Sunday, June 15, 2008

How To Get GIMP to Work on Mac OSX Leopard (And Get Focus Follows Mouse)

NOTE: This post is fairly old. One of my commenters below (Green) has given a solution that seems to be working for people more so than what I suggest here. I would say read my post briefly and then jump to his comment.

When we upgraded my wife's Mac Mini (PowerPC) to Apple's Leopard, we needed to reinstall X11 so she could run her favorite graphics program GIMP.

This turned out to be quite a hassle. Let me tell you how we should have done it.

  1. Upgrade to Leopard using Apple's DVD.
  2. Apple will immediately ask you to upgrade to 10.5.3 (or the latest version of Mac OSX), so do that through Software Update. Trigger it yourself if you have to.
  3. DO NOT use the X11 in the Optional Installs folder on the Leopard DVD! This is old and GIMP will not work.
  4. Instead, go here and get XQuartz (use the link that says X11-2.2.2.pkg), which is a newer version of X11 that works much better.
  5. Now download the latest version of GIMP from here. As of this writing it is Gimp v2.4.
  6. Ah, but now you've lost your additional brushes, haven't you? Well, you can re-download those, our favorites are here and here. (Remember, GIMP can now use Photoshop brushes seamlessly). You just copy them into the right directory of the GIMP application.
  7. Now GIMP should work pretty well in X11. will find that you need to click on each GIMP window twice because you need to bring focus to the window first before you can do anything.
  8. Ha! This is a fun one. I could not actually find the right command to fix this, but eventually we figured it out. Open up the Mac OSX Terminal (in the Applications folder) and then type this command on the command line:
defaults write org.x.x11 FocusFollowsMouse -string YES

If you find that this was a mistake, you can go back to Terminal and type the same command with the word NO instead of YES. That should reverse it so that focus does not follow the mouse in X11.

I think that's it! I'll continue this post if we find any other problems, but for now, it looks like GIMP is working pretty well in Leopard. This is all running on an old Mac Mini with a PowerPC chip. You just have to make sure to download the right executable of GIMP for the PowerPC vs Intel.

Good luck. Please post a comment if this works (or doesn't work) for you.


scott said...

Works like a charm!

I'm so glad I came across this blog as I'm running 10.5.4 and Gimp for Leopard would not even load and as such I was having to run Gimp for Tiger on a Leopard install. Which was starting to crash all over the place.



Daryl Kulak said...


I'm so glad this post helped you! Thanks for commenting.

Sebastian Jones said...

I love you! (In a purely 'you fixed my computer, you darling' kind of way). I have been trying for weeks to get this working. I was ready to get rid of the lovely Leopard.


Daryl Kulak said...

Happy I could help Sebastian.

Green Gordon said...

Hello From Scotland...

Your tips didn't completely work for me but I did make it work eventually (I already had Gimp working, but was having problems with the mouse click through). I installed X11 from the Quartz site (And by the way for the most recent version, go to, but the 'defaults' command didn't work. However there is an option in X11's preferences... Click on X11 in the menu bar, then Preferences. Click the Window tab, and then tick 'Click-through inactive windows'. It works a treat!

Nicolas said...

Yep default did not do it either for me.
I was getting mad to have to click twice in gimp or any x11 application to get anything to be selected.

So I had to upgrade my X11 (coming from the orginal macos that came with the macbook i bought beginning of january) to the last version.
(cf xquartz website)

Then set the preferences as Green said.

Sean Payne said...

I wanted to let you know (Aug 2009) that the only way I had success with getting Gimp on Leopard to work without double-clicking on everything is to use Green's method (posted above) of:

downloading and installing the latest version of XQuartz (currently and using the new preferences dialog box to enable "Click through inactive windows."

I'm posting because Gimp can be so frustrating without this fix.

Daryl Kulak said...

Thanks to Sean, Nicolas and Green for your comments.

Seems as though Green's comment outlines a solution that works for more people.

I've put a note at the top of this post to point to Green's helpful comment.

Sean Payne said...

Another update (Oct 2010). Things got better in Snow Leopard.

The instructions that Green's method above is necessary for Leopard and older versions of OSX.

For Snow Leopard the X11 client is more up to date, so you may not need to download the new client. You can just try:

"Click on X11 in the menu bar, then Preferences. Click the Window tab, and then tick 'Click-through inactive windows'. It works a treat!"

If that doesn't work, do the full install as described by Green.

Anna said...

Yes Green's info is more up to date but anyway thank you! Winstrol

Chris said...

>>"Click on X11 in the menu bar, then Preferences. Click the Window tab, and then tick 'Click-through inactive windows'."

Yess.....!!!!! It does indeed work a treat!