It really isn't all that complicated. Here is all you need to do
(this is basically what Sven outlined with a couple of extra details.)
1) Gimp uses the same color space internally for all images. This
could be either sRGB or a user-selected one (in which case it is
specified by a preference).
2) Gimp permits the use of a monitor profile to color-correct the
display. A conversion is done between the working colorspace and
the monitor colorspace -- the user is asked to choose the intent
of the conversion as a preference (the normal choice would be
"perceptual", but people setting things up for printing would
sometimes make other choices).
3) When you open an image, if it does not have any color profile info,
it is assumed to be in Gimp's working colorspace. If it does, then
you are asked to choose between two options:
a) convert it to Gimp's working colorspace. If you choose this,
then you are asked to choose the conversion intent.
b) use the RGB values from the image, without any correction.
Whatever is done, a parasite is attached to the image describing
4) When you save an image, you have the option of converting it to a
different colorspace and/or attaching a color profile if the file
format supports it.
It is a bad idea to change the working colorspace based on the image.
Users need to be able to form an understanding of the relationship
between what they see on the screen and the pixel values in the image.
It will drive people nuts if 255,255,255 looks gray at one time and
white at another. That's what will happen if the working colorspace
is flopping around all the time.
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