As I said, I was under the impression that this is a sort of Photoshop clone. It isn't. What it does do is organize your workflow and turn RAW camera files into something workable. The workflow and batch processing stuff is very good, but I didn't play with it too much. Mostly I focused on turning my CR2 files into JPEGs.
The program uses a sort of MDI model, which means that its child windows are under its control, not your window manager's. The price of cross-platform compatibility, I suppose. That said, the layout is very flexible, and comes with defaults for beginners and experts. I set it up (screenshot) so that a narrow file browser was on the left, a small strip of photos on top, a big photo-in-progress window on the bottom, and controls on the right. This program uses a persistent data model, so all settings (even photo settings) come back when you exit. This took some getting used to, but was comforting once I had.
The default set of controls was well organized, and easy to use. In comparison with dcraw, Bibble produced noisier images, less detailed images, and used a much warmer white balance. For the first two, enabling "Noise Ninja" and turning up the default sharpening mostly took care of it. The warmer colors were overall a good thing, but several times I actually liked dcraw's version better. The vaunted "Perfectly Clear" auto corrector actually did a very, very good job. That by itself is worth a significant portion of the purchase price. Highlight recovery was also a joy to use; no more taking multiple "exposures" and enblending them together (although for two of my shots, that method was far superior, so it's good that I figured it out). HR did tend to darken the whole image, though, which was unwelcome. The "fill light" to brighten up dark spots without overpowering the image was pretty good, but the vibrance control to do the same thing for saturation didn't work as well as I'd have liked. Finally, there was some strange interaction occasionally, where I'd bump up the exposure setting a third of a stop, and suddenly everything took on a blue tint. It wasn't just a display problem, either; the blue curve on the histogram jumped far to the right as well. The built-in lens correction and heal/patch tools were appreciated touches. Finally, you could "copy" the image settings, and "paste" them into other photos, which was a real time saver.
So, lots of ways of doing color/light/exposure correction, but not much else. A basic rotation tool and a very limited crop tool (no freeform sizing!) are the only other "editing" actions you can take. AND THERE'S NO UNDO! FOR ANYTHING! I'd have to set up the GIMP as my "external image viewer" if I were to use this program for real. This is NOT an adequate replacement.
Finally, the operational problems. Image transforms were extremely slow. >15s for any change to completely update the image, and no progress bar. Gah! Further, this was not the most stable program I've ever used. In the years that I've been using the GIMP, it's crashed twice. This program crashed twice the first two times I used it. In fairness, once was on exit, and there may be an incompatibility with my libc that's causing it. It also has some strange bug where the thumbnail window doesn't get refreshed correctly; very annoying. The EXIF data written to the resulting JPEGs is OK, but lots of info is lost. That could be corrected using another program, I suppose.
All that said, if I had to deal with RAW photos on Linux, I wouldn't hesitate to buy this program. Between the workflow stuff, and the sheer *quality* of the results that I got (amazing!), I could put up with its flaws. Being able to see and manipulate photos in 16-bit space is as good as I'd thought it would be. But that magic doesn't work on standard 8-bit photos, and that's mostly what I have right now. It just doesn't do enough for me to pull the trigger. Once I get a DSLR, I sure will be, though.
Oh, and I found ~100 more photos from '06 that were miscategorized. Yeah.
2006 photo progress: 326/1704 (19.1%) complete.