This time last week the Internet was awash with buzz about a Microsoft product (shocking, I know). No, it wasn’t the Surface or Hololens, it wasn’t even a new product. Rather, it was Microsoft’s own old, dependable Microsoft Paint app that was making the rounds in the media. In an announcement hidden in a post detailing the features being cut or deprecated in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. While Microsoft later made a new post to clarify that it had planned to launch the app into the Windows Store, with Paint3D as its built in replacement, the internet outrage machine had already started.
First, on the outrage. While you’ll likely have learned that this outrage stemmed solely from a misreading of Microsoft support document, this isn’t strictly true. It isn’t correct that Microsoft was never going to kill Paint off, in fact, the firm moved to remove it from Insider builds last year – only restoring it after a significant outcry from Insiders came regarding the switch. It then went on to remove the app from Windows Installs running a number of languages which aren’t fully supported by Microsoft. The firm may not be banishing Paint into the ether just yet, but it will now exist like Microsoft Internet Explorer and WIndows Media Player, in a feature frozen state.
Microsoft Paint itself is a very useful app. When I was younger, I used to make use of it for drawing and sketching (a function that Paint 3D still performs I’ll note), but I prefer to use it as more than that now. For instance, I often crop images in Paint, or resize them, or stitch them together using the app. These are quick tasks, and I’m generally just interested in opening the app, doing what I need to do and closing it without any further thought. I can’t do that with Paint 3D.
To give Microsoft some credit: I’ve used Paint 3D before, and I will note that it’s actually a serviceable app. Microsoft has given it a touch of Fluent Design, making it look modern and spiffy. It works decently in desktop mode, and wonderfully with touch. To top it off, it also has all the features of Paint, with a few extra 3D features and the wonderful Remix 3D community. So, why wouldn’t one want to use this app?
Quite simply, Paint 3D isn’t as good as Microsoft Paint with a traditional PC, I fear that is by design. Remember when I said it worked decently on a desktop and wonderfully with touch, turns out the sacrifice to get it to work wonderfully with touch was that it isn’t as good as it could be on a keyboard and mouse interface. It’s worth noting that this isn’t an intrinsic problem with UWP, Microsoft OneNote is one example of a Microsoft-made app that works great with keyboards and mice, Edge would be another. Functionality which is easily accessible in the Classic Paint Ribbon are obscured in hidden menus or hidden behind opaque iconography. Irritatingly enough, you can open neither multiple Windows nor can you open multiple tabs on this app, making it less suited to multitasking and editing more than more image at once. As a commenter once said, “I couldn’t seriously work with an app that only opens 1 window on an OS called Windows.” Coupled with the slowness of the interface when using a keyboard and mouse, and it is clear where there might be some animosity regarding Microsoft’s decisions with Paint.
(On a side note: Microsoft’s obsession with 3D isn’t making Windows better. Users aren’t creating 3D emoji or sending 3D stickers. We aren’t scanning 3D objects into out PCs to be 3D painted, and we certainly don’t want a 3D app shoehorned into Windows apropos of nothing. )
I can see both sides of the argument here, Microsoft Paint needs to be modernized, just like the Control Panel, Windows Media Center, Internet Explorer et al have been replaced by the settings app. The WIndows Store and Windows Store apps also provide cleaner apps which are lighter on battery and are integrated with Windows to work across different form factors. On the other hand, the focus on multiple form-factors means that often times, apps which is purpose built for one device win out — as is illustrated with the Paint debacle.
But Microsoft needs to make sure its desktop apps work for desktop users.
(Another side note: Putting WIndows utilities in the Store is something I thought Microsoft would have organised by now on a wider scale. Apps like NotePad, WordPad and XPS Viewer, for instance, would benefit from desktop focused Universal Windows App based replacement, as well as a classic app in the Windows Store for apps which are still being transitioned)
To close this little piece, I don’t “love” Microsoft Paint, I’m not a “fan” of Paint. It’s just a tool that I like to use for quick edits. It launches quickly, has support for all tools one would need for quick photo edits. It’s no frills, and it gets out of the way. Microsoft has replaced it with another that doesn’t, and as such, the outrage is predictable.