i dont know the gimp program.. until now.

    makeuse of helped me with this comparision

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Glad to help!

  18. SilverDragonSys
    February 16, 2016 at 3:13 am

    Let's see, Photoshop = 19.95/mo minimum ; GIMP = 0.00/forever

    Thats enough of a reason to use GIMP right there. CMYK support can be added to GIMP so no loss there. GIMP can use most PS plugins, brushes, etc. but PS can't use any of GIMP's.

    GIMP can do way more than "making simple changes to your images". It is a full fledged Image Manipulation Program than can do anything from simple edits to advanced image rendering.

    As for Support, I have found answers to GIMP related support requests to be fast and reliable from both developers and users.

    I've also never had a problem opening PSD files in GIMP, editing them and resaving in PSD format.

    Please, if your going to compare products, do more than a GOOGLE search. Actually use each product with an unbiased mindset. In this case your conclusions are not only wrong, they are pure poppycock.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Photoshop is 10 dollars a month for it and Lightroom.

      CMYK sliders != CMYK support.

      If the PSDs use any features GIMP doesn't support (like CMYK mode) they break.

      And yes, I've used both products.

  19. Mark Tereau
    February 16, 2016 at 2:58 am

    Corel has a very good alternative to Photoshop. Corel Photo-Paint. It has many of the same features that Photoshop does. It's not free, but it's cheaper than Photoshop.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks, I'll have a look at it!

  20. Frank
    February 16, 2016 at 12:28 am

    Pau,

    Adobe offers a full version of Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.99/ month (in their Creative Cloud system). I spend more than that on coffee in a week.

    Is it free? No. Can I afford ten bucks a month? Even if I was living in a cardboard box.

    Terry Brock,

    Would the Apple version work on Linux? They're both Unix systems. If not, that would seem to point more towards a failing in Linux than in PS.

    The CC version of Photoshop and Lightroom even work on my android tablet so,....

    • fcd76218
      February 16, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      "They’re both Unix systems."
      Hungarian and Finnish belong to the same family of languages but Hungarians and Finns cannot understand each other.

      Solaris and BSD are also *nix systems but their software is not interchangeable. OS/X is based on BSD, not lLinux.

      "that would seem to point more towards a failing in Linux than in PS. "
      You have that backwards. An O/S is not written to run a particular application, an application is written to run on a particular O/S. In this case Adobe did not see fit to write a Linux version of PS.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      Bank on about the 10 bucks Frank. If it's something you need, you can stretch to that amount.

  21. Andrew Kelley
    February 15, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Sorry, not agreeing with your statement that Gimp does not support CMYK. I'm running Gimp 2.8 on Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit and it most certainly DOES. See a screenshot on my blog here http://myfurside.blogspot.com/2016/02/gimp-28.html
    I cannot speak for the Windows version as I have never used it. I'm just trying to make sure Gimp gets a fair shake here ... Personally I have always been able to do more with The Gimp than I ever could using PS including saving money.

    • Alex
      February 17, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      No, it doesn't. CMYK mode and CMYK sliders are not the same thing at all.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      What Alex said.

  22. Pau
    February 15, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Interesting that you forgot a major consideration... why don't you compare the prices of the two products? That will help to put all of the other differences into perspective.

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      This wasn't a comparison. Also, 10 dollars a month is very little. If you need Photoshop's features it's worth it.

  23. Solrac Amarok
    February 15, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    This sounds like an Adobe Fanboy not giving a full chance ;o More like my College Professors. What version was he even using? Have you seen 2.9? The Improvements and New Custom Brush (myPaint support) is vast and a huge jump.

    Be sure to see everything something has to offer before picking the "Premium" product.

    You also forgot about accessibility, and more importantly power usage (Power User's...use?)

    • Harry Guinness
      February 25, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      2.9 looks like a big step up but it still falls short in a lot of ways. There's plenty of reasons to use GIMP, this article wasn't about them.

  24. Terry Brock
    February 15, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Ok photo shop looks great but until the programme can be run on a Linux based os it will still be Gimp or Fotoxx for us with Linux

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