Quoting JD Lancaster <jlancas...@protonmail.com>:

I may be wrong, but I believe that in GIMP you manipulate images you open as xcf files, and you must export to get different file types, such as jpg.

Mostly right. As Eric, the original poster, noted, you can open images of different file types, but recent versions of Gimp are imposing xcf as a native file type when 'saving.' I'm assuming this is about preserving a more complete working version with layers and whatever else might be obscured or lost with other file types.

To do this you need to go to: File > Export As...

Yes, to save, for example, as a .jpg or .png like Eric wants, this is exactly right.
David Benfell <benf...@parts-unknown.org>

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