Monday, March 8, 2010

A newbie old timer's view of the Mac.

It's hard to believe that I've only been using the Mac for a single week now. It seems faster than my old PC and I'm getting used to a lot of the functions. But a week into the process, I find that the 2010 version of the Mac has forgotten a lot of the ideas that made the 1984 version good, unique and revolutionary.

OSX comes with a few art programs, most notably Preview and Photo Booth, but it does not have a simple to use program that updates the features of the original MacPaint. Oddly enough, Windows XP has exactly a program that fits that description called Paint, simply enough.

I used Paint on my PC all the time. Let's say, for some odd reason, I decided to write a post comparing Richard Nixon to Joe Namath. Since I like to have a picture with most posts, I would go to the web, grab a Namath picture, grab a Nixon picture, open up Paint and using no tools more clever than cut, paste, crop and resize, both for the picture and the canvas, I'd have a picture with Namath on the left and Nixon on the right in considerably less than fifteen minutes.

Nothing I've used on the Mac makes this an easy process. I tried downloading a few free software packages like Paintbrush and MacPaint X, but they don't do what I want them to do, or at least not easily.

Part of what makes these programs clumsy is they have gotten away from the original Macintosh focus, which was a very heavy emphasis, some would even say too heavy, on the great new toy of 1984, the mouse. The original Mac keyboard did not have arrow keys, so the users were forced to use the mouse. That may have been overboard, but the idea that the mouse could let users click and drag to move a window, resize it and perform other useful functions is what made it interesting and relatively easy to learn. Paint on the PC stays with that theme. The paint software on Mac or the free download stuff has forgotten that idea.

I would tell the people in charge of the software at Mac nowadays to get in contact with the ghost of Bill Atkinson, but that's not necessary. Bill Atkinson is still alive. Think about making a simple Paint program as good as the one on Windows XP a standard app. Think of your design template as a color version of the original MacPaint.

I don't want to go overboard in praise of Mr. Atkinson, genius that he his. I don't think we need an update of HyperCard, for instance. But I hate to say that the PC has the upper hand in terms of easy-to-use software in this instance, not because they have innovated more cleverly than Apple but because they remember Apple's history better than Apple does.


namastenancy said...

I remember Paint and you are right, it's the one thing I miss from my old PC at work. Photoshop is just too complex for my needs. Maybe there are some Mac freeware sites out there which might have a similar program? I think that Tucows and have tons of shareware and it's not always shovel poop.

Matty Boy said...

Yeah, I think the wonderfulness of PhotoShop has made young people forget about the nice ease of use of a simple bare bones paint program for the rest of us.

dguzman said...

That's sad. But having abandoned my iMac for a sleek HP laptop, I am enjoying being a PC person now.

trinket999 said...

Hi Matty,

Preview lets you resize, crop, cut and paste your images. Use the select tool to crop or cut/copy. Color and size adjustments are available under the Tools menu.

Matty Boy said...

I've been trying Preview, but the controls are very unintuitive. For instance, when I select some sub-section of the picture and resize, it resizes the part of the picture I didn't choose. Moreover, changing the canvas size is very clumsy.

As a former programmer as well as a newbie user, I have to give low marks to the software design.

trinket999 said...

Yeah, I agree that it's not intuitive, but I've become accustomed to it enough to do quick image edits without having to start up Photoshop.