Finally a nice free GIMP alternative

What really surprised me was how relatively trim Paint.NET was given the fact that it's written in .NET managed code with mostly C# and some C++. I had always expected any kind of managed code to be much more bloated and I thought it would be almost as bad as Java applications.

For years, I've struggled to find a good free alternative to GIMP on the windows platform and I think I may have finally found it.
What really surprised me was how relatively trim the application was given the fact that it's written in .NET managed code with mostly C# and some C++.  I had always expected any kind of managed code to be much more bloated and I thought it would be almost as bad as Java applications.

The typical Java applet or application takes around 60 megabytes of RAM after it finishes loading with zero data loaded.  Paint.NET 2.5 RC2 uses approximately 24 Megabytes of memory.  To be more precise, Process Explorer reports that Paint.NET uses 18.28 megabytes of private memory with a peak working set of 24.26 megabytes.  For a managed code application with a decent set of features, this is fairly impressive and a lot trimmer than I expected.  It's not as trim as something like Microsoft Office, but it's definitely trim and optimized enough to be acceptable.  Paint.NET certainly loads up a lot quicker than the GIMP or even Photoshop and has most of the features I commonly use.

While the GIMP has a lot more features, the UI (User Interface) is inconsistent with the Windows desktop and feels alien to a Windows user.  It isn't very intuitive to me and seems too chaotic.  Loading GIMP under Windows also seems to take much longer than it should.  For people who don't need all the features in GIMP, Paint.NET seems to be a really nice alternative.  Having both applications installed may be a good solution for those who might need the power of GIMP every once in a while.  What Paint.NET does offer is an extremely intuitive and usable user interface.  The transparent toolbars not only look nice, but allow you to see more of your work on the computer screen rather than obstruct it.

Paint.NET started out as a senior project at Washington State University by a couple of seniors and was mentored by Microsoft.  It is currently maintained as an Open Source project by some of the WSU alumni who started the project and some of them joined Microsoft this year.  Paint.NET 2.5 currently only runs on .NET framework 1.1 but Paint.NET 2.6 will be released some time in January which will run on .NET framework 2.0 and promises to be even more optimized.  Also notable is that the source code for Paint.NET is very well organized.  The windows specific parts of Paint.NET were clearly separated so that someone can take the source code and strip out the Windows dependencies and run Paint.NET on Mono which means that even Linux users can benefit from Paint.NET.

While Paint.NET this isn't an official Microsoft project, it resembles the success of another Open Source project called DotNetNuke which is a free web portal that uses ASP.NET.  It would make a lot of sense if Microsoft would bundle this application with Windows Vista just to showcase the .NET platform any replace MSPaint.exe which really hasn't made much of an improvement since the days of Windows 3.0 other than support for JPEG and PNG support.  Since it's open source, even the Linux crowd has something to cheer about.

   

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