Inkscape Experiments: Enable Saving to XCF Inside Windows 8.1


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My Thoughts on Windows 8.1!

When Microsoft first released Windows 8, my reaction was more of a, “meh!” I’m a Mac guy, but I was perfectly copacetic using Windows 7 under ParallelsWindows 7 does everything that I could ask for. Plus it’s pretty stable. It really only serves two purposes: One, to run programs that doesn’t have an equivalent on the Mac OS. Two, to serve as my experimental play-thing. When Parallels offered Windows 8.1 Preview for download, I had just found my new toy.

Windows 8.1 touch screen interface

The new interface of Microsoft Windows 8.1.

My Impressions

Windows 8 was rewritten to serve as a unifying operating system for all Microsoft-related devices. (phones, Slate tablets, and PCs) I get why Microsoft chose to have a touch-screen based interface across all devices. And in all honesty, it was a stroke of genius. But on a computer that lacks any touch-capabilities, the interface feels like more of a hinderance.


The Good News

The good news is that both GIMP and Inkscape can be installed and usable under Windows 8.1. Also enabling save to XCF in Inkscape is incredibly much easier than in Windows 7. In fact, it is so easy that this tutorial will be even shorter than my previous article on how to enable Save to XCF in Inkscape.

Now for those of you wondering why would you want to enable this feature? Well, for us advanced graphic artists, we like to mix things up between our vector and pixel graphics. Inkscape does allow users to use layers, which happen to be extremely handy. On its own, Inkscape is incapable of saving to any bitmap format with layers intact. Yeah, you can export to PNG and keep your transparency, but the situation still sucks. My other problem is that Inkscape is also incapable of saving to Adobe PhotoShop’s native file format, PSD. (PhotoShop is my choice for editing pixels.) This format allows for layers and makes it easier to jump from Inkscape to PhotoShop.

Thankfully Inkscape is capable of accessing GIMP’s libraries and use them to translate vector images into XCF files. And if you want, you can use GIMP to convert your XCF files into a PSDs, with all of your layers intact.

Unfortunately under Windows 8, you still have to go through a little trouble to enable Save to XCF. Before figuring this process out, I had installed both Inkscape and Gimp. Then while playing with Inkscape, I noticed that “Save to XCF” was already listed as one of my option in the “Save As…” window. I was elated. I even created a test file and tried it out. Of course it didn’t work, and I started getting fun, irritated messages that never went away such as this:

The procedure entry point libintl_printf could not be located in the dynamic link library

What the h*ll is this?!

Then I came to realize that I’d have to do a bit of tweaking before I could get Inkscape exporting XCF files under Windows 8. More plainly, I had to find away to help Inkscape find Gimp so it could access its libraries. That’s when the tinkering began…


How to Enable Save to XCF Under Windows 8.1

1.) Install Gimp. If you haven’t installed Gimp yet on your Windows PC, you can download a copy off Gimp’s website. (This “how to” also assumes that you have Inkscape currently installed.)

2.) Find your copy of the Gimp application on you local hard drive. It’s usually located within C:>Program Files>GIMP-2.8>. If you’re trapped inside the touch interface, click on the down arrow in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen.

Which arrow to click on in Windows 8.1

Gimp’s icon will be where Inkscape’s is, towards the middle of your screen. Right-click on Gimp’s icon to bring up a special task bar at the bottom of your screen. In that task bar, click on Open file location. This will bring up a window that shows an alias for Gimp.

How to bring up Gimp's alias in Windows 8.1. Do so by right-clicking on Gimp's button in Windows. Then Click on "Open File Location" in the task bar.

How to bring up the task bar to reveal Gimp’s file location. (Click to enlarge.)

3.) Rename the alias by right-clicking on the icon, and selecting Rename in the contextual menu. Windows will highlight the name, and you’ll change it from gimp-2.8 to Gimp. This allows Inkscape to correctly find Gimp.

Right-click on the Gimp icon to rename it.

Right-click on the gimp-2.8 icon and select Rename. (Click to enlarge.)

4.) That’s it! You can now freely save your Inkscape images to Gimp’s XCF format. You can do this by clicking in Inkscape’s File menu and select Save As… Select GIMP XCF maintaining layers.

Gimp XCF maintaining layers enabled in Inkscape

Gimp XCF maintaining layers properly enabled in Inkscape.

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  • fluxrider

    A Windows 10 user…

    Chris, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your advice pages. Thank you for taking the time to do these pages.
    I found your page for a Windows7 solution,

    In that page, you link to this page for Windows 8.1. Since 8.1 seems closer to Windows 10, I tried following it. In this 8.1 page (not on the Windows 7 page) you note that BOTH the application itself, and the GIMP folder need to be renamed to remove the references to GIMP 2.
    I tried this first, renaming gimp-2.8.exe to gimp.exe (which was in the C:Program FilesGIMP 2bin folder). This change did not solve issue, so I also renamed the ‘GIMP 2’ folder to ‘GIMP’.
    Still, Inkscape would not present an option in the Save As dialog to save as

    At this point I thought about the fact that your Windows 7 page was quite a bit more involved, and detailed a change to Environment variables.
    So I went back to your Windows 7 page and attempted to follow it in my Windows 10 OS.

    The differences were not too bad:

    1) To get to the System Properties dialog (where I can access Environment Variables), I opened File Explorer, highlighted “This PC” and clicked on the Properties button at top left, which opens the Control PanelSystem and SecuritySystem page. From here, I clicked on the Advanced system settings link at left, just as in your Windows 7 page.

    2) The other difference was that once I clicked Edit on the Path Variable, the dialog that appeared does not show a single line of entries separated by semicolons, it shows each entry on a separate row.
    So I simply clicked “New” and added a row with the location of GIMP that I had
    copied earlier per your instructions.
    (And just to mention it, since I had already done the name changes previously, the location that I copied did not say anything about GIMP 2, the copied location in my case was simply C:Program FilesGIMPbin. Once I saved the new Path Variable entry and restarted Inkscape, the GIMP XCF option was there! Thank you!

    • Holy cow, Fluxrider!

      I’m afraid that I haven’t played with Inkscape under Windows 10 since I’ve heard so many bad things about that version. I guess every version of Windows will have its own set of hoops to jump through. And that’s really a shame, since it was my hope that life might get easier for Inkscape users with each succeeding version.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences on my humble little website. I know it took a lot of your free time and frustration to make it happen.

      Me thinks that I should get off my lazy butt and borrow someone’s laptop or get my grubby hands on a copy of Windows 10 and follow your steps for a fresh tutorial.

      Thanks again!

      • fluxrider

        …not as much frustration as not being able to save as a .xcf file was causing me! 🙂

  • fluxrider

    To boil that down, the things I changed were:
    1) Renamed GIMP 2 folder to GIMP
    2) Renamed the GIMP exe from gimp-2.8.exe to gimp.exe
    3) Added the location of the GIMP exe (C:Program FilesGIMPbin) to my Path Variable.