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      27.07.2012 21:29
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      Small yet powerful image editing software.

      :::::::::::::::::::: [ SOFTWARE BACKGROUND ] ::::::::::::::::::::

      === 2D Digital Artwork ===

      Before we attempt to understand the software, we must try to understand the purpose behind it. Two dimensional graphics is simply drawing on the screen, but this can have a number of quality related properties. The digital image understood simply can be either a vector or bitmap image, vector images are made up of grid points and ranges, which can be assigned a certain colour value. This makes the image size much smaller than the bitmap images, which draw out each pixel (picture element) of data individually.

      Although the software I'm about to review has certain elements, which relate to vector graphics, the software itself is designed for bitmap images. Vector file formats aren't supported. Therefore, I won't go into any further detail on vector graphics or its popular file formats and extensions. Bitmap images relate directly to digitalisation of simple artwork, and that's what this software does best. There are various bitmap compressions, which are used to save the bitmap image in a smaller format. Some types of compression cause the image to have adjustable reduced clarity; such formats include JPG and JPEG, which are classified as lossy compression. These formats make a huge difference in the stored file size. Lossless compression is becoming more widely used today, so we find an increase in GIF and PNG files where preserving quality matters.


      === .NET Framework ===

      As the name suggests the software is built upon .NET framework. Understanding .NET framework isn't too difficult, as it's simply interchangeable code between difference object oriented programming languages in the Microsoft programming package. The program requires a Microsoft Visual Studio runtime to work on the computer, which bring us to a disadvantage. The runtime doesn't work so well in Linux, so running the software requires some configuration using mono.

      The runtime contains all the libraries required to run the software; the program code is written in simple terms rather than in machine code, and has many code references to the libraries, which contain the complex instructions to carry out the specified commands. Without the libraries, creating software would require an enormous amount of code, and the compiled program would be much bigger and more difficult to debug. Whether a program uses Visual Studio Runtime Environment or it uses Java Runtime Environment, the concept is the same.

      .NET is an upgrade to the old Visual Studio runtimes, which didn't allow code to be interchanged between difference languages. The .NET system serves as a platform for all its programming languages.



      :::::::::::::::::::: [ THE PROGRAM ] ::::::::::::::::::::

      === Installation ===

      I downloaded Paint.NET from dotpdn.com/downloads/pdn.html as a ZIP file (compressed folder), which contains the installation file. The installation can be run without extracting the file; directly from within the compressed folder. I chose to extract it first, delete the compressed folder and run the installation. Both 32 bit and 64 bit Windows installed the software to the %programfiles% (C:\Program Files\) directory. This is because it installed the 64 bit version on the 64 bit Windows, otherwise you'd expect a 32 bit installation to end up in the %programfiles(x86)% (C:\Program Files (x86)) directory. One installation file contains installations for both architectures.

      The installation process took up to three minutes altogether. I chose custom installation, which gave an option of ten languages and if it should be the default editor for certain image files. There's also an option for automatic update checks. The installation then creates a system restore point, removes an older version if there's one installed, and installs the software.

      During the installation, a message is displayed. This message says that the software is free, so if you paid for it then you need to get a refund. However, there is an option at the end of the setup process, which allows you to donate using Paypal. This is a voluntary contribution to their development team, and you may or may not wish to contribute. This makes no difference to your right to use the software.


      === Using Paint.NET ===

      The program loading time is approximately two seconds on most computers I've used, some older computers take three seconds or more. Newer computers may load the program in less than two seconds, but I haven't had the chance to test it on any machine newer than 2008. I've used the program on Windows XP, Vista and 7 (32 bit and 64 bit versions). The program interface hasn't changed over the years, which is a good thing in my opinion, because this means it remains an easy to use program. It's a less advance alternative to GIMP (an open-source image editor), and has some very useful tools, brushes and effects. Paint.NET also supports layers, which enables you to add layers of images; one on-top of another.

      Paint.NET has four floating toolboxes by default, which can be toggled on and off with their own shortcut keys. These toolboxes are "Tools" (toggle key: F5), "History" (toggle key: F6), "Layers" (toggle key: F7) and "Colors" (toggle key: F8). The Tools toolbox contains twenty-two tools, which you may find useful in everyday image editing. These include but aren't limited to a brush, pencil, paint box, colour picker, clone stamp and image selection. The Colors toolbox allows you to choose a predefined colour, or you can click on "More" to specify a new colour. Just like most other image editors have a primary and secondary colour for the two mouse buttons, the same applies to Paint.NET.

      The History toolbox contains a list of events, which updates every time you make a change to the canvass or image. This also makes the task of undoing changes very easy, which can be accomplished by either clicking on the desired undo point in the list, or using the complete undo or individual action undo buttons. The same applies for redoing and undone action. The Layers toolbox contains a list of all the layers you add to the image, and allows you to move layers back and forward. You can also hide or delete layers, duplicate or merge layers, and you can change the layer properties.

      Paint.NET's simplicity combined with its powerful tools allows you to produce some interesting images from scratch, as well as adding finishing touches to an existing piece of artwork. It doesn't always have to be complex artwork; Paint.NET is also very useful for simple tasks such as cropping pictures, which you may want to use on your social network profile. Sometimes all you want is to add some colour to a black and white picture; this task is made easy with the re-colouring tools. I've even used this program for creating posters, collages, cards, icons and logos. Quite often when scanning an image on a flatbed scanner, you find the image contains unwanted particles. I find the best way to remove them is usually by cloning and re-colouring.

      For those of you aware, you're probably thinking why I mentioned icons, even though Paint.NET doesn't save files in ICO file format (standard Windows icon format). This is because it's best practice to create icons in PNG format, which keeps them in their top quality while making any changes. You can convert the image format using any free image conversion tool. Icon files come in handy if you're developing software, or a website. Icons serve the purpose to decorate and identify software; this isn't the same as a software authenticity check, which is done through hash checking. It does however allow a user to identify installed software, which may all have shortcuts in the menus and Desktop. On the Desktop for example; rather than reading all the software names, we normally do a quick visual check to find the relevant icon to click. This is why the first step of creating an icon is essential, and Paint.NET is a useful tool to achieve that.



      :::::::::::::::::::: [ PROGRAM FEATURES ] ::::::::::::::::::::

      === Menus & Submenus ===

      Paint.NET has the ability to acquire an image directly from a scanner or camera, which cuts out the need to install additional software. This is a very useful feature for Windows users, because it save's you the trouble of cluttering your hard drive with extra software for scanning. This feature can be found in the File menu. The other menu buttons are standard; open, new, open recent, close, save, save as, print and exit. Open recent shows a graphical list of recently used files, each with the file name on the right of the thumbnail.

      The Edit menu allows complete undoing and redoing of actions, this uses the standard 'undo one action at a time' method. Cutting unlike copying, moves the selected item from one place to another. The action of completing the move or copy procedure is called Paste. You can either paste something onto the current layer, a new layer, or even a new image altogether. Erasing, filling and selecting, deselecting and inverse selecting are quite straight forward, and don't need a detailed explanation.

      View allows you to zoom in and out, and allows you to zoom to fit the canvass in the window, or toggling between window fit zoom to view the accurate canvass size. You can also choose to zoom to a selected area. If you turn on the pixel grid, you must zoom in to view it; otherwise the pixels are too small to see the grid. You can also view the ruler, which you can set to show your chosen measurements, whether you want to measure in pixels, inches or centimetres.

      The Image menu makes cropping easier, as well as resizing the image or the canvass. You can also flip or rotate the image. Rotating the image is limited to either rotating left or right by ninety degrees, or rotating a hundred and eighty degrees. No other rotating options are available. This is one of the drawbacks of this software, and the more complex software such as GIMP and Photoshop show where they're better than the smaller programs.

      The next menu is Layers, which Paint.NET uses to show that it too is able to provide powerful tools, and not far off the league of GIMP and Photoshop. It allows to add, delete, duplicate and merge layers as well as to import images as new layers. The menu also allows flipping the current layer, and allows zooming in and out. In addition are the layer properties. These are used to rename the layer, set visibility on or off, set transparency and the layer mode.

      Nine major adjustments can be made to the image; they are all in the Adjustments menu. The adjustments are: auto level, black and white, brightness and contrast, curves, hue and saturation, invert colours, levels, polarise and sepia. Four of these make automatic changes to the image, which requires no more than a click of a button, because they are states of adjustment. This means it's a Boolean position; it'll either be a yes or a no, an on or an off. In the case of images, it will either be in colour, or black and white, it can't be both simultaneously. These are: auto level, black and white, invert colours, and sepia. The other five allow you to adjust the image to a more precise specification.

      The Effects menu doesn't contain any buttons, but instead has seven submenus. Each menu gives a very specific set of buttons, which allow a better application of the effects. The seven submenus are: artistic, blurs, distort, noise, photo, render and stylise. The first five and last two submenus are pretty much common sense, and you know what to expect from the names. The Photo submenu allows you to add glow effects to the image, as well as red-eye removal in a photograph. It also allows you to sharpen or soften the image.

      The Utilities menu is unrelated to the artwork, and allows you to see any plugin errors, load the Windows font directory, change the language and check for updates.

      The Window menu contains the four toolbox controls, which toggle the toolboxes on and off. The toolboxes are Tools, Color, Layers and History. This menu also shows a list of open images, which can be toggled through using the provided controls. It also allows minor window adjustments.

      Finally, the Help menu allows you to view help topics for the program, as well as link to the developer's website, a search of the website, and a donate button. You can also find a link to the forums, tutorials, plugins, and send feedback and bug reports. If you're wondering exactly which version of the software you have installed, this menu has an about button at the end. Click it to view the details.


      === Tool, status and toggle bars ===

      There are two toolbars, a status bar and one toggle bar. I'm not using the real name of the bars, because I'm not aware if they've been assigned any specific name. The toolbar with the main application and even controls, such as save, undo, and copy and paste; is below the menu-bar and above the toolbar with the image editing tools. The image editing toolbar is linked to the Tools toolbox, and has more functions added to it. An example of its use is adjusting the brush width.

      The status bar at the bottom of the screen is a tool tip bar, which also shows the canvass size and cursor grid reference. The tool tips show the name of the tool being used and how to use it. The information is very concise and easy to understand, it also shows you when a tool is used where applicable.

      The toggle bar at the top right hand side of the screen- is a large box under the window control buttons. This bar allows you to toggle between open files, select and close files. There's nothing else to it, as its use requires only the most basic level of computer literacy.


      === Website links ===

      Home page and download:
      http://www.getpaint.net/

      Program screenshots:
      http://www.getpaint.net/screenshots.html

      Download page:
      http://www.dotpdn.com/downloads/pdn.html

      Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts:
      http://www.getpaint.net/doc/latest/KeyboardMouseCommands.html

      Forum:
      http://forums.getpaint.net/

      General contact, not for technical queries:
      http://www.getpaint.net/contact.html



      :::::::::::::::::::: [ CONCLUSION ] ::::::::::::::::::::

      === My Conclusion ===

      I've found a large number of advantages of using Paint.NET, and very few disadvantages. The only real disadvantage, which holds any weight, is the limited functionality when it comes to rotating images. This is because, when you try to create a complex collage of images; you find it can look a bit odd at times, because it's been unable to give you more fine tuning in the rotation controls. The best solution for now is to rotate the image in a different image editor first, then insert it into the Paint.NET project.

      The most important reason for using Paint.NET is its ease of use rather than its powerful features, because when it comes to powerful features; GIMP is much more advanced. Paint.NET isn't software I'd pay for, if it was to cost money. At the same time, I wouldn't stop someone donating towards it, because the program can do with a few improvements.

      Looking at the software from a regular user's point of view; I believe it's a very easy program for image editing, with a good variety of features and sufficient hints to help achieve the simple tasks it's designed for. It won't clean your car or cook your food, but it'll help you edit two dimensional bitmap images. I believe this software deserves five stars, even though there's one disadvantage. This is because there are many more than eight advantages, which shift the scales above four and a half stars. This justifies the five star rating. I'm not taking Linux compatibility into consideration when rating this program; otherwise I'd be giving it a three star rating.


      === To sum up ===

      I've been using Paint.NET for a number of years. I found some good and bad qualities of the program, in which the bad qualities have been reduced with the software updates. The program is free of charge, so there isn't ever a need to worry about purchasing the new version.

      The program layout is very simple, and the toolboxes can be toggled on and off, so they won't become an obstruction while working on a project. The support for lossless image quality is becoming more common in image editing software, so Paint.NET isn't ahead of anyone. Only Microsoft Paint falls short when it comes to image quality, as it still doesn't support lossless editing.

      Paint.NET is a great tool for the simplest of image editing tasks, which you may not feel the need to use GIMP for. These tasks include cropping pictures, red-eye removal on photographs and image resizing.

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        22.03.2010 06:05
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        One of the finest pieces of free software available with a bountiful selection of powerful features.

        Paint.NET, developed by dotPDN LLC whom specialise in free high quality software, is a relatively powerful 2D graphics composition application; "relatively" in the sense that comparing it to the likes of MSPaint is like comparing a wheelbarrow to a Porsche, but a reverse comparison could be made when Paint.NET is held up next to something like Adobe Photoshop. It boasts a wide variety of powerful features, but professional graphics designers may find themselves struggling with it when they come to work on a very complex project.

        ~ [ Installation ] ~

        Currently weighing in at under 5MB (28MB when unpacked/installed) Paint.NET is easily downloaded and installation takes a few minutes at most. The package comes with both x64 and x86 architecture support, and it will install the appropriate version without any tinkering required at your end. The installer will check for updates before installing (with your permission, of course) and the program itself can be set to check automatically for updates, including beta releases.

        One rather significant consideration you must undergo before installing is to make sure you have the Microsoft .NET Framework (version 2.0 or later) installed, because Paint.NET requires it. The .NET Framework is freely available on Microsoft's website, and comes pre-installed on Windows Vista or later, so if you use this or a later operating system you should be ready to roll.

        ~ [ Features ] ~

        Despite the tiny download size, and the reasonably small install size, the program is very powerful and has a plethora of features which you might only expect to find in professional commercial applications, and many others which are simply absent from most free image editors like MSPaint.

        [Layers]: Elements of an image can be independently manipulated using layers, and transparency may be applied and layers placed under or over each other in order to form a complete picture. This is an invaluable tool and one of the program's main accomplishments.

        [Special Effects]: The tool set is complete with numerous methods of manipulating images in a variety of ways, including embossing, sharpening, distortion, noise, and red-eye removal. Colours can be manipulated via the contrast, brightness, hue, saturation, levels and curve effects. Also supported is the option to apply black and white colouration or sepia tone to the image.

        [Tools]: The software has all of the tools you would expect from an image editing application of any stature, such as drawing, line tools, zoom tool, text editor, colour picker tool, ellipse, square and circle tools, selector tools and so on. Additionally, a gradient tool whose quality is on par with that of commercial applications is included, as is a Magic Wand tool (which allows you to quickly and easily select regions of a similar colour) and the Clone Stamp (which lets you to easily copy/erase sections of the image). There's no proper crop tool, but there is an option to have the image crop to the selection you've made. In other words, if you select a chunk of the image and use the crop option mentioned the portion of the image lying outside of the selection will be deleted, and the canvas will be reduced in size to match the dimensions of the remaining selection - a fair compromise for those who will miss a dedicated crop tool when they come to use Paint.NET.

        The software undo history is unlimited, meaning you can revert back to the very earliest stages of your image's editing session. Every single action you perform is remembered and is undoable/redoable. I personally think all software designers should adopt this policy.

        [Cost]: It's FREE! The software is free, and its supporting online forum community is free.

        [Support]: The online forum is a place to discuss and explore the software, as well as receive troubleshooting tips and other technical support from its users. There are already sticky threads with frequently asked questions listed along with their responses, so it's rare that you'd ever have to post a new message anyway.

        [Performance/Speed]: The software supports and makes use of multi-core processors, as well as x64 and x86 architectures/operating systems, so every ounce of juice is used efficiently and effectively. The program loads pretty quickly, and actions performed are as quick as your hardware will allow.

        I don't think I've ever had the software crash once in my several years of use spanning numerous versions, and I'm confident that I won't experience any in the future judging by the flawless track record the software has enjoyed on my various systems. The coding and the pre-release testing appear to be as watertight as a dolphin's Speedos.

        ~ [ Ease of Use ] ~

        Newcomers to the software will instantly find the software familiar if they've ever used MSPaint or any other image manipulation package. The layout is almost identical to the most common rival applications, and the floating panels which contain lists of layers, colours or history are easily moved around and docked/snapped into place as and when is needed. The layout is described on the software's website as "intuitive" and I don't think this is buzzword rhetoric; you do indeed feel as if you know where to look when you need to perform some particular function or to find a specific sort of tool.

        [Plugins]: If the current tool set doesn't meet your needs you might find that the extra functionality you require can be obtained through the installation of user-created plugins. The plugins, and instructions for installing and using them, are located on the software's support forums and are available to anyone who wants them. Many of the currently available plugins are significant additions to the feature set of the program, including proper anti-aliasing for smoothing images, and others expand the scope of existing tools, such as more powerful/customisable blur and emboss capabilities. The full catalogue can be found here:

        http://paintdotnet.forumer.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=30570

        ~ [ Conclusion ] ~

        My primary uses of this software are resizing images, converting images to other formats, creating layered images for superimpositions and mock-ups, converting coloured images into black and white and for editing screen grabs when I need to share screenshots from games or software to send to other people. In all of these uses, which are barely scratching the surface of what the software is capable of, I am 100% satisfied and would probably pay a reasonable amount of cash for software as solid as this if payment were required, but luckily I don't have to because the folks at dotPDN are altruistic and respect the art of developing fine software for people who need it. The software is free, and the only drawback the software has that I can think of is the requisite installation of the Microsoft .NET Framework, but this is also free so at worst you'll have to wait an extra few minutes downloading and installing it.

        Go to http://www.getpaint.net/ now and get your hands on one of the best freeware applications you'll ever use.

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          21.02.2010 21:54
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          A really good program, my favourite image editing program, mainly because its free.

          Paint.net is my preferred paint program, for a start, its free, there are many image editing programs out there which will take a large chunk of money from you for not many more features.

          Paint.net offers many features to use, for a start it has a variety of gradiants to use, it has dozens of patterns to choose from, and it has various other image editing tools, all of which you'll probably use at some point. There are 22 standard image editing tools in total, with more available for download and even more available just inside the drop-down box.

          The Paint.net forums are a great source to find several plugins, often these plugins will add extra image manipulating tools, as well as support for editing further image types, such as .tga, .ico and .dds.

          The program is updated every few weeks or so, each time improving the program with new features and further image manipulation tools. There is also an auto updater, everytime you launch the program it will search for an update, if an update is found, it will bring up a window asking if you wish to download and install the update.

          Another useful feature i found in this program, is the fact that you can un-do an unlimited amount of time, instead of the normal Windows Paint program, only allowing you to un-do up to 3 times.

          The special effects available in the program are numerous, from reflections to distortions, and fractals to pixelation.

          The sole developer who currently works on Paint.Net is a Microsoft employee.

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          12.07.2009 01:06
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          A great piece of software.

          I am a complete novice when it comes to pictures editing and all that jazz. I happen to own the latest Adobe Photoshop as I got it thrown in with my laptop I bought. I installed it, opened a picture, ended up making a total mess. I took a look over my shoulder just in case no one was watching this failire of an effort. But surely it wasn't just me that was the problem I thought? Surely there is something more simpler than this? So I went in search for it. I found it here, for free too! I couldn't believe it was free and to honest, I still can't.

          Paint.net is a picture manipulator, with extensive features where you can edit, resize, add effects, crop, edit pixel colours, etc. As I said, I'm a complete novice and even I managed to work this out. I embarked firstly on some fairly simple tasks. Well, average for anybody other than me, for me they are rocket science! All I sought to do was resize to a specific size, then turn it black and white. I found this very easy to do. It was clear what I had to do. I did stumble at one point, struggling how to crop it as there is no clear function to do this. Help for this was found easily on the FAQs of the forum on the website.

          That's the great thing with Paint.net, the service provided (at no cost to you) is excellent. There is a large, reliable online community willing to help you out. This is found in the forum as I mentioned before, on their website. The forum is busy and very active, with a wealth of information and help for people who need it. I also found it to be generally welcoming, I didn't feel I was being laughed at or anything for being such a novice. Also on the forum you can find plug-ins for the programme. These vary in function but it seems primarly available are extra effects you can add to the pictures. I had a go at downloading one of the plug-ins and it was very easy to install and it added some useful new effects. The plug-in file came with easy instructions. If I got stuck, I knew there would be people to help me.

          There is also a 'check for updates' button which is useful. This takes a few seconds to scan and if there are any new updates it gives you the option to download it easily there and then with hardly not trouble at all.

          They do ask for donations if possible but it isn't thrust in your face all the time like other software like this. There are no adverts visible when running the software, just a small button on one of the dropdown menus. There is also an advert for donating when downloading and in the installation process. Personally, I think they deserve tokens of thanks for this stunning effort so I had no problems donating a small amount in appreciation.

          Making it black and white was very simple and once I'd done this process a couple of times I could do it within a couple of minutes. I then started to experiment adding different effects such as giving a car a motion blur. This was also very easy to do. Other effects include giving images a frosted look, pixelation and red-eye removal. One effect I love is turning a photo into looking like an oil painting. It's very authentic looking, it genuinely looks like a painting.

          Installing the programme was very simple to do. The download button is clearly stated on the website and I was beginning the download within a few clicks. The download took no time at all, which I was surprised about. I have 8mb internet and the download was done in a few seconds. Once downloaded, I had to unzip it. I used winRar, but any software like this is suitable. Inside there is only one file, which you double click to install once you have unzipped it. The installation process was very simple and it was done very swiftly. I was amazed to see the file for the whole software is only 9mb. This goes someway to explaining the fast download! Compare this to Adobe Photoshop, which is some 276mb and I was even more amazed.

          Visually, the software is simple, which I really like because everything is laid out neatly and clearly. It is clear what each button does thanks to the caption that pops up when you hover your cursor over it. These captions come up instantly. The icons themselves however are easy to work out what they do alone as they are similar to the majority of other software of similar ilk to this one.

          You can also add text to pictures. This is easily done and there is a large range of fonts to play around with. Impressive I thought for this free software. The range of colours spans right across the rainbow for the text to be coloured in. This colours can also be used to edit the pixels with.

          Using the software is very slick. Things take no time to load and process, which I enjoyed because I can't stand sitting around only for the programme to freeze, as happens with many other programmes! I found I could run numerous other applications as well as paint.net without affecting performance at all. In fact I had numerous internet pages open, a CD playing, a game running and msn messenger and it didn't alter the performance of paint.net at all and that's on what I'd say a pretty average laptop of mine too.

          I use Windows Vista on my laptop and the software works perfectly as stated on this. The software is also compatible with Windows XP and Windows 7. However, users with Windows 98 or Windows 2000 will not be able to get this working. Which is a shame. Paint.net also isn'tt compatible with MAC, Linux or Mono, which is also a blemish on an otherwise great piece of software.

          I should also add that the software can be used in nine different languages, English, French, German, Portugese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and another one, due to my appalling lack of knowledge, I cannot decipher. Apologies for that.

          Overall a superb programme which is free for personal, business, governmental, school...well everyone. No licensing issues here, which is fantastic.

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